December 02, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

On the Edge: The Clinton Presidency

Current Status
In Season
Elizabeth Drew
Politics and Current Events
We gave it a C

The demystification of the presidency continues apace. Drew, for many years The New Yorker‘s Washington correspondent, has called in all her contacts to create a blow-by-blow account of the Clinton administration’s fortunes and foibles, from the inauguration right through the replacement of Chief of Staff Mack McLarty with Leon Panetta. Her point? ”To help contemporary Americans, as well as future historians and others, understand this most complex man and his — to so many people — perplexing presidency.” Unfortunately, the kind of understanding Drew is talking about — grand, patterned, instructive — is the kind of understanding that usually only comes with hindsight. It’s historical, yet a book that unfolds as its subject does is not. What On the Edge is, necessarily, is a kind of analytical chronology: He did this, then he did that, then his advisers said this. One of the things that Clinton’s advisers say all the time, for example, is that he is not ”presidential” enough, that he has made himself too available, too familiar. Drew seems to agree — but not enough to refrain from describing life in the White House in an all too familiar way. C

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