For some reason I hadn’t heard of Joe Klein’s new book The Natural until now. It’s apparently Klein’s non-fictional attempt to take stock of, evaluate, and place into historical context the Clinton presidency. I’m going to run out and get it. And from the descriptions I’ve now read I’d recommend it to you as well.
(I’m not recommending it per se, mind you. Or endorsing what it says. How could I? I haven’t even read it yet. But I’m sure it’ll be an interesting read.)
I’ve always had deeply conflicted opinions about Klein, particularly in his middle-1990s anti-Clinton phase. One of the first non-academic articles I ever wrote when I was trying to transition into political writing, circa 96-97, was a critique of Klein and several others I grouped with him. (The piece never even got submitted for publication, let alone appeared in print — a long story.) But his long interview-based article in the New Yorker in 2000 turned a refreshingly new page on his decade long engagement with Clinton.
According to a post today on Kausfiles, Klein says he wrote this book partly because “it has become too fashionable to flatly reject Clinton as a kind of bad dream.”
It pains me to admit the degree to which this is true. But it hasn’t made me lose too much sleep or faith. I’m quite confident that the Clinton presidency will stand the test of time, media scrutiny and historical scrutiny. (Most media scrutiny and contemporary pundit-comment is ungrounded and shallow anyway.) And the current presidency, whatever its advocates and opponents may say, seems unlikely to me to efface many of the previous president’s accomplishments.