Skip to comments.Secretive, lying, angry, abused: Clinton's DIY psychoanalysis for the baby boomers
Posted on 06/20/2004 11:21:40 PM PDT by MadIvan
In a sprawling, 957-page autobiography to be released today, Bill Clinton blames his worst failures - including his affair with Monica Lewinsky - on a split personality and a genius for lying developed during an abusive childhood.
With more than two million copies reserved at booksellers before its release at midnight tonight, My Life looks certain to become the most widely read work of DIY psychoanalysis in history.
In memoirs that manage to be in turn candid and evasive, Mr Clinton outlines the theory that he has always lived "parallel" lives.
There are nearly 100 pages on his childhood in the poor, southern state of Arkansas. He writes movingly about hiding deep anger and fear of his drunken, violent stepfather behind a facade of sunny, cocky charm.
In an interview with Time magazine to be published today, Mr Clinton explains that, while writing the book, he finally realised that his early life "required me to be a secret-keeper".
"The problem with having one part of your life walled off from the other is trying to decide what belongs behind the wall. It gets bizarre," he says. "The flip side of having lived parallel lives is that I was good at it."
He says of the impeachment crisis: "People have a hard time believing that I could go to work and concentrate on my job, but I've been doing it ever since I was a little boy."
The New York Times published a devastating first review on its front page. The book was "sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull".
It went on: "In many ways, the book is a mirror of Mr Clinton's presidency: lack of discipline leading to squandered opportunities; high expectations, undermined by self-indulgence and scattered concentration."
When describing his childhood, Mr Clinton is unsparing about being "fat, uncool and hardly popular with girls" - so fat, indeed, that he was the only child not to get an egg at an Easter egg hunt, because he was too slow.
He was dressed by his doting mother in annual Easter outfits. One year he was led to church clad in a pale shirt, white trousers, two-tone Hush Puppy shoes in black and pink and a pink suede belt.
He was so clumsy he broke his leg trying to jump a skipping rope wearing cowboy boots, and only managed to overcome his fears of riding a bicycle without stabilisers while at Oxford University.
Teased by a bully about his cheap blue jeans at a Friday night YMCA dance, he retorted wittily and was punched hard in the jaw.
Young Bill did not fall or run, and the surprised older boy told him he was "all right", teaching him a lesson about courage.
On that subject, he writes about his successful attempts to avoid being sent to fight in Vietnam and his doubt, at the time, whether his war aversion was "rooted in conviction or cowardice". He admits he still does not know the answer.
The dark horrors of his childhood - as he helplessly watched his stepfather beat his mother and one night drunkenly fire a gun into the wall - left him scarred for life by shame and fear and a struggle with secrecy, the former president asserts.
Seeing his stepfather angry, he came to associate the emotion with lost control. Later, he would find himself prone to self-destructive behaviour when tired, angry or feeling lonely.
Provocatively, Mr Clinton switches almost seamlessly between the rage he felt as he watched his mother beaten and the anger he felt during his impeachment as president, as the special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, investigated the Whitewater affair and other scandals and probed whether the president lied to Congress about his affair with Miss Lewinsky, a White House intern.
Mr Clinton was far angrier with Mr Starr than he let on in public, he explains, seeing the special prosecutor as the willing agent of the hardline Republican Right and his investigation as "a struggle for power". In the memoirs, he writes that during much of his time in the White House he was "seething inside" at Mr Starr.
"I hid it pretty good, didn't I? You didn't know. I mean, he bankrupted us. He ruined us financially," Mr Clinton says, referring to the huge legal bills with which he left office.
The advance on My Life was £5.4 million, so such worries are long behind him.
At the same time, he was fighting Republicans in Congress, led by the then speaker, Newt Gingrich.
"So I was involved in two great struggles at the same time: a great public struggle over the future of America with the Republican Congress, and a private struggle with my old demons. I won the public one, and lost the private one," he tells Time.
Unlike many presidential memoirs, Mr Clinton's appear to have been written by their subject. He proudly showed off piles of longhand notebooks in his study - a converted barn at his home in upstate New York - to interviewers last week.
And, like so much in his life, the writing proved to be an intensely personal experience, which he says everyone is now able to share, for better or worse.
He casts the impeachment fight and his battles with Mr Starr as a battle with "the forces of reaction" - Right-wingers determined to bring him down on technicalities because they could not defeat him at the ballot box.
Mr Clinton describes his impeachment fight as "my last great showdown with the forces I had opposed all my life" - offering a sweeping reference to conservatives who opposed civil rights and racial integration in the South, who fought feminism and gay rights and who wanted government to be the tool of special interests.
Despite the book's length, he skates over vast swaths of public policy, though he is careful to defend himself against Republican charges that he ignored the threat of terrorism and al-Qa'eda.
He describes briefing the incoming President George W Bush that al-Qa'eda would be the most dangerous threat he faced. Mr Bush did not respond, then changed the subject, he recalls, seeming to add his weight to charges that, before September 11, Mr Bush was not focused on terrorism.
Yet even as he records the policy debates in 1998, as he urged retaliatory strikes against Osama bin Laden for the bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, his own aides were warning him that a strike might be seen as a cheap PR stunt to distract attention from the Lewinsky scandal, which had just broken.
Mr Clinton asserts that in some ways, the Lewinsky scandal was "liberating" - that after two months sleeping on a White House sofa, banished by his wife, Hillary, a year of marital counselling and his acquittal of impeachment charges by the Senate, he felt finally free.
Ultimately, he seems unsure if the book is a political screed or a self-help book for fellow baby boomers struggling with guilt.
"I'm hoping that by writing this book, I'll make other people feel free to let go of their anger and resentment and not be afraid to admit what they've done wrong," Mr Clinton tells Time.
The book itself ends with a meditation on forgiveness, drawing on his many visits to black American churches, where funerals are referred to as "homecomings".
"We're all going home," he writes, "and I want to be ready."
It's an old joke that women hate:
Q.Why do old men heve sex with young girls?
A. Because they can.
Clinton remorsefully confesses:
"I had sex with Monica...................Because I could."
Oh how contrite Oh how contrite Oh how contrite
As always, it's all about him. Who cares that his adolescent libido threw this country into profound turmoil and that it likely prevented him from doing anything about UBL and the emerging threat of islamofascist terrorism. None of that matters, becuase IT'S ALL ABOUT BILL!
I wish to God that this man would stand over my compost pit and spew his memoirs...
Bill Clinton is a narcisisstic personality disorder. Note I didn't say he HAS a narcisisstic personality disorder...he IS a narcisisstic personality disorder. He has no soul, and views the entire world as an extension of himself.
I really feel for the poor copy editor who got assigned this book and the secretary who had to transcribe those notebooks. If it's this bad now, it must have been even worse in its original form.
I have a feeling that not too many people will actually read it cover to cover.
"I hid it pretty good, didn't I?
Actually, you didn't Bill. You're a posterchild for someone who has no boundaries, found in the abused and neglected.
Bubba, I don't think they make fire retardant that strong.
I mean, this is the guy who was so worried about his "Legacy"... and it didn't occur to him that whimpering about his childhood is probably not going to improve his condition in the history books very much?
Book Summary: Pigs have brains. They just love to wallow in the mud though. They can't help it. This pig likes cigars!
He didn't hide it at all and if he was bankrupted, how could they afford the mansion in NY?
Notice Mr. Clinton's disfunctional childhood experiences regarding his mother and stepfather. He does not often tell the rest of the story (about his mother). It has to do with why he married a woman like Hillary.
It also has to do with why there are fathers' groups like Fathers 4 Justice and others here, in the USA. Our US Congress helped Hillary and her friends to pass unconstitutional laws that imprison fathers for no more than false accusations without evidence and debts that some of them can't pay. No-fault divorce is wrecking western culture, and most people don't realize what we're missing.
It's a wonder that US fathers kill themselves so often instead of reacting in the least, the way Fathers 4 Justice has (re. the "Spider Man" events, etc.).
Uhhhh...those were the Democrats. They were 'conservative' in the sense that they were trying to conserve the status quo, I suppose, but they weren't Republicans.
Wrong, Clinton was impeached.
The Senate did not remove him from office.
I tend to take his self-analysis seriously. I wonder myself how the boomer generation was so dysfunctional that they elected him to office for a second term. This opinion shows my age, and subjects me to the criticism of the boomers, but there is something wrong. This is not the knowledgeable country that it once was.