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The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President

The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President

Written by Taylor Branch

Narrated by Taylor Branch


The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History With the President

Written by Taylor Branch

Narrated by Taylor Branch

ratings:
4.5/5 (4 ratings)
Length:
10 hours
Released:
Sep 29, 2009
ISBN:
9780743576758
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

A GROUNDBREAKING BOOK about the modern presidency, The Clinton Tapes invites readers into private dialogue with a gifted, tormented, resilient President of the United States. Here is what President Clinton thought and felt but could not say in public.

This book rests upon a secret project, initiated by Clinton, to preserve for future historians an unfiltered record of presidential experience. During his eight years in office, between 1993 and 2001, Clinton answered questions and told stories in the White House, usually late at night. His friend Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch recorded seventy-nine of these dialogues to compile a trove of raw information about a presidency as it happened. Clinton drew upon the diary transcripts for his memoir in 2004.

Branch recorded his own detailed recollections immediately after each session, covering not only the subjects discussed but also the look and feel of each evening with the president. The text engages Clinton from many angles. Readers hear candid stories, feel buffeting pressures, and weigh vivid descriptions of the White House settings.

Branch's firsthand narrative is confessional, unsparing, and personal. The author admits straying at times from his primary role -- to collect raw material for future historians -- because his discussions with Clinton were unpredictable and intense. What should an objective prompter say when the President of the United States seeks advice, argues facts, or lodges complaints against the press? The dynamic relationship that emerges from these interviews is both affectionate and charged, with flashes of anger and humor. President Clinton drives the history, but this story is also about friends.

The Clinton Tapes highlights major events of Clinton's two terms, including wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, the failure of health care reform, peace initiatives on three continents, the anti-deficit crusade, and titanic political struggles from Whitewater to American history's second presidential impeachment trial. Along the way, Clinton delivers colorful portraits of countless political figures and world leaders from Nelson Mandela to Pope John Paul II.

These unprecedented White House dialogues will become a staple of presidential scholarship. Branch's masterly account opens a new window on a controversial era and Bill Clinton's eventual place among our chief executives.
Released:
Sep 29, 2009
ISBN:
9780743576758
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Taylor Branch is the bestselling author of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63; Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65; At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968; and The Clinton Tapes. He has won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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4.3
4 ratings / 4 Reviews
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  • (5/5)
    Great book! One of the best books about the Clinton era.
  • (4/5)
    After being elected President in 1992, Bill Clinton reached out to a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian that he had last seen 20 years before, Taylor Branch. Both men had worked for the 1972 George McGovern presidential campaign, but had drifted apart. While Clinton gained prominence in politics, Branch only become widely noticed when he published the first volume of his trilogy on the Civil Rights Era, "Parting the Waters," which was a much recognized best-seller.Thinking about the legacy of his presidency even before his inauguration, Clinton contacted Branch to feel him out on finding a way of preserving the raw material of his presidency in the electronic age. After sporadic contact, they eventually decided to create an oral history of Clinton's presidency, with Branch acting as interviewer. Despite the fear of recording audio tapes, especially after the Watergate era, the project began.After the first session, Branch decided to preserve his own impressions and recollections of the experience, a practice he continued each time he met with the president. "The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President" is Branch's perspective of the entire oral history process, drawn from his personal post-interview tapes, not the actual oral history recordings, which Clinton himself kept.While Branch is a fine historian, as his magisterial Civil Rights trilogy proves, he is far from an uninterested or impartial observer. Throughout, he is a devoted partisan supporter of the president, and it quickly becomes obvious that he personally likes Clinton. Beyond this, Branch's wife worked for the First Lady during the second term, which further blurs the personal and professional relationship. At times, this leads Branch to be defensive of Clinton, particularly regarding issues around the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment.While this is occasionally a weakness in the book, more often it is a surprising strength as the blurred relationship allowed Branch uncommon access to Clinton. Unlike some so-called "court memoirs" of White House staffers, this behind-the-scenes account offers snapshot glimpses into Clinton's presidency, haphazardly based on the few dozen times Branch was invited to meet with the president during his two terms. The portrait that emerges is intriguingly candid, especially about the more mundane parts of a president's life, such as his irregular eating schedule, telephone interruptions, stolen moments with family and friends, and his emotional outlook, frequently related to his fatigue level.There is a wealth of material on Clinton's outlook on domestic policy and foreign affairs, and many instances of his unique political sensibilities. In particular, some of Clinton's contemporary assessments of various foreign leaders and attempts to shape the world are interesting. His comments about the large issues of his presidency, perhaps less noteworthy because they so frequently correspond to what has been reported elsewhere, still demonstrate the former's president's insatiable curiosity and love of politics.Overall, the book is a valuable addition to similar volumes on Clinton's presidency. At times, Branch is a quirky guide, but more often he unveils a personal side to the 42nd president, whether through the various ways he encounters Clinton or in such things as Christmas gift exchanges. While future historians will greatly appreciate the oral history, whenever it is released, I imagine they will also glean much from the personal descriptions in "The Clinton Tapes."
  • (4/5)
    A very long detailed account of conservations with Bill Clinton over major issues and minor problems. Can get bogged down in the details. These conversations took place over eight years. I began at the beginning then skipped to the end and began reading backwards. Recommend skimming this book.
  • (4/5)
    Expertly written, Taylor Branch?s memoir of his taping sessions with the president is fascinating history in its own right. It took me longer to read than I had originally anticipated; as a journal of his experiences, the only intact narrative thread is chronological. Subjects veer off and disappear to be replaced at random with new (and often entirely unrelated) segues and fleeting impressions. It?s something of a revelation that this kind of patchwork journalism does, in fact, leave the reader with a clear and vibrant portrait of both Clinton and his presidency.While the gossipy anecdotes are sure to provide fodder for cocktail conversation, the substance of the book can be found principally in the extended descriptions of Clinton?s forays in international diplomacy. Governing, in some respects, is much more about politics than we often realize; a reality at odds with the conventional view that the ?permanent campaign? pitfalls of a 24-hour news environment have corrupted the political process. In other words, the sympathetic view of Clinton presented in this book is a natural consequence of high political stakes being met by a first-class political mind.For those who might think that Taylor Branch is too sympathetic to Clinton to be able to write about him objectively, I suggest that they read his civil rights trilogy. He?s too smart to allow himself to be cast as a blatantly sycophantic propagandist; he acquits himself here with grace, intelligence and an appropriate level of deference.