ON THE EDGE by Elizabeth Drew


The Clinton Presidency
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 Distinguished essayist and ``Meet the Press'' commentator Drew (Election Journal, 1989, etc.), relying heavily on firsthand interviews with senior White House officials, paints a vivid portrait of a presidency in turmoil. Clinton's large legislative ambitions--primarily for sweeping change on health care and deficit reduction--and great personal abilities and weaknesses dominate this account of government by crisis. Drew views the Clinton administration as a gamble from its inception: She points out that Clinton won the presidency on a promise of ``change'' and that ``if he were deemed to have failed- -an already cynical electorate might become still more jaded, with potentially dangerous consequences.'' Elected to end government gridlock, this Democratic president with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress soon was preoccupied by emergencies and disasters that reduced his prestige and eroded his ability to lead. Clinton faced constant disarray in his White House staff and communications office, as Arkansas cronies and aides like George Stephanopoulos proved unable to manage Clinton's turbulent relations with the press. Meanwhile, some crises--from the significant, like Clinton's failed attorney general nominations, to the trite, like his $200 haircut at the Los Angeles airport--were the result of political maladroitness or simple bungling, while the president's lack of focus on foreign policy issues, financial and sexual scandals from his years as governor of Arkansas, and the gradual dissipation of his legislative inititatives may have been symptomatic of deeper character and administrative flaws. Drew's report of cutthroat Beltway politics illustrates how severely sophisticated lobbying efforts, direct-mail campaigns, and well- organized special interests can limit a president's ability to enact his program. Drew's insightful account of an increasingly paralyzed presidency raises questions about the viability of American government that go beyond the fate of the Clinton administration.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-87147-1
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1994


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