Behind the Oval Office: Getting Reelected Against All Odds, 2nd ed
By Dick Morris
Renaissance Books, 1999, 646 pp
Stephanopoulos' book is sad. He deliberately paints an unattractive self-portrait, narcissistic and insecure. Tuned in both to the political marketplace and to Clinton's moods, he zealously, ruthlessly spun the message du jour. But as the deceits piled up, he twisted to preserve his role despite being a policy lightweight. As he became ensnared in the give and take that goes with cultivating reporters, his bosses came to distrust and (even worse) ignore him. By mid-1993 Stephanopoulos was seeing a therapist. By the end of 1994 he was taking antidepressants to silence the screeching noises in his head. Now his former colleagues see him as a betrayer. On foreign policy matters, the book's narratives are mostly sound and fury. But there are many glimpses of President and Mrs. Clinton. Like the metallic chaff tossed out to confuse radar detection, President Clinton offers such a blizzard of evidence about his personality that he in fact baffles close observers. His transparency actually makes him more elusive. Based on Stephanopoulos' account, though, the president is constantly moody and restless, carrying a cauldron of anger inside that is never far from the boiling point.
Dick Morris, in contrast, has written an exceptionally analytical book. In this second edition he adds an appendix with most of his once-sensitive strategy memos. His depiction of himself is also candid and unflattering. Readers may sympathize when National Security Adviser Anthony Lake gives Morris "the evil-rodent look." But the Clintons leaned on his insights at a crucial time, using him to reinvent the Clinton presidency and win re-election -- by which time Morris had self-destructed in scandal. Morris stresses that foreign policy should be sold to voters by appealing to values rather than repeating a dry lexicon of security or economic interests. Morris also pressed for military action on Bosnia to overcome the image of Clinton's weakness. But there is an echo of Kosovo in his account of Clinton's complaint that French President Jacques Chirac wanted to send ground troops into Bosnia. "That's not realistic," Clinton confided to Morris, "but I'm bringing him around to the idea of massive air power."