Sunday, July 23, 2017

Book Review: 'Blood Sport: The Truth Behind the Scandals in the Clinton White House' by James B. Stewart

Review by Graham H. Seibert

Rereading "primary colors" after 20 years'more experience with the Clintons leaves me with a collection of impressions.

First, how cheap these people are. The Whitewater loan the got them in trouble was only somewhere in the five digits. Most of the smarmy financial transactions executed by their friends in the banks, savings and loans, and real estate business were likewise small change. How petty!

Secondly, how readily they lied. Even when the truth would not have been all that terrible, they instinctively chose to lie. There is a quote about New York times reporter Gerth concerning Hillary denying that she had been had outside help making her fantastic, 10,000% return on a commodity investment. "Some weeks later, Gerth asked a White House official involved why he’d been given such a preposterous explanation in the first place. The official paused. “The first instinct from everybody from Arkansas,” he said, “is to lie.”

A third impression is how the Clintons managed to irritate even the New York Times and the Washington Post, to publications that really should have supported them. The times in the post were competing to dig out the Whitewater story. So much for the claim of a "great right-wing conspiracy." And it raises the question of what has happened to the objectivity of these two publications themselves in the intervening 20 years. I do not observe any such a zeal in pursuing Obama's tall tales, or Benghazi.

James Stewart seems to bend over backwards to be fair. He describes the media's reluctance to get involved in Bill Clinton's notorious sex life. Everybody knew about it, but they had also known about FDR's, Kennedy's, and Johnson's infidelities. Stewart discusses how they agonized over the decision of when such activity truly interfered with the president's performance in office. Bill and Hillary bought people's silence through job offers and sweetheart loans from friends, and coerced it via threats. That activity went over the line.

I recommend this book as a primer when reading the spate of books about Hillary Clinton in 2016. It is the same person. The amounts of money involved are vastly larger – in the 90s she could never have dreamed of $225,000 per speech – but the lack of any moral inhibition is totally the same.


Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Graham H. Seibert. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.