The book,“A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him,” provides an oral history of the 42nd president of the United States. Author Michael Takiff interviewed more than 150 people,ranging from cousins and political figures to classmates and journalists,to bring to life the essence of who Clinton is.
The event featured Takiff and Mike McCurry,Clinton’s press secretary from 1995 to 1998. Lissa Muscatine,former speechwriter for Bill and Hillary Clinton and co-owner of the Politics and Prose Bookstore,moderated the discussion,which was cosponsored by the Montgomery County (Md.) Bar Association’s Literary Circle.
“The idea really was to create a book-length conversation about a fascinating man,” Takiff said.
The book,which was released in hardcover a year ago,was recently released in paperback. Takiff,who began the project in 2005,said the idea was to convey a character portrait of Clinton and act as a guide to his presidency.
“There’s just so much about him,” Takiff said in an interview before the discussion. “There’s so many facets. There’s so many things to love and so many things not to love. He’s such a complex and interesting character.”
Takiff said Clinton’s appeal is that people can relate to him.
“There’s something about Clinton that we identify with,” he said. “He’s a man of extraordinary large virtues and also faults.”
McCurry said Takiff put together an accurate and interesting portrait of Clinton by using commentary from people who were there.
“So you get in this work something that I think is not only valuable for future historians,but is probably closer to an accurate historical account from all the different titles that we have seen before,” McCurry said. “I really like the book very much for that.”
Muscatine said she was in the residence that day working with the first lady and remembers getting the news and her reaction,but wasn’t aware of the president’s exact reaction until she read the book.
Takiff said Clinton was terribly broken up about it and that Rabin was a very important figure to him.
Muscatine said she thought she knew everything there was to know about her former boss. But she said she learned a lot from reading the first-hand accounts.
Takiff said in the interview that one thing he learned was just how instrumental Clinton was in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
After the discussion,members of the audience were able to ask questions,and Takiff signed copies of the book.
“I think it’s one of the best things we have participated in,and we’ve been meeting for 18 years on a monthly basis,” said Jim Demma,72,of Rockville,Md.,member of Montgomery County Bar Association’s Literary Circle.
Demma said the speakers were phenomenal in their range of knowledge about the Clinton administration and that he gained new insights into Clinton.
“I think it was just kind of thrilling to hear insiders talk about the Clinton presidency,the good parts of it and the bad parts of it in a very objective way,” Demma said. “I got closer I think to his presidency somehow and to the man himself.”
Reach reporter Jessica Sabbah [email protected] or 202-408-2735. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.