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Authors: David Maraniss

First In His Class

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First in His Class

The Biography of Bill Clinton

David Maraniss

Published by Simon & Schuster
New York   London   Toronto   Sydney

Rockefeller Center
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Copyright © 1995 by David Maraniss

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

First Touchstone Edition 1996

TOUCHSTONE and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.

Designed by Irving Perkins Associates, Inc.

Manufactured in the United States of America

13  15  17  19  20  18  16  14  12

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Maraniss, David.

First in his class : the biography of Bill Clinton / David Maraniss.—1st Touchstone ed.

p.   cm.

“Touchstone book.”

Originally published: New York : Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

1. Clinton, Bill. 1946— . 2. Presidents—United States—Biography.  I. Title.

[E886.M29  1996]


[B]   95-44894


ISBN 0-671-87109-9
eISBN-13: 978-1-439-12835-0

0-684-81890-6 (alk. paper: pbk.)

Photo Credits

1, 2, 4: Family photos acquired by
The Washington Post
and David Maraniss. With permission. 3, 24:
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
. 5: Old Gold Yearbook. 6, 7: American Legion. 8. Protocol. With permission from Georgetown University. 9, 10. Tom Campbell 11, 12: Lyda Holt. 13. Jacques M. Chenet/The Gamma Liaison Network. 14: Brooke Shearer. 15:
The Washington Post
. 16, 18:
The Southwest Times Record
. 17: The Doug Wallace Papers, University of Arkansas/Little Rock. 19, 20, 25: AP/Wide World Photos. 21, 22, 27: Arkansas Governor's Office. 23. Reuters/Bettmann. 26: Harry Truman Moore. 28. Mark Duncan, AP/Wide World Photos. 29. Glenda Cooper.


To Linda, Andrew, and Sarah



:   Washington, D.C, 1963

:   Hope and Chance

:   In All His Glory

:   The Road Ahead

:   He Was on Fire

:   The Back Room Boys

:   All Hell Broke Loose

:   The Great Escape

:   The Dreaming Spires

:   Feeling the Draft

:   The Torment

:   The Lucky Number

:   The Grand Tour

:   Law and Politics at Yale

:   Rodham and Clinton

:   Texas Days

:   Home Again

:   And Not to Yield

:   Running with the Boy

:   Governor-in-Waiting

:   Great Expectations

:   The Only Track

:   The Permanent Campaign

:   Relationships

:   Saying the Words






this book is meant to evoke its central theme: how Bill Clinton, out of the thousands of bright, ambitious people from the postwar baby boom generation, became the first to reach the White House. He never was first in his class except in the broadest sense of the phrase, though he finished near the top in high school and college. The title also embraces the school years that were so pivotal in the lives of our generation, a period loosely known as the sixties, which in this book runs from the summer day in 1963 when Clinton shook President Kennedy's hand to the fall day in 1971 when one of his best friends, a former Vietnam war resister, killed himself.

Time and again as I worked on this book, people asked me a simple question: Do you like Bill Clinton? As a newspaperman for the last twenty years, I had trained myself to avoid answering that sort of bias-establishing inquiry. As a biographer, I realized that I had to confront it, if only in my own mind. Yet I also saw the paradox: the very reason I wanted to write the book was to get beyond the narrow dimensions of a political world in which, increasingly, superficial judgments are being made about people. My natural inclination goes the other way, toward trying to understand people's actions within the circumstances of their time and place. That is what I sought to do with Bill Clinton. Midway through the writing process, I began to frame the question differently. Clinton became not a politician but a character. Whether he was doing something admirable or questionable, I would say the same thing to myself: Well, that's Clinton. In that sense, I came to like him even when I disliked him and dislike him even when I liked him. Perhaps that is another way of avoiding the question, but it is the only honest answer I can give. He is a big character, whether he is acting big-hearted or small.

Any book inevitably defines itself, but I feel compelled to alert the reader to what this book is not. It is not intended to be a book preoccupied with Clinton's sex life, nor is it an investigation of the Whitewater controversy. Both subjects appear in modest proportions. Those hungering for more of either will have to do their dining elsewhere. My goal was for this book to be neither pathography nor hagiography, but a fair-minded examination of a complicated human being and the forces that shaped him and his generation. It is not an authorized biography. Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, declined to be interviewed for this book. Some White House aides, especially those attached to Hillary Clinton, were unhelpful. I did interview Bill Clinton five times, and Hillary Clinton once, during the presidential campaign. The White House in any case was not an essential place to find sources for a biography that ends on the night Clinton announced for president. Nearly four hundred people were interviewed for this book. Among them were scores of Clinton's closest friends, colleagues, and relatives, who eagerly shared recollections and documents.

There is, of course, always room for dispute about anyone's life, especially the interpretation of events in a life as full and complex as Clinton's. To fortify the narrative, I have relied on documents whenever possible. Virtually every interview for the book was on the record, and every event and quotation is sourced and cited in the chapter notes at the end.

BOOK: First In His Class
11.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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