Bill Clinton is famously, and sometimes mockingly, remembered for biting his lip before he prepared to say something. At times, it seemed corny or even smarmy, and on Saturday Night Live, it became a staple of the great Phil Hartman’s impression of Clinton during the Clinton Administration. The mannerism was usually followed with a comment like, “I feel your pain.”
However, in Michael Takiff’s awesome oral history of Bill Clinton, A Complicated Man, it is revealed that there was much more to Clinton’s lip biting than a goofy quirk. In fact, it was a calculated action — a speed bump for the lightning quick thoughts of one of the most intellectually powerful and supremely gifted politicians in American history. Clinton’s longtime aide and one of the driving forces of his 1992 Presidential campaign, Paul Begala, says that Clinton was trained to do the lip biting because Clinton answered questions so quickly that it almost seemed unnatural.
According to Begala:
“He was so smart about so many things but also could connect. The whole thing about his biting his lip — that was coached. Because he would answer so fast. We’d say, ‘Take a beat. Pretend you’re thinking about it. Pretend you haven’t already got an answer.’ It was a studied thing to give himself a second to force himself to slow down.”
Bill Clinton for both answers. First of all, I think Bill Clinton could probably win an election against anybody, especially if it took place today.
Secondly, P-Funk George Clinton’s appeal would be the idea of having a really cool guy be President and I think even George Clinton would admit that Bill is way cooler than he is. I mean, sure, George Clinton wrote “Atomic Dog”, but I’m pretty sure that “Atomic Dog” is ABOUT Bill Clinton.
Is there nothing on there for Clinton? I really have to update that page.
Yes, there are quite a few great books on Clinton and I’ll list more than one because any of them will do the job.
•The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House by John F. Harris (BOOK•KINDLE) is one of my favorites. It’s not a full-fledged biography, just a history of Clinton’s Presidency, but it’s a fantastic book by a solid journalist.
•The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton by Joe Klein (BOOK•KINDLE) is another favorite of mine. It’s short and again focuses just on Clinton’s Presidency, but you’ll really like it if you’re a big Clinton supporter because it sells his legacy about as good as anything else.
•I’m a fan of all of Nigel Hamilton’s work. He’s written two books on Clinton, one on his early life and rise to power, and one on his Presidency. The first one is the best one, Bill Clinton: An American Journey: Great Expectations (BOOK•KINDLE) but it’s definitely worth checking out Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency (BOOK•KINDLE), too.
I could keep going on and on with Clinton books. You can’t go wrong with these books either:
•First In His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton by David Maraniss (BOOK•KINDLE)
•The Agenda by Bob Woodward (BOOK•KINDLE): Great look at the early struggles of Clinton’s Presidency
•The Choice: How Bill Clinton Won by Bob Woodward (BOOK•KINDLE): An even better Woodward-style book on the 1996 election
•All Too Human: A Political Education by George Stephanopoulos (BOOK•KINDLE): One of the best insider accounts of a White House at work
And I’ll just end the list with President Clinton’s own autobiography, My Life (BOOK•KINDLE), which is one of the better memoirs written by a President. Like I said, I could go on-and-on because there are lots of good Clinton books. I’ll get that Essential Books page updated soon.
42nd President of the United States (1993-2001)
Full Name: William Jefferson Clinton (Born William Jefferson Blythe III)
Born: August 19, 1946, Julia Chester Hospital, Hope, Arkansas
Term: January 20, 1993-January 20, 2001
Political Party: Democratic
Vice President: Al Gore
Ask many of those Republicans who called for Bill Clinton’s impeachment or fought against so many of the Clinton Administration’s achievements whether they miss Bill Clinton today and I think they’ll tell you “Yes!”. Were we better off during the Clinton Administration? Absolutely. Was Bill Clinton a talented political leader? Definitely. If not for the Twenty-Fifth Amendment would Bill Clinton either still be President or running for President today? I would hope so. Many Americans would have to look up the definition of a “budget surplus” to understand what it is. We enjoyed three straight budget surpluses during the Clinton Administration. Even when he was being impeached, his approval ratings were high, and no President’s approval ratings were higher upon leaving office. A decade without Clinton in the White House has done more than anything to make us miss having Clinton in the White House.
1948: Schlesinger Sr./Life Magazine: Not Ranked
1962: Schlesinger Sr./New York Times Magazine: Not Ranked
1982: Neal/Chicago Tribune Magazine: Not Ranked
1990: Siena Institute: Not Ranked
1996: Schlesinger Jr./New York Times Magazine: 20 of 39
2000: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: 21 of 41
2000: C-SPAN Public Opinion Poll: 36 of 41
2005: Wall Street Journal/Presidential Leadership: 22 of 40
2009: C-SPAN Survey of Historians: 15 of 42
2010: Siena Institute: 13 of 43
2011: University of London’s U.S. Presidency Centre: 19 of 40
Anonymous asked: Well, what were some of Clinton’s domestic accomplishments then? (Also, thanks for reminding me of Ike’s accomplishments!)
•Longest economic expansion in American History; 116 consecutive months of economic growth
•Lowest unemployment rate in 30 years
•Turned significant budget deficits into three straight budget surpluses
•2000 budget surplus was the largest in American History
•First balanced budgets since 1969
•COPS Program: 10,000 more police officers on the streets
•Lowest violent crime rates in a quarter-century
•Welfare reform; 53% reduction in welfare recipients
•Children’s Health Insurance Program
•Family and Medical Leave Act
•The Brady Bill (Handgun violence prevention)
•Record low poverty rates; lowest poverty rates ever for single mothers, African-Americans, and the elderly
•More jobs created than in any other Presidential Administration
•Lowest inflation rate since JFK was President
•Established drug czar; reduced drug use in children and overall; drug-related murders decreased by nearly 50% in the Clinton Administration
•Highest home-ownership rate in American History
•90% increase in funding for Head Start and ECE programs
•Minimum wage increase
•Adoption and Safe Families Act
•Increased Title-I funding; reduced classroom size; expanded Pell Grants and Work Study Program; Lifetime Learning Tax Credit; HOPE scholarships
•Hate Crimes Enhancement Act
•Crackdown on deadbeat dads; Reduced number of children reported abused or neglected
•Lowest rate of teen births in the 60 years since records started being kept
•Kennedy-Kassebaum Health Care Portability Act
•Medicare/Medicaid reform and security
•Increased numbers of children receiving immunizations and vaccinations
•Increase in preservation and conservation of forests, rivers, coastlines, and prairies; tens of millions of acres of forests preserved; 9 new national monuments created;
•Safe Drinking Water Act
•Reinventing Government Initiative to streamline the federal government
•Smallest federal workforce in 40 years
•Lowest percentage of GDP spending since the Johnson Administration
•21st Century Community Learning Centers/After-school programs (Your humble Presidential historian wrote one of these after-school program grants and funded a program for over 100 kids in Sacramento for 6 years, so I’ll always appreciate President Clinton for this)
I’m watching the entire new four-hour PBS American Experience DVD on Bill Clinton…again. I rarely watch something twice, and certainly not twice in the same week. If you haven’t seen the Clinton documentary, it’s a must-see — as all of PBS’s American Experience documentaries tend to be.
If you haven’t seen it, go order it right now.