December 5, 2020

300 pages into “My Life”

Yes, I’m reading Bill Clinton’s “My Life.” I’m 300 pages into the ex-President’s magnum opus autobiography, and he just got booted out of the governor’s mansion by the voters of Arkansas. He learned a thing or two about how rural folks feel when they discover- at the end of a long line- that their auto tags have doubled in price to pay for something or the other.

My conservative friends all sneer when they see me reading the book. I know more than a few have said they wouldn’t ever read it. I’m reading it for a simple reason: I hear ABOUT liberals all the time. I want to hear what a major league liberal has to say for himself about his team. And I’m getting my $21 worth on that question.

In his account of his formative years, Clinton never undertakes a detailed examination of his political philosophy. In fact, the book is amazing for the disparity between outward events- chronicled in excruciating detail- and inner reflection, which is doled out it little crumbs here and there.

What is liberalism for Bill Clinton? So far, it is…

-opposition to racism.
-opposition to the abuse of government power.
-government trying to help the little guy, the ordinary person and the disavantaged.
-resistance to ideologies that promote intolerance and condemnation of other people’s choices and beliefs.
-government that is responsive to the reasonable concerns of people to be treated right.

How did Clinton develop his liberalism?

-born into a staunch Democratic family.
-Born into a state where Democrats generally won the big elections.
-associating Republicans, conservatives and fundamentalists with racism.
-admiration for Democrats- especially Southern Democrats- who went against the segregationist grain and worked for civil rights.
-revulsion and embarassment at segregationists.
-hero worship of JFK.
-exposure to the rural poor and the struggles of ordinary people, who needed assistance from the government.
-reflection on conservatism in his educational journey through Georgetown and Oxford.

Reading “My Life,” one cannot conclude that Clinton is the worst sort of a scheming communist or socialist, though he is remarkably open about his desire for national health care and the goals of the far left on most issues. He has an appreciation for how social progressives and liberals must work slowly to implement change. He’s critical or himself and others who have made changes that seemed plainly right to them without finding ways to win over the public.

One problem at this point in the book is Clinton’s equation of conservatism with an irrational, fearful reaction to all social progress, especially on race. Clinton details how the anti-war riots of 1968 were the direct cause of modern Reagan/Bush conservatism, which is a philosophy of fear of change and the advocacy of racism. Clinton’s equation of conservatism with racism is one of the most disappointing lessons of the book. Does he really believe that all of us are just afraid of the poor, blacks, hippies and gays? Good grief. Grow up.

One other observation. I always thought that if I ever wrote an autobiography, I would let the reader into my life in a way they couldn’t have experienced otherwise. Now, in the book, Clinton does let us into some of his private thoughts, and gives us endless little “Chicken Soup” type lessons that he’s learned through various experiences. But this book is mostly an extended resume for the world’s biggest boy scout. Golly gee, Bill is really so earnest and good, you just can’t imagine why those mean conservatives have ALWAYS hated him!

Clinton wants us to know his good thoughts and his good motivations. Yes, he lets us into some of the pain of his growing up years, but only as it serves the larger purpose of sympathizing with Bill the persecuted savior of the little man. The unchecked, racist evil of conservatives makes Bill right even when he’s wrong. That’s plainly the way Clinton thinks, and it’s an insult to himself and everyone else.

The buildups to Clinton’s mistakes are already being put in this context. The big boy scout messed up, and the mean people who had always hated him for trying to do good took the opportunity to try and destroy him. Yeah, what he did was wrong, mostly because he lied to his wonderful wife and daughter, but those evil right-wingers are worse than him in every way. Their impeachment of Bill was just another battle in their quest to restore segregation and reverse all the social progress of the past 50 years.

Huh?? This is where Bill Clinton has arrived at this point in his life? Who is his therapist? Get that money back.

I’ll mention that Clinton drops so many names of friends and places and meals that I am surprised the book doesn’t have a matching, 900 page index volume. His obsessive desire to be seen as the best friend of everyone he’s ever known is bizarre.

In between the endless recitations of various policy issues in Arkansas politics- I now am an expert on Arkansas utilties companies- and the constant portrayal of Bill the earnest Boy Scout do-gooder, there is some good writing, and I haven’t fallen asleep yet.

I’ll check in at the 600 page point and tell you how I’m doing.



  1. littleflower says

    Bill Clinton may have lied about his affair but he’s sure better than the liar we have in office now. At least Clinton’s lies didn’t kill almost 2,000 American soldiers. And as far as his being for national health insurance, I am wondering what you would do if you couldn’t afford health insurance? Not everyone can. And though you conservatives choose to deny that it goes on, unisured people are turned away from doctor’s offices and hospitals every day.