According to Steyn, the main problem with the Clinton memoir is that he neither gives any substantial detail about his extramarital excursions (which is the only reason anyone is reading the book in the first place) nor makes a substantial case for his place among the great presidents. He didn't need to do both, but his publisher probably expected him to do one or the other. Says Steyn:
"During the government shutdown in late 1995," he writes, "I'd had an inappropriate encounter with Monica Lewinsky and would do so again on other occasions."Instead, Clinton continues to lie about his conduct while also focusing totally on minutia. Steyn sums up the book's failure better than anyone:
Truly, that is one of the saddest sentences ever written. If I were the big spenders at Knopf, I'd have said: "Look, we understand that a politician with legal difficulties has to say things like 'inappropriate encounter.' And, if you want to write a memoir in dead pol-speak, that's OK, we'll pay you 20,000 bucks. But for 10 mil do us a favor and lay off the 'I had an inappropriate encounter' stuff. Shoot for more of 'The shaft of light from the dying sun through the Oval Office window caught the swell of her bosom as she slid the extra-large pepperoni across the desk. I knew it was wrong. I'd penciled in that evening for bringing peace to Northern Ireland, but what the hell, the two sides of that troubled island's sectarian conflict were separated by as deep a divide as the plunging cleavage now beckoning from her low-cut angora sweater. Ulster could wait.' "
If you can't write an honest autobiography, stick to the big issues.I hope there are lots more bad books this year just so that Steyn can review them.
Instead, Mr. Clinton's book is a double flop: Either stake your claim to join the guys on Mount Rushmore or embrace your destiny as a guy who rushes to mount more. The president does neither and winds up with a book that reads like the world's biggest Rolodex punctuated by self-doubt.