Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Objective Look at My Life

For those of you who were hoping to find here a thoughtful reflection of the joys and heartbreak of my childhood, I should disclose to you now that the subject matter of this post relates to Bill Clinton’s autobiography, “My Life”, published in 2004 by the Knopf Publishing Group. So, if that’s not what you were looking for, I’m sorry to disappoint; that post may come someday when I’ve had a few too many Glenlivets and I’m feeling weepy and homesick, but not today.
Let me say first that I’m not a speed-reader, and I’ve always been amazed by people that can get through a thick book in the course of two nights and be able to retain more than just the title. That being said, I’ve also known how to read for several years now, and would consider myself fairly apt at the task of reading… I can usually complete a book in a week or two if I put my mind to it. All of that is to say this: I’d been reading this book for four months. When Bill sat down to write this book, he made darn sure you knew not only that he grew up in Hope, but that on the day of his birth, the population of Hope was 5,020, which made him at the time he was delivered 0.0001992% of the population, which is ironic because, as he recounts in subsequent chapters, that was the year of his election to the presidency! Well, I’ll admit that I made that one up, but I will tell you that unless you plan to compete in a quiz bowl on useless trivia of Bill Clinton’s life, most of the information you get out of the book is absolutely superfluous.
It is clear that Clinton did not want to leave out any fact about his life, and he did not want to let any person that helped him along his way to success go unmentioned - I can appreciate the thought, but it makes for an unnecessarily long book for the majority its readers. For that reason, I don’t think this will go down in history as a great autobiography, simply because it frequently reads like an Academy Awards acceptance speech (before they began the practice of playing people off the stage with the orchestra). But unfortunately, since there is no orchestra, and since he’s calling the shots since it is his book, you are forced to trudge through it all if you actually want to undertake the daunting task of reading the thing from cover to cover. He also does not title the chapters, so it is exceedingly difficult to just open it to the Monica chapter, read that, and sell it on Amazon - it can be done, mind you, but since there’s 3,668 chapters, even that seemingly simple task is going to require your entire evening.  
Well since I don’t want this post to get too “My Life-ish”, I’ll actually try to form some sort of coherent review of its content, rather than go on at length about its length. Bill Clinton did have a fascinating story, and one worth retelling (in a more succinct way, preferably… last comment about the length, I promise). He is an intelligent man and an adept politician in many ways. Both of these qualities are evident in the book. Although I often found him to be on the wrong side of history many regards concerning the economy and foreign policy, I found his deliberations and thought process in reaching many decisions to be fair and objective. He also seemed to have had a knack for engaging other world leaders and fostering trust and personal diplomacy.
That being said, the man spends a good amount of time in the book defending indefensible positions. He seems to cry foul that even back to his campaign for governor in 1978 the right was unfairly attacking him for his character. Maybe it’s just me, but the big elephant in the room at this point seemed to indicate that maybe there was in fact truth to some of these claims, and maybe in fact some years down the road he would provide a few reasons why maybe people should question his character… or it could all just be a “vast right-wing conspiracy” too right?
If one takes Clinton at his word, you would think Ken Starr was just a lawless, hateful right-wing nut job, out to simply ruin the president and all of his friends’ lives at any cost. Clinton seemed to think that he was in some sort of holy war with the right-wing, and that the front line of that war was Starr’s investigation and his impeachment in the US House of Representatives. He seems to think that the Republicans were impeaching him “just because they could,” and not because he turned the Oval Office into a forum for acts which I cannot even begin to recount, because I haven’t checked the “adult content” filter for this blog.
If one is hoping for a humble, repentant man who is sorry for what he did to the office or the presidency (in both a literal and figurative sense), you will not find that man in My Life. What you will find is a shrewd politician, and a man that couldn’t see that the outcry against what he did was not just the right yet again playing politics with him.
To paraphrase Mark Dever, a Baptist preacher from Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C., true repentance is when if convicted of sin, you side not with your sin – but with God, against yourself. Unfortunately, Bill, the good politician that he is, can’t seem to come to side against himself, even when it’s clear that he probably should.

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