Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Part One)

84976Nonfiction — print. Simon & Schuster, 2003. 562 pgs. Borrowed from my mom.

I wasn’t even a year old when Bill Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States, and I was nine when he left office. My recollection of his presidency, and therefore Hillary Rodham Clinton’s time as First Lady, boils down to the Monica Lewinsky scandal and I even doubt that my memories are from the actual event and not pop culture.  At the halfway point through her biography, it’s been interesting to read about all the other scandals and gaffs that marked his presidency before Lewinsky became a household name.

There’s the Whitewater affair, which alleged that while governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton forced David Hale to provide him with an illegal $300,000 loan to his and Hillary’s partner in the Whitewater land deal. And then there’s Troopergate, in which Arkansas state troopers alleged they arranged sexual liaisons for Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas. Followed by the White House FBI files controversy of June 1996, which alleged the White House improperly gained access to FBI security-clearance documents. All of these happened in Clinton’s first term; he hasn’t even started running for reelection at the halfway point of Hillary’s autobiography.

It’s been interesting to read about all of these scandals and gaffs largely because they’ve been overshadowed and forgotten. My dad and I had an interesting discussion together last night about how Lewinsky has largely come to define Clinton’s presidency.

But this book is Hillary’s autobiography, not Bill’s, and it largely focuses on how she redefined the role of the First Lady and her responses/involvement in these scandals as well as the Clinton Administration’s initiatives.

“Over the years, the role of First Lady has been perceived as largely symbolic. She is expected to represent an ideal – and largely mythical – concept of American womanhood. Many former First Ladies were highly accomplished, but true stories of what they had done in their lives were overlooked, forgotten or suppressed.” (pg. 119)

I had originally planned to read this book when Rodham Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination to the Presidency. Instead, I read Barack Obama’s two books as I felt like I knew Clinton’s initiatives, goals, and history better than I knew Obama’s. The differences in their writing styles are indicative of their stance on issues and governing. Obama uses a more flowery language as he discusses his grandiose plans in his two books whereas Rodham Clinton uses a more straightforward language as she all but bullet points her plans.

My delay in reading this book did have me concerned that it would be largely out of date, but it actually has been quite interesting to read in light of Newt Gingrich’s campaign for the Republican nomination gaining more and more attention from the national media. He and Rodham Clinton certainly bumped heads quite a bit while she was First Lady.

I’m interested in seeing how the rest of this time when I was not politically aware plays out and how Rodham Clinton transitioned from the role of the First Lady to her own political career. Her observations about Washington D.C. have been both frustrating and humorous.

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