[BOOK REVIEW]Ordinary people, political animals

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[BOOK REVIEW]Ordinary people, political animals

A senior campaign aide and White House adviser during Bill Clinton's first term, George Stephanopoulos's account of those times has something for Clinton loyalists, Clinton-haters and all those who are fascinated by the differences in the ways ordinary people and political animals think.

"All too Human" is not a deep book about intellectual struggles to form and implement policy -- it is no "Present at the Creation," Dean Atcheson's account of the post-World War II beginnings of the Cold War -- but neither is it a gossipy novel focused on Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and other "bimbo eruptions." Mr. Stephanopoulos has done a good job of highlighting the pressures and influences that shape modern American politics. His 1999 book discusses (how could it not?) but does not sensationalize the prurient stories about the "horny little toad," as the country singer Dolly Parton once called Mr. Clinton. But it also lays out the distressing and balancing forces that determine the fate of political programs.

Many political memoirs, especially those written soon, are either too discreet, too turgid or too pointed toward image-enhancement to be of lasting interest. Mr. Stephanopoulos has avoided those traps. He is discreet where discretion seems appropriate, his writing is far from turgid, and his accounts of many incidents include assessments of his own mistakes and shortcomings. He apparently is too young to worry overly about his place in history, yet.

This is an easy but interesting read, and will bring back memories of half-forgotten headlines ranging from the important, how Hillary Clinton's health care plan was sunk, to the ridiculous, like Mr. Clinton's $200 haircut on Air Force One on the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport.

by John Hoog

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