Politics & Policy

Song of Himself

The 42nd president weighs in.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appears in the July 12, 2004, issue of National Review.

Imagine a Clinton State of the Union address that never ends. That’s My Life. Bill Clinton is a laundry-list author, throwing everything at us with little effort to prioritize, shape, or rise above the pedestrian. Perhaps if every paragraph of My Life were run through a focus group, just like the items in one of his State of the Union addresses, they would generate high approval ratings, just like the items in one of his State of the Union addresses. Who, after all, could oppose spending a few relaxing days with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia on the island of Majorca? Or signing a partnership agreement with Ukraine? Or proposing legislation to ban discrimination based on genetic screening? Or pushing for an IRA cease-fire? (Just to name a few, but not all, of the items on one page–759.)

If Sen. Bob Graham, notorious for his excessive diary-keeping, were to write a memoir it would be something like this. The sheer amount of material and detail make all the more incredible-seeming that ready Clinton phrase, “I cannot recall.” The problem with Clinton is not his memory–it’s his writing. If it tells us anything about the man, we would conclude from My Life that Clinton is smart, but not deep; incapable of making choices (in this case, what to include or exclude); and notably slipshod. Sound about right?

Clinton lurches in My Life from unrelated topic to unrelated topic with only the slightest attempts at smoothing the transitions. His transitions are sentences like, “There were several interesting developments in foreign policy in December,” and “October brought two developments on the legal front,” and “Around this time I announced the purchase of eighty billion bushels of wheat for distribution to poor nations with food shortages.” It takes only a few pages before you want to scream for mercy, to make any deal, to be willing to debate the meaning of “is” all over again, to listen to “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” on an endless loop, anything, anything to keep from reading the most leaden words put to paper since Hillary’s Living History.

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