Bill Clinton’s sins—great and small—are explored in this exposé of the 42nd president.
Debut author Anagnos, a political consultant who worked on George H.W. Bush’s 1992 presidential campaign, draws mainly on secondary sources to chronicle what he sees as Clinton’s dishonesty, lechery, and corruption, dubbing him “the American Caligula” after the notoriously depraved Roman emperor. (Hillary Clinton, painted here as an icy, power-mad harridan forever shrieking obscenities at anyone within earshot, plays a supporting role as Machiavellian co-architect of her husband’s misdeeds.) The author’s sources include conservative anti-Clinton books and Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s investigation report. Anagnos’ exhaustive narrative moves from Clinton’s student days pulling strings to dodge the Vietnam War draft to his supposed drug abuse, political sleazemongering, and womanizing during his period as Arkansas governor. The author then reconstructs Clinton’s many presidential scandals, from the Monica Lewinsky affair—recounted in entertaining detail here, complete with transcripts of his gassy prevarications—to allegations that he cheated on a New York Times crossword puzzle. (Anagnos spends less time discussing Clinton’s policies but criticizes him for shrinking the military, offering weak responses to terrorist attacks, and veering off on progressive social causes.) The author presents lucid, well-informed discussions of the better-attested failures of the president’s regime, including the bloody attacks on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas; the fund-raising improprieties of Clinton and Vice President Al Gore; and the pardoning of well-heeled miscreants like Marc Rich. Less convincingly, Anagnos sometimes runs down the rabbit hole of right-wing conspiracy theory, insinuating that the Oklahoma City bombing was masterminded by Muslim terrorists; the crash of TWA Flight 800 was caused by a U.S. Navy missile; the Vince Foster suicide was actually a murder; and some 60 Clinton associates and opponents met with “mysterious” deaths. The result is much dark and dubious rumination. The Starr investigation was actually controlled by Clinton, the author writes, calling the independent counsel “a coward, so paralyzed with fear in the face of naked evil that he would…pretend not to see it,” which doesn’t fit with the official’s bold pursuit of the Lewinsky probe to the point of getting the president impeached. There’s plenty of red meat here to delight Clinton critics, but Anagnos’ evident distaste for the man sometimes crowds out objectivity and common sense.
A relentless, sometimes telling but one-sided and rancorous indictment of a former president.