Full Reviews

Issue #15, Winter 2010
Democracy: A Journal of Ideas , by Matthew Cooper


The Clinton Tapes is more than just a portrait of a president in real time. It is a stark reminder of other facets of Washington life that haven’t changed since the Clinton era, particularly the capacities of a right-wing message machine and a unified GOP bloc in Congress. Read full review >

London Review of Books, David Runciman

London Review of Books

One of the many striking things to come out of this book is how little interested Clinton seems in the comings and goings of his political staff. The Clinton Tapes gives a view of the presidency as seen from the private quarters (where most of the recordings took place) rather than the West Wing, and it turns out that as seen from the private quarters the West Wing barely registers. Read full review >

The Luncheon Society

The Luncheon Society

Taylor Branch shows us a President engaged as events were exploding around him. From the hopeful inauguration, though victories, defeats, the impeachment and the subsequent rebound, these recollections from 79 taped conversations served as a release valve for Clinton; it gave him an avenue to discuss things privately that could not be uttered publicly. Read full review >

The New York Review of Books
, David Bromwich

The New York Review of BooksIn the fall of 1993, Taylor Branch agreed with Bill Clinton to conduct occasional interviews on tapes that would be turned into an oral chronicle of the Clinton presidency. The two had been friends more than twenty years earlier in Texas on the McGovern presidential campaign of 1972. Read full review >

The Observer, Gaby Wood

The Observer

This secret, dangerous and unprecedented historiographical project is especially intriguing in relation to Clinton’s presidency… His vices and his virtues were two sides of the same coin and a look at such a man can teach us much about the power of appetites in politics. Read full review >

St. Petersburg Times
, Colette Bancroft

St. Petersburg Times

…His unique record of the Clinton administration, as well as his fresh perspective on how the presidency functions, will be mined by other historians for years to come. Read full review >

The Dallas Morning News, Philip Seib

Dallas Morning NewsAmong the most valuable tools for scholars and others interested in a specific presidency is a contemporaneous record: letters or a diary that captures the president’s real-time reactions to crucial moments. *The Clinton Tapes* presents a version of this. Read full review >

Los Angeles Times, Douglas Brinkley

Los Angeles TimesAmazingly, Branch has never even heard the very tapes used in the book’s title… For a lesser historian, this skewered arrangement would be quite a handicap. Who wants secondhand Clinton when the Arkansan is on national television regularly talking about himself? But “The Clinton Tapes” proves to be a remarkable read, paying out the huge dividends of history that Branch had hoped for. Read full review >

Bloomberg News, Craig Seligman

Bloomberg NewsBranch acts as a thoughtful, diffident, amiable guide; he’s extremely flattered to be in on the project but constantly frets as to whether he should be steering the conversation or just recording it. To his credit, he doesn’t maul the often amorphous material by trying to give it too much shape; what he sacrifices in form he more than gains back in immediacy. Read full review >

London Sunday Times Online, Robert Harris

Times Online…Branch has published not the tapes — which were used by Clinton for his memoirs — but, more interestingly, his account of how they were made. The result is an unexpected treasure-trove…I have seldom read a more compelling account of a leader in power. Read full review >

Sunday New York Times Book Review

New York Times…Branch is a historian by trade, and an excellent one, the acclaimed author of a three-volume biography of Martin Luther King Jr….“The Clinton Tapes” will stand as an important work about American political life because of two dominant themes that emerge gradually — one about the man himself and the other about the nature of the current era. Read full review >

The Baltimore Sun, Michael Sragow

Baltimore SunThe amazing thing about “The Clinton Tapes” is that it reveals Clinton’s core idealism, as well as an intellectual and emotional complexity that escaped most of the journalists covering him and went far beyond the literate, seductive pop fantasy of “The West Wing.”…Branch’s resolute honesty about his diverse roles within the Clinton saga imbues the book with a prismatic perspective. He ended up serving as speech-writing consultant, reluctant political counselor and, astonishingly, international go-between. Read full review >

Newsweek, Christopher Hitchens

NewsweekTaylor Branch’s latest book has made me whistle more than any comparable piece of work for a very long time, and not just because of its many remarkable disclosures…As one who did not at all admire this president when he was in office, I feel bound to say that his opinions and actions as recorded here are far better than I would ever have supposed. Read full review >

New York Times, Michiko Kakutani

New York TimesIn an interview near the end of his two terms in office Bill Clinton talked about wanting to “demystify the job” of being president. “It is a job,” he declared, and “there’s a lot to be said for showing up every day and trying to push the rock up the hill.” His folksy, down-home style of campaigning and his lackadaisical 2004 memoir “My Life”promoted this accessible view of the presidency, as does “The Clinton Tapes,” a book based on nearly 80 conversations recorded during his years in the White House with his longtime friend Taylor Branch. Read full review >

Simon & Schuster Press Release

Simon & Schuster

Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Parting the Waters, draws on seventy-nine confidential conversations with President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 2001 to offer a unique record of the Clinton presidency, as well as one of the most vivid, frank, and intimate glimpses into the mind of a sitting president ever published, in THE CLINTON TAPES: Wrestling History with the President (Simon & Schuster; September 29, 2009; $35.00). Read full press release >