It's beyond me to fathom the ability and intelligence of this man. And on many accounts, Clinton is exalted as a league of his own. I'll take their words for it. Yet I also noticed that these recounters, many of them not without their own towering egos, all claimed that Clinton radianted charm into the ambience. And that was what I set out to figure out.
What impressed me the most, however, is that he managed to write a memoir without saying anything revealing about himself. It's all noble ideas, sentiment, contemplations, and gestures through and through. I know he wasn't even trying to boast as FOR A FACT he as a POTUS did a remarkable job (A topic for later). But his personality is so elusive that if one strips away the communique-like narratives, there is hardly anything left to decode.
I couldn't help but comparing him to his BBF over the Atlantics, Former British PM Tony Blair, who also wrote a memoir. And despite the similarities in their backgrounds and their matching superior intelligence, the latter is far more approachable. And I am by no means trying to portray TB as a candid, sincere person because he is so not. Yet in TB's book, one can clearly read his joy, his frustration, his admant political belief (though one might not agree with them, through the account one can see where it came from and how he felt about it), and most preciously, his vulnerabilities. None of these can be easily traced in Clinton's book. If anything, if feels like the screenplay of a cross between West Wing and The Newsroom. One man against all sorts of dark powers. Or the Avengers, as there were global teamwork.
Notwithstanding the difficulties to understand Clinton as a person rather than a Democratic president, there is a possibility that his charm actually lies in his infinite reservoir of American optimism and confidence. In this case, all of the grand facade is what all there is, or at least the major chunk of it. A legend of a signatured American white male: clever, charming, believing in and practising goodness and justice, ambitious, worked hard all the way to the top. My intuition is against this mysteriously dreamy state of mind but then the United States is a dreamy place depite the harsh reality. And I guess anyone who grows up in such an environment will automatically sync into the stream without even realising it, ever. And that mindset does manifest itself everywhere: how ppl see the society and themselves.
Whether the style of this book is intentional, personally natural or cultural I don't know. All I know is that I didn't learn much from the book, which means the author is definitely too clever by half.
So what did he do.
The rare display of emotion happens in later part of Chapter 41 when he looked back on first mid-term election. As he bitterly puts it, "I had done a lot of good, but no one knew it."
“ I felt much as I did when I was defeated for reelection as governor in 1980: I had done a lot of good, but no one knew it. The electorate may be operationally progressive, but philosophically it is moderately conservative and deeply skeptical of government. Even if I had enjoyed more balanced press coverage, the voters probably would have had a hard time sorting out what I had accomplished in all the flurry of activity. Somehow I had forgotten the searing lesson of my 1980 loss: You can have good policy without good politics, but you can’t give the people good government without both. I would not forget it again, but I never got over all those good people who lost their seats because they helped me dig America out of the deficit hole of Reaganomics, made our streets safer, and tried to provide health insurance to all Americans.”
The gritty reality of American politics is that the two parties are too busy playing attack and defense games instead of caring about street temperature, leaving a nation staggering on basic issues like healthcare and assault arm regulation. The fierce and ridiculous attack launched by the other side of the corridor makes traditional Tory back-stabbing look benign.
And maybe this is the reason why Clinton has to be charmingly optimistic.