The Clinton Enigma

A Four and a Half Minute Speech Reveals This President's Entire Life

The Clinton Enigma

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Maraniss, regarded by his peers as the nation's leading expert on Bill Clinton, sat in a darkened television studio in New York on the night of August 17 and watched the president deliver his curious apologia confessing that he had misled the nation about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. As Maraniss, the author of First in His Class, the highly acclaimed Clinton biography, listened to the president's words that night, it struck him that he had heard them all before, though never in one speech, and that in those four and a half minutes Clinton had revealed all the contradictory qualities of his tumultuous life and political career.
In this insightful new book, drawing from the biography and his writings for The Washington Post, Maraniss dissects the speech as a revelation of the president's entire life. Alternately reckless and cautious, righteous and repentant, evasive and forgetful, relying on family and friends to protect him, affirming his faith in God and then turning to polls to tell him what the public would tolerate, communicating with the public over the heads of pundits and professionals, transforming his personal trauma into a political cause by attacking his and his wife's enemies, asking us all to put his troubles behind us, Clinton combined all his weaknesses and strengths in that one brief address.
In the first section of The Clinton Enigma, Maraniss reflects as a biographer on his curious but revealing dealings with Clinton over the years. Then, after Clinton has spoken, Maraniss dissects the words and interprets the deeper meaning paragraph by paragraph, to show the roots and echoes from the president's past and to explain why Clinton acts and speaks as he does. With Bill Clinton, Maraniss writes, past is always prologue.

More Books from this Author

Once in a Great City
Barack Obama
Into the Story
Rome 1960

About the Author

David Maraniss
Photo by Lucian Perkins David

David Maraniss

Born in Detroit, David Maraniss is an associate editor at The Washington Post. Maraniss is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and bestselling author of Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story; First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton; Rome 1960: The Olympics that Stirred the World; Barack Obama: The Story; Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero; They Marched into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967; and When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, which was hailed by Sports Illustrated as “maybe the best sports biography ever published.” He lives in Washington, DC, and Madison, Wisconsin.

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