Last week, when I left former President Bill Clinton's book Back To Work: Why Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy on the counter in the staff office at work, one of my coworkers saw Clinton's face on the cover and assumed it was a memoir.
"Why are you reading about Clinton?" he asked me. "Don't you know how it turns out? He bangs his intern. Did you get to that part yet?"
Leaving aside the question of whether that's really appropriate office talk or not, his remark illustrates one of the more depressing things about Bill Clinton. The man had a stellar--though not perfect--record when it came to the economy. Among other things, when he left office, there was a budgetary surplus. A surplus! That's the opposite of a deficit. There was no deficit. And still, what people remember about him are his indiscretions and missteps.
This slim volume of economic analysis and advice is unlikely to change the minds of anyone still thinking of President Clinton as the guy who banged his intern. Worse than that--it's unlikely to reach the people who need to hear it most. Like a lot of books related even tangentially to politics, it will likely end up being more of a preach to the choir kind of thing--read primarily by people who agree with Clinton going in.
It's a shame, really, because the book is clear-eyed, well-researched, meticulously documented and full of common sense suggestions that legislators on both sides of the aisle would do well to take into consideration. Along the way, Clinton acknowledges his own mistakes and those of his fellow Democrats and he does not hesitate to give credit where it's due, even to the staunchest Republicans.
All of this in an easily readable and compact1 package. A few bits that will stay with me:
~~"...fervent insistence on an ideology makes evidence, experience, and argument irrelevant: If you possess the absolute truth, those who disagree are by definition wrong, and evidence of success or failure is irrelevant. There is nothing to learn from the experience of other countries. Respectful arguments are a waste of time. Compromise is a weakness. And if your policies fail, you don't abandon them. Instead you double down, asserting that they would have worked if only they had been carried to their logical extreme."
~~"The status quo is represented by much more powerful lobbying groups than the future is."
~~"No one can take the future away from us. But we can take it away from ourselves."2
Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Thought-provoking.3
1. 196 6"x9" pages.
2. Emphasis his.
3. The hyphen makes two words one, right?
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