Clintonomic$ by Jack Godwin (PhD), published 2009 is a comparison of the economic policies under Bill Clinton & Ronald Reagan and an argument for the similarity of their aims and the philosophy underlying their policies.
Before I began the book, I thought it would be a Clinton hagiography, laying the ground for Hilary's inevitable presidential bid; rather like "The Bush Years - that fawning (but enjoyable) CNN documentary which (compared to this book) was a less subtle promotion for Jeb Bush's campaign. However, the book turned out to be a well argued, if one sided explanation for Bill Clinton's policies and politics. It gives a convincing analysis of the intersections between - economics & politics; policy & politicking; will & action; and, morality & power. It achieved this firstly by quoting relevant sections of what the great western thinkers said about economics or government or politics and then secondly by convincingly illustrating how an act/stated belief/policy of either Reagan or Clinton was faithful to the quoted bit. For example, Reagan was anti-abortion, not for religious reasons but for constitutional ones which hold that the reason for government is to safeguard life. Since there is a debate, and thus uncertainty, about when life begins, he would rather err on the side of protecting that life (with exceptions for medical threats to the mother's life, rape etc.). The quoting and explanation was so good, I think an alternative title for the book should be "How to put theory into practice, successfully." I have a tome called "On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present" by Alan Ryan. This book made me want to reread it. While reading this book, I remembered the Alan Ryan book had claimed that only western political thought is worth studying because the west had conducted more experiments in politics and governance than any other region of the world. Arrogant as the statement sounds, it is nonetheless true. It is also an effective nullification of the criticism that historical focus tilts too heavily westward. In any case, we can console ourselves that western thinking about western concerns is ultimately human thought about human concerns. Further, how can we even avoid discussing America's politics since information about it is omnipresent?
If the aim of this book was to support Hilary's ambition, then the author could not have done better than linking Clinton to Reagan. Despite the polarization in America's politics, the 2 parties have produced presidents that have acted in ways that made them seem suitable for the opposing party. In a way, Reagan and Clinton were the best examples of this similarity. Historically, I think Republicans were the pragmatic ones, narrowly focused on America's interest (in this regard, Trump was a classical Republican and I suppose this jarred after the idealism of George W. Bush & Barack Obama); Democrats were the idealists, concerned about the world. Reagan, despite currently being held up as a Republican icon had idealistic tendencies especially in his fanatical opposition to communism. Clinton, on the other hand, despite being one of the most influential and successful Democratic presidents had a pragmatic zeal for fiscal responsibility that could (wrongly) be called Republican. I say wrongly because Republican regimes usually wreck America's national finances. The book successfully showed how the 2 presidents had similar aims and a similar basic underlying philosophy, and achieved similar outcomes despite differing policies. Both men are credited with bringing good economic times, even though it is still debated if the roaring eighties were due to Reagan's policies. I imagine the book is slyly saying Clinton achieved Reagan's objectives, thus saying to the Republicans that the similarity of their ideologies means Clinton was an improvement on Reagan or at worst, Reagan-lite. (I imagine the book further hints that) If so, and given how much of a team Bill was with Hilary, perhaps a Hilary presidency would be a continuation of the achievement of Reagan's dream via Clinton policies.
I really liked this book and it is a contender for my book of the year. However, there are 2 things that give me pause. The first is its chapter 5. The author is a PhD, and this showed in that chapter. The tone changed from an incisive, but light, discussion of history to pretty heavy theory which was hard to relate to because it was 20th century industrial management theory rather than the charming and rather whimsical thoughts of the preceding chapters. I did not like the chapter even though putting it in the middle might have been a style choice to give the reader a breather or a better appreciation of what had passed or what was to come. The second thing is the way in which the book discussed the 2 past presidents, talking about them with some sort of awe. While the style makes for quite an enjoyable read, the book's tone struck me as false. Long ago, I read a book in my father's library about the negotiations that lead to the establishment of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. Given that the League failed, and it came at the end of a war that was widely acknowledged as not only unnecessary but conducted ineptly, that book made all the political leaders of the world powers (who had blundered into the war) seem like Plato's philosopher-kings; sages concerned only with doing good. I cannot remember the name of the book, but at the time I knew that the author was probably just an arse kissing civil servant or political jobber. The author of Clintonomic$ strikes me a bit that way in his portrayal of the 2 past presidents. Reagan was not some folksy grandfather type. His siccing of the National Guard on students while Governor of California was ruthless. I've also read that his conversion to being a republican was opportunistic rather than out of conviction. Further, while he was good at speeches, he was supposedly not particularly intelligent. His economic policy, combining tax cuts and increased expenditure was routinely ridiculed both during campaigning and implementation. Clinton, while intelligent and a policy wonk, was famously corrupt; having financial scandals that dogged him from his time as governor. I understand the author not mentioning these things in a book about policy, but knowledge of them makes me distrustful of it.
This book is recommended.