It hardly seems possible that it has been almost ten years since Bill Clinton’s impeachment and Senate trial but we are rapidly approaching those milestone dates: December 19, 1998 for the impeachment and February 12, 1999 for his acquittal in the Senate. Fred Petrovsky marks those rather dubious anniversaries with his new novel, The Clinton Diaries, an account using excerpts from Bill Clinton’s fictional diary to illustrate the events leading up to the impeachment and how things might so easily have turned out differently were it not for the bad luck that Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski would someday, against all odds, cross paths.
Frankly, before I started reading The Clinton Diaries, I was not really sure that I wanted to relive those destructively painful days. Let’s face it, no one involved on either side, certainly not Clinton, Lewinski or Clinton’s head-hunting opposition exactly covered themselves in glory during those months. Having carefully watched the actual process, I still carry negative impressions of just about everyone involved in it, in fact. But, of course, the ultimate blame has to be placed squarely on the shoulders of President Clinton himself, so I did not expect to come away from the book feeling the slightest bit of sympathy for the man. But, surprisingly, I did.
That happened because the Bill Clinton character of The Clinton Diaries is a vulnerable and self-aware man who admits to himself, if to no one else, his own weaknesses and the fact that his lack of control over certain of his appetites dooms him to be less than the man he could, or wants, to be. The voice that Petrovsky has given to Bill Clinton sounds eerily like that of the man that Americans have come to know over the last two decades, so much so, in fact, that it is easy to imagine the real Bill Clinton saying and thinking the very words attributed to him in the novel.
Now perhaps it is time for someone to do the same for Monica Lewinski although I suspect it will be much more difficult to make her into as sympathetic a character as Petrovsky has managed to make Bill Clinton.
The Clinton Diaries, I have to say, is not a book that I enjoyed reading but that is not the fault of the book itself. It is more that I would like to forget the annoyance of those months and what this fiasco cost all of us in terms of “what could have been” and the book all too vividly and painfully reminded me of that.
Rated at: 4.0