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My Life
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PRESIDENTIAL SERIES > 2. MY LIFE ~~ June 20 ~ June 26th ~~ Chapters THREE, FOUR and FIVE (17 - 47); No Spoilers Please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 28078 comments Hello Everyone,

This is the Week Two thread for the next Presidential Series selection (My Life).

Last week, we started off slowly and read the Prologue, and the first couple of chapters of My Life by William Jefferson Clinton. For those of you still acquiring the book, be advised that some folks have run into the problem of the book being now divided into two volumes. We will be reading and discussing the entire work so you will need to get both volumes (Volume I and Volume II). For those of you like myself who have the original hardcopy, that will not be necessary because the hardcopy was just one big book.

Now this week (Week Two) we pick up the pace a bit.

The second week's reading assignment is:

Week Two - June 20th - June 26th -> Chapters THREE, FOUR, and FIVE p. 17 - 47

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

This book was kicked off on June 13th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle.

Since we just started this book on June 13th, there is still time remaining to obtain the book or both volumes and get started.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to begin reading this selection and/or to post.

Bryan Craig will be your moderator for this selection as he is our lead for all Presidential selections. We hope you enjoy Week Two of this discussion.

Welcome,

~Bentley


TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

My Life by Bill Clinton

by Bill ClintonBill Clinton


message 2: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments In chapter three, we meet Roger Clinton, a Buick dealership owner in Hope, a party guy, but was generous to Clinton and his mom. Virginia and Roger were married in June 1950, and Clinton took Roger's last name and called him daddy. They moved to a new home and Clinton shares some stories of his new life. In particular, Clinton broke his leg jumping rope (at a time when he met Mack McLarty, his future chief of staff) and his love of movies. However, we also see that Clinton's life was not all "Leave it to Beaver." Roger was an alcoholic and had fights with Virginia.

The Clintons moved to Hot Springs, a larger town that brought in tourists for the gambling and the hot spring resorts. It was a more sophisticated town with diversity and activity. Clinton talks about learning the tenor saxophone, working in a grocery store, reading at the public library, and hanging around Maxine's bordello. He states that his step-grandparents, Al and Eula, were good people and he bonded with Raymond from that side of the family.

In 1956, Roger was born. It was also the same year they got a television. He liked to watch the national political conventions, Elvis, and bible epics at the movies. 1957 was a big year when his grandfather died and the Little Rock Central High Crisis occurred. He visited Dallas and called the city impersonal, but he did see Billy Graham. For Clinton, he enjoyed school with band camp, math, and following the 1960 presidential election. He supported Lyndon Johnson at first, then JFK. He joined a Mason boys group, the Order DeMolay. The last part of the chapter is interesting, because he turns again to the issue of Roger's drinking. It was a secret and at one moment during a fight, Clinton took out a golf club and threatened Roger. Clinton had to figure things out for himself, because he did not have anyone to talk to about this problem.


message 3: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments The big episode is Roger's drinking. I quote: "Roger Clinton really loved me and he loved Mother, but he couldn't ever quite break free of the shadows of self-doubt, the phony security of binge drinking and adolescent partying, and the isolation from and verbal abuse of Mother that kept him from becoming the man he might have been." (p. 19)

How do you think this impacted Clinton's life?


message 4: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments I was struck by Clinton's description of the baptism pool at Park Place Baptist church. I remember my grandmother's church having a pool like that and I was mesmerized by it as a kid. I never seen anything quite like it.

It is interesting that his father and mother rarely went, so he was taking this spiritual journey alone for the most part, or am I missing something?


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 28078 comments I wondered about that too. For some reason and I haven't heard him discuss why - that was my impression too. Oddly enough, he seemed to be very connected to the church unlike his parents. Maybe because he was extremely close to his grandparents he was more akin to them.


message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jun 22, 2011 10:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 28078 comments Bryan wrote: "The big episode is Roger's drinking. I quote: "Roger Clinton really loved me and he loved Mother, but he couldn't ever quite break free of the shadows of self-doubt, the phony security of binge dr..."

First of all, I don't think he had any role models for a happy married life. He saw his grandparents staying together as loyalty and commitment but even with that union there were some underlying issues. He yearned for a father but really did not have one. Someone can love another but still be a negative influence as it appeared Roger Clinton was. His mother to a large extent though it appears she was a successful medical professional was also looking for love in all of the wrong places.


message 7: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments Good points, Bentley. Yeah, it becomes very complex, a nice person overall, but once drunk, could be violent. I think he really struggled coming to grips with all of this. They didn't classify alcoholism as a disease until about the mid-1950s. I suspect his "lessons learned" came over time.


message 8: by Virginia (new)

Virginia (va-BBoomer) | 210 comments I think all of the involvement and observation of Roger Clinton's alcoholism was the second major part of Bill's foundation; thank goodness he had his grandparents before Roger, so his first childhood foundation was a lot more stable than Roger was. While Roger drank, he also worked well, too; at least during these years, he was a functioning alcoholic. Bill's grandparents showed the work ethic and the roll-with-the-punches philosophy that was left over from the war years. But with the 60's coming up...I can feel it as I read these chapters as to how his childhood background influences his future, and how the change the US starts going through in the 60's meets with past lifestyles and philosophies of working and what life was before.
Also, Bill had to defend his mother; he was pushed by the alcoholic stepfather's violence to become the real man in the family long before he was old enough. It was a major adult 'break' in his childhood that has to have an effect throughout his life.
I must agree that Bill's mother did find "love in all of the wrong places." (Bentley) Her first husband evidently had been married twice before at very young ages, which makes one wonder how stable he would have been if he had lived. And here was Roger, good worker but an alcoholic.


message 9: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments Great thoughts, Virginia. He was indeed a functioning alcoholic and that brings its own challenges. He went weeks or months before he would binge drink and attack his wife.

I agree, Bill had to grow up fast in that situation and it makes it very difficult to grasp. He probably matured faster than some others his age.


message 10: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments You know you have a born politician if you love watching the national conventions (1956). Here is some information on the Democratic convention:

The 1956 National Convention of the Democratic Party nominated former Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois for President and Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee for Vice President. It was held in the International Amphitheatre on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois August 13–17 1956. Unsuccessful candidates for the presidential nomination included Gov. W. Averell Harriman of New York, Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, and Sen. Stuart Symington of Missouri.

As the unsuccessful 1952 Democratic Party presidential nominee, Stevenson had the highest stature of the active candidates and was easily renominated on the first ballot. Former President Harry S. Truman, whose support for Stevenson in '52 helped secure him the nomination, was opposed to his renomination in 1956, instead favoring Harriman. It did no good, as Truman was no longer a sitting President, and Stevenson was nominated on the first ballot.

The convention was marked by a "free vote" for the vice-presidential nomination in which the winner, Kefauver, defeated Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts. The vice-presidential vote, which required three separate ballots, was one of the last multi-ballot contests held at the quadrennial political convention of any major U.S. political party.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1956_Dem...)

Republican:

The 1956 Republican National Convention was held by the Republican Party of the United States at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California, from August 20 to August 23, 1956. U.S. Senator William F. Knowland was temporary chairman and former speaker of the House Joseph W. Martin, Jr. served as permanent chairman. It renominated President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon of California as the party's candidates for the 1956 presidential election.

Eisenhower was renominated by acclamation at the Convention.

On August 23, 1956, singer Nat King Cole spoke at the Republican Convention.
(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1956_Rep...)

Newsreel:
http://www.archive.org/details/1956-0...


message 11: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (last edited Jun 24, 2011 12:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments Clinton also experiences the Little Rock Crisis (see Glossary for details).

He doesn't approve of Governor Faubus' actions of calling out the national guard to prevent integration.

Do you sense from the book so far, Clinton is not alone in his more progressive thinking about civil rights? Do you think it is unique for a boy this age to have them in Arkansas?


Vince (vpbrancato) | 780 comments Bryan wrote: "I was struck by Clinton's description of the baptism pool at Park Place Baptist church. I remember my grandmother's church having a pool like that and I was mesmerized by it as a kid. I never see..."

In a home with instability I think that kids/children reach for organization & stability & rules that are accepted by many. Thus in part his affinity for the church and then also for the Catholic school and their regimentation. There can be warmth and fuzziness in such a structure. I was raised in no religion and I found the Boy Scouts very positive - not to get so personal.

Clinton is seems wants, if not approval, at least to not offend people and make friends. He continues to say nothing bad about anyone (let us see what happens when we get to George Stephanopoulos. The reference made by Bryan about Faubus is correct - Clinton though found a way to "always be grateful" to him for something. Even the bigger boy Henry Hill gets to be "friends” in the end.

Clinton is the constant politician - and I note this is an autobiography written by a very young ex-President with a long-term agenda - politically for his wife at least - and personally to accomplish things. No one mentioned so far in this book will not want to vote for a Clinton based upon what is in this book. So is Clinton only positioning himself or does he want/need mass approval?

I also see here, including his comment about it at one point in these chapters, the famous Clinton memory. I have a poor memory but I envy his.

Also extremely interesting (page 46) is his view on secrets – and that we are all entitled to have them.

I think we have to remember the continuing ambitions of the Clintons, and his affirmation of the right to secrets, and the intro remark not to be judged – but I think we are in for a very interesting ride into the thinking and views and values of this man. I am getting the feeling that he will not tell us any mistruths but what he tells us will be his truth.


message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 28078 comments Excellent post Vince; I thought that segment about secrets was quite powerful actually and I think it is interesting how right off the bat the book as gotten into some deep psychological ruminations on the part of Clinton - I think he has some demons still from his childhood.


message 14: by Alisa (new) - added it

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5339 comments I was surprised at his description of the ethnic and religious diversity he experienced in Hot Springs. It seemed to have exposed him to people wwith many different perspectives from his own, yet in a small town it would seem to me to be a more intimate kind of exposure because there are so few people. It's not like a big city where you can live among a vastly diverse population butnot really know folks the way you do in a small town. He had this exposure at an impressionable young age, and I think it interested him and he learned something about how people with differing opinions still share common values.


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 28078 comments I agree Alisa; I was very surprised myself and everybody seemed to be great friends and neighbors.


message 16: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments I do think living in Hot Springs opened up his world in a bigger way than he if he lived in Hope.


message 17: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments Thanks, Vince. So, is it the chicken before the egg...is he a natural politician that he wants to make friends first or once he realizes he wants to get into politics, he knows he needs to make friends.

One thing, too, he probably became a referee with an alcoholic father, not make waves.

I like your observation about his memory, too. How does he remember this stuff??? Amazing.


message 18: by Alisa (new) - added it

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5339 comments Bryan wrote: "You know you have a born politician if you love watching the national conventions (1956). Here is some information on the Democratic convention:

The 1956 National Convention of the Democratic Par..."


I found this a little odd. He was all of 10 years old? T.V. was new so it's not like there would be a lot else to watch but it surprised me a bit, but maybe like his studies in school and the movies it served as a form of escape from what was going on around him at home.


Vince (vpbrancato) | 780 comments Alisa wrote: "Bryan wrote: "You know you have a born politician if you love watching the national conventions (1956). Here is some information on the Democratic convention:

The 1956 National Convention of th..."


I was 12 and it was a big deal. The nominee was really then chosen by the convention. There were not enough primaries to make it decided or even almost decided before the convention.

The, if you have the time and inclination a fictional work - very good - The Best Man


The Best Man by Gore Vidal Gore VidalGore Vidal

Which was a play that was eventually made into a movie in 1964 featuring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson.


message 20: by Alisa (new) - added it

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5339 comments Interesting, thanks Vince. A good point as well about how much the primary and convention systems have changed in such a short period of time. I had not considered that. Ten years old just seems so young to be intellectually involved to the extent he described in these pages, but what was going on at the time is not insignificant. Good point.


message 21: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments Conventions were probably a lot more exciting than today-now scripted to the top.


message 22: by Laura (last edited Jul 15, 2011 06:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Bryan wrote: "Great thoughts, Virginia. He was indeed a functioning alcoholic and that brings its own challenges. He went weeks or months before he would binge drink and attack his wife.

I agree, Bill had t..."


I agree that in some ways Bill had to grow up fast, but I wonder if the same circumstances as far as Roger's alcoholism led to a part of himself being frozen in time, in his young adulthood. That's the feeling that I'm getting as I read. Wondering if anyone else is feeling that?

(Sorry, I'm just catching up, so I'm a little behind with my thoughts.)


Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Vince wrote: "Bryan wrote: "I was struck by Clinton's description of the baptism pool at Park Place Baptist church. I remember my grandmother's church having a pool like that and I was mesmerized by it as a kid..."

Wow, awesome insights, Vince. I think you put many of my disjointed thoughts about this book into an organized format right there. I agree completely. I am continually reminded that he is first a politician, and the constant approval is an ongoing theme here too.

I wonder if the strong need for approval stems from growing up with alcoholism? I wonder if he would have still had that need if he had two strong, stable parental figures.


message 24: by Laura (last edited Jul 15, 2011 06:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Bentley wrote: "Excellent post Vince; I thought that segment about secrets was quite powerful actually and I think it is interesting how right off the bat the book as gotten into some deep psychological rumination..."

Yes. I think he does allow us, in brief flashes, to look very deeply inside of himself, but I'm not sure he realized that as he was writing. If he did - not sure he'd have allowed us to get that close.


message 25: by Laura (last edited Jul 15, 2011 06:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Alisa wrote: "I was surprised at his description of the ethnic and religious diversity he experienced in Hot Springs. It seemed to have exposed him to people wwith many different perspectives from his own, yet ..."

Yes, I definitely think that growing up in the South, with his grandfather as that strong, positive example, set him up to be the way he was. He got to see the obvious wrongs close up. Bill Clinton growing up in New Hampshire might have been very different. I don't think he would ever have been racist, his sense of fairness is too strong for that, but he may not have had such deep feelings about this issue.


message 26: by Laura (last edited Jul 15, 2011 06:18PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Bryan wrote: "Thanks, Vince. So, is it the chicken before the egg...is he a natural politician that he wants to make friends first or once he realizes he wants to get into politics, he knows he needs to make fr..."

Good point re: not making waves, I think you're right on target Bryan.


Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Alisa wrote: "Interesting, thanks Vince. A good point as well about how much the primary and convention systems have changed in such a short period of time. I had not considered that. Ten years old just seems..."

Plus keep in mind we're dealing with a brilliant mind in Clinton (in my opinion), so 10 probably isn't too young to develop such an interest. Even though it does seem odd at first, if we're talking about the average 10 year-old.


message 28: by Laura (last edited Jul 15, 2011 06:52PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Here's a quote that struck me from the end of Chapter 3, p.20:

"I'm sure Daddy didn't mean to hurt her and he would have died if the bullet had accidentally hit either of us. But something more poisonous than alcohol drove him to that level of debasement. It would be a long time before I could understand such forces in others or in myself."

The last sentence of this one hit me. I re-read this little blurb several times. I never really thought of Clinton as having a temper, but he does get that piercing look in his eyes every now and then that lets you know a lion lurks there in the background.

It shows up again in the middle of Chapter Five, p. 42. He got into a fight with a boy a little older, but smaller than he, and was concerned he might have hurt him:

"I hadn't enjoyed hurting him and I was a little disturbed by my anger, the currents of which would prove deeper and stronger in the years ahead. ... because of the way Daddy behaved when he was angry and drunk, I associated anger with being out of control and I was determined not to lose control. Doing so could unleash the deeper, constant anger I kept locked away because I didn't know where it came from."

Did that one surprise anyone??

And then the part about secrets which has already been brought up, but I've marked these passages, so I'll include them. From the end of Chapter Five, pages 46 and 47:

"The question of secrets is one I've thought about a lot over the years. We all have them and I think we're entitled to them. ... The place where secrets are kept can also provide a haven, a retreat from the rest of the world, where one's identity can be shaped and reaffirmed, where being alone can bring security and peace.

And this part particularly:

... the allure of our secrets can be too strong, strong enough to make us feel we can't live without them, that we wouldn't even be who we are without them"

(This is what I mean when I talk about him letting us in further maybe than he realizes. I re-read that passage several times, and still don't know completely what to make of it. I'm thinking as I read more, I'll understand this bit more.)

Then, moving on to p. 47 here:

"It was even harder to learn which secrets to keep, which to let go of, which to avoid in the first place. I am still not sure I understand that completely."

These passages are really helping me to understand how Roger's alcoholism shaped the young Clinton. He still hasn't come to terms with all of this, it seems. Amazing the harm a legal drug can do, especially to the small and helpless.

This sure promises to be an interesting read, no doubt about it!


message 29: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments Thanks for the great comments, Laura. Yeah, as a public figure, you don't see a temper very often at all, so it is a little surprising to see it in his book. With him being young and around an alcoholic, going alone, I think it was hard to figure out all these anger issues.

The secret passages are also interesting. Clearly, he held on to a lot of secrets and I think we learn more secrets (I hope) as go along. I think it is a lifelong journey to figure out what secrets to keep and which ones not to, especially in Clinton's case.


Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Exactly Bryan. I bet he has tons and tons no one knows about. Wouldn't be a bit surprised!


message 31: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments Laura wrote: "Exactly Bryan. I bet he has tons and tons no one knows about. Wouldn't be a bit surprised!"

Indeed, and for someone who reached the presidency, secrets are sometimes part of the job description.


Laura (apenandzen) | 147 comments Very true. I'm always amazed at how quickly presidents gray after taking office. What burdens must rest on them we're totally unaware of.


message 33: by Bryan, Assisting Moderator - Presidential Series (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig | 11365 comments Absolutely, Laura; you have national security secrets, ways to get bills past, and negotiations with foreign leaders all need a discrete way.


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