A contextual reassessment of the Bill Clinton presidency.
Troy (History/McGill Univ.; Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism, 2012, etc.), who has written extensively about presidential politics, “seriously” reconsiders the era of the Clinton White House, apart from the media’s obsession with Bill’s and Hillary’s “character flaws.” Bill Clinton dominated the 1990s as Ronald Reagan dominated the 1980s, and in an extraordinarily complex decade that embraced the Internet and what Troy calls “virtual prosperity,” the Clintons were the first baby boomers in the White House to meld their 1960s sensibilities with the modern age. Clinton rode into power on the self-righteous reaction to the daunting domestic challenges that President George Bush preferred to ignore in favor of dealing with the end of the Cold War—namely, racism, sexism, and homophobia. The 1992 election was “a true generational culture clash,” writes the author, and the challenge that the Clintons took up successfully was presenting a program that combined “Wal-Mart populism and Ivy League progressivism.” Recovering from major stumbles during the first year of his presidency and benefiting from a steep learning curve, Clinton managed to build a stable policy foundation on “common ground,” such as a global economy and welfare reform, without expanding the reaches of government. Blessed with heavy-handed enemies who often self-destructed (Newt Gingrich), the Clintons effectively attacked their critics and recast themselves constantly—Bill as the “good father” and Hillary from vilified White House enforcer to the rehabilitated author of It Takes a Village (1996). With plenty of detail, Troy depicts the underlying tensions of this conflicted decade, from the Rodney King beating to the advent of the 24-hour Fox News Channel to the “manufactured miracles” of Silicon Valley.
Both sympathetic and fair-handed, a solid examination of the “Adversarial Supercouple” before the slide toward scandal and impeachment.