Jerome's Reviews > The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr

The Death of American Virtue by Ken Gormley
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's review
Jan 04, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-recent
Read in August, 2010

It's often been a goal of mine the past ten years to really read about what I call modern presidential events. Historically speaking, we could look back to many American presidents of the past and ring off their personal scandals or major events hitting them personally in their time in office. The Petticoat Affair with Andrew Jackson, the Credit Mobilier Scandal in Grant's term, The Teapot Dome Scandal, etc. And why is that fact? Because so much has been written on these particular events, over and over again. What about the modern events? Not much is or can be written about them, because the results and effects are still being made out as it takes time to develop an opinion, lasting years after the event.

The journey for me began with taking a close look at the Iran-Contra Affair of 1986, yes Reagan and old Ollie North (and don't say I'm skipping Watergate, much has been written on that event). Well, what is next in line? What is the big event of the 1990s, the Clinton Presidency, the personal scandal/event hitting that presidency and the president in particular? Think no further than the Lewinsky scandal, of course. The only limiting factor of the scandal is that it occurred in 1998. For much of the early 21st century, not much could be written about the second term scandal, because it was still so fresh in our minds.

With this book coming out in 2010, however, Gormley does a great job at interacting with the (living) key characters and researching the thousands of documents to tell a complete story of the power of this scandal. And I feel that with it being a good ten years since the event (I consider that Gormley really pieced the work together in 2008) there has been enough time to let the dust settle and look back with an in-depth mindset and curiosity. And it doesn't matter what your stance on a President's policies are, you should just look at the facts and the actual events that occurred. Additionally, love him or hate him, Clinton's actions certainly brought about a change in politics.

Gormley takes the numerous facts and events, and writes a good tale with all of them. Taking it one step further, he decides to jump back all the way to Clinton's early Arkansas days (thus causing this book to balloon to an 800+ pages). Interestingly, he starts with comparing Clinton and Bart Starr, a la Lincoln and Davis, before turning another way with a close look at Clinton's personal escapades during his political service. Gormley keeps an even unbiased approach, not taking sides. There is also a fascinating conclusion at the end, extra information that no one could have predicted until at least 2004. Ultimately that analysis is what gets me and lead me to finish the work in its entirety, that analysis being the scandal's affect on the 2000 election. But you have to get to the end to understand it all. So much detailed information (you can see Ken Gormley serves in a law school) and so many facts cause one to really get involved in the work. Yet don't worry, Gormley provides about four sections of pictures to accompany you along the way.

If you lived through the scandal especially, this is a nice reflection on the event.

And for the record, what jumps out at me in the 2000s decade, the Bush Presidency, will be Dick Cheney, but that's another review forthcoming.
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