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The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  389 ratings  ·  40 reviews

The definitive account of one of the most accomplished, controversial, and polarizing figures in American history

Bill Clinton is the most arresting leader of his generation. He transformed American politics, and his eight years as president spawned arguments that continue to resonate. For all that has been written about this singular personality–
Paperback, 560 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2005)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”There’s no reason to suppose that a man who caused so much debate in his own time will have a settled and stable reputation in posterity. ‘History,’ said the historian Pieter Geyl, ‘is an argument without end.’”

 photo BillClinton_zps41e1fa18.jpg
Just let me explain!

William Jefferson Clinton was breaking his first campaign promise just as he was beginning to warm his hard won seat in the Oval Office. He had said on the campaign trail that he was going to offer amnesty to Haitian refugees. On paper it seemed like an easy promise,
The Survivor is my sixth stop on my quest to read a biography of every American President (Washington, Adams, Johnson, and both Bushes already completed). Of all of the President's, reading a biography of Clinton was one I was really looking forward to. He was the first President I really remember. I still have a memory of watching his 1992 inauguration in the library at school. But while I remember most of his presidency, it ended before I really got into politics.

I am glad I chose this book to
I am certainly not the first one to pick up a biography of anyone, let alone a president, which is a bit ironic since my BA is in political science. This was written by John Harris, a journalist. The historian/political scientist in me cringes a bit to admit that but I was looking for a book I could read quickly and learn a little bit from. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book and found myself throughout the book actually entertaining thoughts of reading another political biography.

The a
Charles William
This is one of the best day to day life of a president pieces that I have ever read. The early controversies in terms of unaccepted supreme court justices, the endless chatter about Whitewater, all the way through a provocative discussion of the bombing of the USS Cole to the re-branding strategy post-Monica come to vivid life. This has the best scene by scene play of the government shutdown (which in essence facilitates the scandal) and his conceded victory in which Robert Dole and Newt Gingric ...more
Robert Jones
As hard as it must be to avoid injecting ones own political opinions on a biography of a recent president - especially one like Bill Clinton - but Harris manages the job quite admirably. It's obvious that he respects Clinton, and his tone can get a little apologetic at times, but it is an otherwise an unflinching and honest portray of Clinton's eight years in office - from Bosnia to Kosovo, from the Oklahoma City bombing to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The book is at all times accessible, teachi ...more
Harris is a journalist and pundit who distinguishes himself by his calm and dispassion. This attitude is sustained throughout this lengthy book on Clinton's eight year administration, providing perspective on the at times bewildering variety of individual events. It is accessible as well as thorough, with short topical chapters and journalistic language that never gets too technical or wonky. If you love Clinton, or hate Clinton, this book is probably not likely to suit you; but if you want to g ...more
An interesting account of Pres. Bill Clinton's time in the White House. Often quite critical, I get the impression that Harris wasn't holding anything back when writing about the many crises and misadventures Clinton's presidency went through. I especially love the final chapter, in which Harris comments on the characteristics that defined Clinton as a president and discusses (in 2005) how George W. Bush and Hillary will both play a part in determining Clinton's long-term legacy. Harris defines ...more
Anthony Taylor
This is not only on of the best political biographies I've ever read but one of the best historical records committed to paper (well that what I think!). Harris does as great job of capturing Clinton without either siding with him or against him. He clearly shows Clinton's strengths and weaknesses in the political arena and throughout the Clinton White House years by clear examples captured in a direct and well edited narrative.

Clinton was clearly one of the "biggest" personalities ever to lead
I picked up this book because I was looking for a neutral account of the Clinton years that provided some historical context on his presidency as we get further and further away from 2000. This book delivered to a degree.

The pros -- it is neither a politically charged book, nor a play by play of every conversation that occurred in the Clinton White House, and it provides a reasonably balanced and thorough account of good, the bad, and the ugly of the Clinton presidency.

The cons -- the book was w
An interesting albeit not entirely unbiased biography of the Clinton White House years. I read it because I wanted a little deeper insight into the economic policy during the Clinton years and how Congress and the WH worked together to achieve a decade of great economic success. This was probably the most fascinating part of the book -- learning how our federal government can come together in the middle and achieve greatness. Interesting to note that along with the rest of the country i was disg ...more
Scott Holstad
I hate this book and I despise the author. I couldn't believe, when looking through the Goodreads reviews, how many people call this book "balanced." I think it's anything but. I think it's a hatchet job on a great man, Bill Clinton, my favorite president of all time. I admit to being biased, but I've read several Clinton books and none were as unflattering as this one. I couldn't even finish it! I couldn't even get past the second chapter! Virtually every page is stocked with loaded language de ...more
This is a great book which provides a lot of interesting background for anyone interested in the subject. A LOT of things here that I didn't know and on the whole it's fairly balanced. It actually provided me with a more skeptical view of my chosen historical subject. Many fascinating anecdotes and of course it is spurring me on to further reading. However---John Harris, throughout the book, frequently writes that one of the biggest problems Clinton had was in not catering to the needs of the Wa ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Harris admirably supports his contentions with evidence and shows readers the tension between Bill Clinton's light and dark sides. His treatment of Hillary Rodham Clinton, from her imperious role as "Deputy President" to her rivalry with Al Gore to her beleaguered marriage, is especially revelatory in light of her reputed 2008 presidential ambitions. In its evenhanded approach, The Survivor is like a Rorschach inkblot that elicits each reviewer's individual opinion of Clinton and his presidency.

Dec 27, 2007 Jeff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not gonna lie, you have to be pretty into bill clinton to enjoy this book
Occasionally sound glimpses into Clinton's fragile/complicated mind, but mostly a slightly above average play-by-play of what I suppose was a truly unique presidency (if you believe this dude anyway).

If you're my age, you probably don't remember most of the Clinton years on any kind of intellectual level so this makes for a good retrospective, but the operative motif seems to be confusion/awe toward what Clinton was thinking at a given time, and the author lets that theme dominate his rendition
Diana Kinder
A balanced view of Bill Clinton's strengths as well as flaws by a journalist who knew him and was close to the goings on during his administration. Very interesting, but also quite long.
It's interesting to think of Bill Clinton as a survivor. Most would get the impression from television appearances showing thousands of adoring fans that Clinton was and remains a well loved man, and president. He probably is loved by many, but probably not most. Moreover, the fact that he was even elected, and held on to his office was nothing short of surprising.

According to Harris, Clinton did achieve much in his 8 year tenure, but was hurt by his own indiscretions that gave him very little c
Interesting read about Bill Clinton's days in the White House. The most interesting part was his out maneuvering of Gingrich on the budget. There is some trivia I did not know about Clinton's worst times: his testimony before the grand jury on the Lewinsky matter. This book is an interesting read, but Mastering the Presidency is a better book about Clinton's first term. This book has details about the second term.
Patrice Maltais
Very good and balanced book on the Clinton presidency. This is an interview-based account of the Clinton presidency years, so it doesn't dwelve much on how CLinton got there or what he did in the Arkansas legislature, although that period is well covered in the David Maraniss book 'First of his class'. Read together, this is a pretty good combo to have a fairly complete picture of Clinton's career. I recommend it.
It's a fun read, and I would give it four stars on its face, but Harris has a bit of a history with accuracy and Republican slant. He recently wrote a Karl Rove apologia with ABC's Mark Halperin, "The Way to Win," has a skeezy relationship with Matt Drudge, and continues to carry the GOP's water as editor-in-chief of The Politico. These realities make it hard to regard as a genuine history of Clinton's Presidency.
Peter C
Timely, important, and well written

Those who do not learn from history are liable to repeat it . For all the " spin " doctors out there, this tome truly reminds us all of how traumatic the Clinton eight years were from one crisis to the next and the important lessons we all should have learned. Now the short sighted populous it appears may again repeat them.
Entertaining overview of the last time the Republicans were trying to roll a Democratic president, this only rarely gets caught up in the media elitist perspectives on Clinton that were all the rage at the time. I've read a number of books about the first man I ever voted for president, but, this best captures what the times were truly like, even if it's sometimes unintentional.
Alicia Brooks
Slow to get going which is strange given the subject matter but ultimately a fascinating look at Clinton's 8 years. It does feel a little dated in talking about what his legacy might be and what Hillary might do in the Senate. It was written in 2005 and I think so much has changed since then. I'd love to read what an update with all the 2008 campaign stuff in it.
Excellent look at Bill Clinton and his tenure in the White House. Great insight into the personalities around Clinton from Hillary to the various administration officials and aides that came and went during the eight years. Probably the best book I've read on the Clinton years so far.
As far as a political history of the Clinton administration, this book is very interesting. It is definitely one of the most balanced accounts of the eight years of the Clinton Presidency. I am enjoying it, and about half way through the book.
Jerry Landry
Fascinating look into the Clinton White House. It seems that so much happened in that eight years, some of which I remembered vividly but other events on which this book provided a fresh perspective. Very well-done narrative style.
Marie Elena
I've been reading this on and off for a while. I usually hate doing that with books, but this one is moving rather slowly. I like Clinton, and this gives pretty balanced look at his time in the White House.
A superbly written history of Bill Clinton in the White House. Politics enthusiasts like myself will love it. 4 stars.
Re-read this for the first time in a few years and it was as enjoyable and informative as I remember it.
Love him or hate him, it's worth the time. This gives great insight into a brillant political mind.
Rory Donnelly
A fairly balanced assessment of Clinton in the White House. Easy to read and journalistic in style.
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