The History Book Club discussion

My Life
This topic is about My Life
64 views
PRESIDENTIAL SERIES > 5. MY LIFE ~~ July 11 ~ July 17th ~~ Chapters TWELVE, THIRTEEN and FOURTEEN (107 - 145); No Spoilers Please

Comments Showing 1-28 of 28 (28 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bryan (last edited Jul 18, 2011 10:26AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Hello Everyone,

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

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.

The week's reading assignment is:

Week Five - July 11th - July 17th -> Chapters TWELVE, THIRTEEN, and FOURTEEN p. 107 - 145

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 Five of this discussion.

Welcome,

~Bryan

TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

My Life by Bill Clinton Bill Clinton Bill Clinton


Bryan Craig We learn that Clinton loses the race for student president, because he is the "establishment" candidate. He continued his studies at Georgetown living off-campus now with Tom Campbell, Tommy Caplan, Kit Ashby, and Jim Moore. However, there were a lot of distractions in 1967 with the riots in 160 cities across the U.S. and more anti-war protests. He visited College Park Maryland to the National Student Association convention where he ran into Bruce Lindsey, and they became closer friends.

In chapter 13, Clinton examined the conscientious objection theory for class as he struggled with ending the war and the draft. Roger was dying and he came home where he had some good talks before he passed. He applied for a Rhodes scholarship and got it. The year 1968 was a rough one. On a personal level, his grandmother died, and it was the year President Johnson bowed out of the race, and Senator Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, and Robert Kennedy ran. In April, Martin Luther King was killed that spurred riots. Clinton helped distribute food, blankets, and supplies after the D.C. riot. In June, Robert Kennedy was gunned down. He knew one of Kennedy's campaign workers, Tommy Caplan, who rode on Kennedy's funeral train. After graduation, Clinton worked on Senator Fulbright's senate re-election campaign against an old foe, Judge Jim Johnson. Clinton drove Fulbright for a short-time as he watched Fulbright talk to people. Fulbright won the primary, while Richard Nixon won the Republican nomination with Spiro Agnew as his vice-president. Clinton described the Democratic convention as a disaster, "surreal," and didn't agree with the protesters' or Mayor Richard Daley's actions.

In chapter 14, Clinton went to Oxford. The scholarship, Clinton argued, was a journey, not for a degree per se, but learning about yourself. There were lectures, weekly tutorials, and exams. He met some life-long friends like Strobe Talbot, Tom Williamson, Rick Stearns, Doug Eakeley, and Bob Reich. He played rugby and traveled to Wales and London. He followed American politics as Nixon beat Humphrey. Humphrey decided not to use information that Nixon was stalling the Vietnam peace talks. In December 1968, Clinton returned home for his mother's wedding.


Bryan Craig There is a lot going on in these chapters. Before we get into the details, what are your impressions in the bigger scheme of things? Do you get a sense finishing Georgetown, the events of 1968, and going to Oxford as life changing for Clinton? In what way?


Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments Hi Bryan

My notes are below from this set of chapters but I want to answer or comment on your question. I think that Clinton was in the midst of a flow of forming who he was and it simply continued here but due to the real changes in enviroment and players it may have been more life changing but I think he would have developed anyway. I think this is what my notes say.

Also I think that your notes at the beginning of each part is a really useful review/ viewpoint as we move forward - Thanks

Week Five notes on My Life – Chapters 12 to 14
In these chapters, at least the first two, we seem mostly to travel along with the turbulent years of the second half of the 60s with Clinton rather than being focused on him.
It is indicative of how he views politics as part of his life that it is included but I think it is also his way to present politics in his view remembering that this was published before Hillary’s run at the presidency and that political and activist ambitions are still with him.
His prep for the Rhodes interview, reading three magazines “cover to cover” and his essay the night before – and seemingly having comprehended and understood all that material means that he can probably read and comprehend as fast and well as Bentley must be able to do to be omnipresent on Goodreads HBC.
For those of us who read Legacy of Ashes we recall a bit different view of Bobby Kennedy as we read this portion.
The Fulbright remark “you can’t change society too much through the courts” give me the thought to mention that in an audio course I am listening to by Alan Dershowitz about landmark legal cases of the 20th century (Modern Scholar) there is an interesting view he presents about how” Roe vs. Wade” was possibly not the best path to secure abortion rights for women. He observes that it gave the right a fulcrum to draw anti-abortion people in while relaxing the efforts of more liberal women. If one can hear if it may be interesting and it is often available from libraries.
This follows the observation that Clinton makes (Pg. 133) that fanatics on the right “had an enemy and they wanted to keep it” when it came to not resolving cultural divides.
The politics of our country seems so integral to Bill Clinton that he had to explore the range of issues and progression of the Humphrey/Nixon election to write his biography.
His Oxford experience is again his opportunity to see and understand more of the world while meeting future important influential people.


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

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
I think Georgetown gave him entry into an even more diversified environment than he grew up in and opened his mind up to the possibilites that he could go places outside of Arkansas.


Bryan Craig Vince wrote: "Hi Bryan

My notes are below from this set of chapters but I want to answer or comment on your question. I think that Clinton was in the midst of a flow of forming who he was and it simply continu..."


Thanks for the compliment, Vince.

It is interesting to ponder why Clinton goes into such detail on the political life of the U.S. I think you are right, he is a political animal and this is how he sees the world. I believe many people who lived through this time and were active felt it was a watershed period.

I was interested in Clinton's comments about the right, too. The 1960s was a watershed for the Republicans, the conservatives in particular. With Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) running for president in 1964 and the social and war scene after that, I think Clinton is right in that it did help galvanize the right. One book that explores this theme is:

Nixonland America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon, 1965-1972.  by Rick Perlstein Rick Perlstein

I also think Clinton would love to return to the presidency. He loved the job and I understand he had a great mind for details, he is a true policy wonk.


Bryan Craig Oh, Vince cited a book which we will need to put in the proper citation:

Legacy of Ashes the History of the CIA by Tim Weiner Tim Weiner Tim Weiner


message 8: by Bryan (last edited Jul 12, 2011 07:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Bentley wrote: "I think Georgetown gave him entry into an even more diversified environment than he grew up in and opened his mind up to the possibilities that he could go places outside of Arkansas."

So true, Bentley. It seems he wanted to go to Georgetown for the school, but he also realized that it did indeed open his mind.

One thing I have to say is that I never fully appreciated his love of reading and intellectual pursuits. Georgetown and college in general for someone like that is a great experience.


message 9: by Alisa (new) - added it

Alisa (mstaz) One of the interesting dynamics about his Georgetown years was his exposure the world beyond D.C. and Georgetown - traveling with friends to NY and into New Englad, being exposed to people from all walks of life. He really carried forward the early influence of his grandfather to be open to whoever he might enoucnter, to understand them and listen, and to engage in debate on intellectual pursuits. He yo-yos on and off campus and class, but seems to not have lost on anything because of it. Enlightening.

I had the general impression that he was a big reader in office (who knows how he found the time) but obviously this guy reads everything he can get his hands on!


message 10: by Bryan (last edited Jul 13, 2011 06:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Alisa wrote: "One of the interesting dynamics about his Georgetown years was his exposure the world beyond D.C. and Georgetown - traveling with friends to NY and into New Englad, being exposed to people from all..."

So true, he really wanted to see more of the country. I think he is a naturally curious fellow and reflective. I didn't expect that since I really saw him more through his policies, not as a person.


Bryan Craig I see there is still some issues that Clinton did not completely close. He writes, "Somewhere near the end, Mother came in and saw him, burst into tears, and told him she loved him. After all he had put her through, I hoped she meant it, more for her sake than for his." (p. 113)


Bryan Craig 1968 election:

The Republicans' orderly, well run convention was a sharp contrast to their opponents' tumultuous gathering in Chicago. The Vietnam War had split the Democratic party. Antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy made a surprisingly strong showing against President Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, leading Johnson to withdraw from the race in late March. Robert Kennedy then entered the race, winning the California primary in June and—on the same night—losing his life to an assassin's bullet, adding to the grief of a nation still mourning the death of Martin Luther King two months earlier. At the Chicago convention, antiwar forces were defeated by Johnson loyalists, who gave the nomination to Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Outside the convention hall, Chicago police clashed with demonstrators, igniting riots.

Nixon started the general election campaign with a double-digit lead over Humphrey, even in the face of a serious third-party challenge from candidate George Wallace. Wallace came to national prominence early in the 1960s as a staunch segregationist and broadened his appeal to the Right by lashing out at antiwar demonstrators. Nixon pressed his advantages. He refused to debate Humphrey; he also raised and spent much more money than his opponent.

Nevertheless, by Election Day, his lead had all but vanished. Humphrey was buoyed when the North Vietnamese accepted President Johnson's proposal for peace talks in Paris in return for a bombing halt. Publicly, Nixon supported the bombing halt and the negotiations; privately, however, his campaign urged South Vietnam's government to refuse to take part in the talks. South Vietnam complied just days before Americans went to the polls and made Nixon their President. But before Nixon took office, he closed ranks with Johnson and insisted that South Vietnam take part in the peace talks.

Although it was an extremely close race with respect to the popular vote, Nixon won the electoral college by a 3 to 2 margin. Wallace's third party candidacy stole votes from both of the major parties, but hurt the Democrats more; many Southern Democrats defected and Nixon was able to win some Southern electoral votes. Only 43 percent of voters supported Nixon, hardly a mandate. In fact, he defeated Humphrey by a margin of less than 1 percent of the vote. The Democrats nevertheless maintained control of the House and Senate, making Nixon the first President elected without his party winning either house of Congress since the nineteenth century.
(Source: http://millercenter.org/president/nix...)


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

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Bryan wrote: "I see there is still some issues that Clinton did not completely close. He writes, "Somewhere near the end, Mother came in and saw him, burst into tears, and told him she loved him. After all he ..."

I think beneath the surface there was some animosity towards his mother for loving this sort of a man and/or being truthful and I think he questionned how she could love this man and maybe felt shortchanged in some way. Hard to understand.


Bryan Craig I agree, I think deep down he never fully understood the situation. I wonder if he felt, in a very small part, relief, but his relationship with Roger did improve.


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Jul 13, 2011 12:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
I think at some level and I am not trying to put words in Clinton's mouth that he did not approve of or like Roger very much and thought of him as an intrusion and one who created problems for his mother and for him. I think he worked at putting on the best face he could. Did he ever say he loved or admired Roger?


Bryan Craig Bentley wrote: "I think at some level and I am not trying to put words in Clinton's mouth that he did not approve of or like Roger very much and thought of him as an intrusion and one who created problems for his ..."

A good question, Bentley. I remember he said he was the first to pay attention to him and called him daddy, but he does remain less outspoken of his feelings when the drinking got bad. I don't remember him saying he loved him. He didn't go into much detail about what those good conversations were about at the end of Roger's life.


message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
True enough - maybe it was just Roger explaining himself and saying he was sorry and Clinton forgave him - who knows.


Bryan Craig Bentley wrote: "True enough - maybe it was just Roger explaining himself and saying he was sorry and Clinton forgave him - who knows."

Yeah, I get that sense, too.


Bryan Craig I find Clinton's observations on Chicago interesting:

"I was against the war and the police brutality, but growing up in Arkansas had given me an appreciation for the struggles of ordinary people who do their duty every day, and a deep skepticism about self-righteous sanctimony on the right or the left. The fleeting fanaticism of the left had not yet played itself out, but it had already unleashed a radical reaction on the right, one that would prove more durable, more well financed, more institutionalized, more resourceful, more addicted to power, and far more skilled at getting and keeping it." (p. 133)


Bryan Craig I thought Clinton's comments about RFK being the first New Democrat interesting. RFK's image is being liberal, but that is not entirely true, as Clinton observes. RFK was looking for fresh approaches to poverty including using private initiatives. I quote: "If he sounded conservative on these matters, it was because he was more conservative than his liberal advisers wished to believe."

Cited in Robert Kennedy His Life by Evan Thomas Evan Thomas Evan Thomas p. 370


Laura (apenandzen) Bryan wrote: "Vince wrote: "Hi Bryan

My notes are below from this set of chapters but I want to answer or comment on your question. I think that Clinton was in the midst of a flow of forming who he was and it ..."


Thx for that book recommendation Bryan.

Nixonland America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon, 1965-1972.  by Rick Perlstein Rick Perlstein


Laura (apenandzen) Bryan wrote: "Alisa wrote: "One of the interesting dynamics about his Georgetown years was his exposure the world beyond D.C. and Georgetown - traveling with friends to NY and into New Englad, being exposed to p..."

I agree, great comments Alisa & Bryan re: his intellectual curiosity and voracious readerliness. lol.


message 23: by Laura (last edited Jul 29, 2011 02:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura (apenandzen) Bryan wrote: "Bentley wrote: "True enough - maybe it was just Roger explaining himself and saying he was sorry and Clinton forgave him - who knows."

Yeah, I get that sense, too."


I agree too. Deathbeds can change a person, certainly. I saw that with my dad. I think he did see Roger as an intrusion for the most part. I do think (perhaps, like many children of alcoholics), Clinton's relationship with his mom was abnormally close. I mentioned this before but he calls her "Mother" (with a capital M) and I find that creepy in a grown man. Gives me that Psycho/Bates Motel feeling. But I guess it's understandable considering what happened.


Laura (apenandzen) Bryan wrote: "I find Clinton's observations on Chicago interesting:

"I was against the war and the police brutality, but growing up in Arkansas had given me an appreciation for the struggles of ordinary people ..."


Yes. Interesting indeed.


message 25: by Laura (last edited Jul 29, 2011 02:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura (apenandzen) Bentley wrote: "Bryan wrote: "I see there is still some issues that Clinton did not completely close. He writes, "Somewhere near the end, Mother came in and saw him, burst into tears, and told him she loved him. ..."

I definitely agree, and I think it might be something you don't truly understand unless you've been through something similar. It really is amazing how much of a profound impact childhood events have on the adult. And I think at what point in the growing-up years they occur magnifies the impact.


message 26: by Laura (last edited Jul 29, 2011 03:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura (apenandzen) I almost forgot to post this quote from Chapter 13, p. 123 - as Ted Kennedy eulogizes his brother:

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. He should be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. ...

Very well said. And like so many other quotes in this novel, make me want to read more about the person being spoken of.


Bryan Craig This Ted Kennedy quote/speech is a classic one, one of his best.


Bryan Craig Laura wrote: "Definitely agree, and I think it might be something you don't truly understand unless you've been through something similar. It really is amazing how much of a profound impact childhood events have on the adult"

Well said, Laura. It makes sense why he would send a 200 pages on his childhood.


back to top