Laughter and Forgetting

Joe Klein struggles to separate Clinton's "libidinous crudeness" from his achievements.
photo: Michael Schmelling
Joe Klein struggles to separate Clinton's "libidinous crudeness" from his achievements.

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The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton
By Joe Klein
Doubleday, 230 pp., $22.95
Buy this book

Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush
By Frank Bruni
HarperCollins, 278 pp., $23.95
Buy this book

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Not surprisingly, both of these books expose as much (or more) about the media than about their presidential prey. Klein laments his colleagues' role in the Clinton imbroglio: Even though polls showed overwhelming public support for the president, reporters were unable to cope with the subtle, incremental nature of Clinton's political achievements and rushed to fill the news void with scandal. Meanwhile, much of Ambling Into History reads like a jaundiced road diary in which campaign reporters, bored senseless from eking out news stories from phony photo ops, often find themselves "zooming toward anything sexier than issues." Bruni seems sheepish about his behavior as he, with the rest of the pack, hunted for "inklings of a changed dynamic" and failed to grasp "the danger of willing such changes into being rather than accurately noting their occurrence." Both Bruni and Klein inadvertently demonstrate the hazards of writing history as it happens, and then they ignore their own advice.

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