I was rummaging through some old material yesterday and came across this fervent review of Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion and Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years.
I chuckled to see this political science professor assert that the book did not contain anything about the “lies” of the Clinton era. The dude should have slowed down on his speed reading….
Anyhow, here’s the review –
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS November 5, 2000, Sunday
SECTION: Books; Ed. Final; Pg. 1E
HEADLINE: JUDGMENT DAY: AS ELECTION NEARS, AUTHORS VOTE ON CLINTON LEGACY
BYLINE: By …Norman Provizer
Wave good-bye. Our boy Bill will soon be packing his bags and dusting out the Lincoln Bedroom. Will he be remembered as the hero who crafted the biggest economic boom in recent memory? Or the randy goat who degraded the Oval Office and introduced innovative new uses for the cigar? This week, as we prepare to vote on Clinton’s successor, Books looks at three recent Clinton tomes – and their assessment of his legacy…..
FEELING YOUR PAIN: The Exploitation and Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years.
By James Bovard (St. Martin’s Press, 432 pages, $26.95).
Author’s political leanings: Bovard might well be described as a Libertarian-leaning journalist who has never met a government program he liked and has never quite adjusted to the fact that the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia actually created a national government that was more than window dressing.
Book in a nutshell: Bovard argues that the government “is now the most dangerous predator” on the block, and that Bill Clinton “stretched the power of government (the Evil Empire, if you will) on all fronts.” And the author says it all without even discussing sex, lies and semen stains.
Clinton at his best: The author would have an easier time compiling a top-10 list of Hitler’s accomplishments than he would finding a single thing that Clinton did right. On second thought, Bovard might be tempted to cite the old British Army saying which holds that no man is ever a complete failure because he can always serve as a horrible example for others. In that sense, Clinton, in the author’s eyes, might be seen as the “best” horrible example you can find.
Passage Clinton would likely include in his own book: From Clinton’s perspective, this entire volume would provide a grand example of the conspiracy of unfairness that has so often shaped judgments of his presidency. After all, on page after page, Bovard condemns Clinton as virtually the devil incarnate. Yet, on issue after issue, he slides in a line noting that Clinton hasn’t been alone among residents of the White House in pursuing horrible policies and that many of what the author views as “pernicious” policy trends began long before Clinton arrived. Clinton’s war on drugs is a failure, but he didn’t start the war. Clinton’s trade policy is terrible, but Bush’s record on trade is an embarrassment. Clinton’s policy regarding people with disabilities is crazy, but the law he is following was a legacy of the Bush administration. The list goes on.
Clinton at his worst: According to Bovard, just name any day, any policy, in fact, anything at all and you will see Clinton at his worst.
Passage Clinton would leave out of his own book: Anything found in the 432 pages of this book.
Clinton’s legacy, according to the author: In Bovard’s eyes, “The principle of government supremacy is Clinton’s clearest legacy.” The author holds that Clinton “did more than any recent president to place the federal government above all laws.”
Book’s strength: Bovard does offer a useful, muckraking examination of governmental “abuses” in areas ranging from the Internal Revenue Service to Waco. Whether or not one accepts his judgments, the constant monitoring of governmental policy is a necessity for liberal democracy.
Book’s weakness: This anti-Clinton screed offers no insight whatsoever into the actual workings of the Clinton administration. It’s single chapter on foreign policy concerning Kosovo is weak, including its defense of Slobodan Milosevic (now the former president of Yugoslavia). It is replete with twisted half-truths. For example, Bovard chastises Clinton for an illegal, undeclared war in Kosovo without ever bothering to mention that, during the entire run of American history, there have been but four official declarations of war by Congress. If you want to get a handle on the Clinton years, read another book.
Rating: While the book’s muckraking aspects deserve a 3, it is barely a 1 when it comes to explaining Clinton and his administration. On that front, Feeling Your Pain, is really a pain. – Norman Provizer
tagline: Norman Provizer is chair of the Political Science Department at Metropolitan State College of Denver and director of the Golda Meir Center for Political Leadership.