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Historical Dictionary of the Clinton Era

Richard S. Conley

William Jefferson Clinton’s legacy remains a matter of significant contention among historians, political scientists, and pundits even after a decade of time to reflect. The narrative of Clinton’s two terms may be, in some sense, the tale of two different men—or at least two incongruous public views of the nation’s 42nd chief executive. On the one hand, there is the Clinton who left the White House more popular than when he took office—entering with a 58 percent approval rating and leaving with a 66 percent approval rating. On the other hand, an ABC News poll conducted on his last day showed that 67 percent of Americans said Clinton was not honest and trustworthy.

The Historical Dictionary of the Clinton Era covers both sides of the Clinton presidency through a chronology, an introductory essay, appendixes, and an extensive bibliography. The dictionary section has over 300 cross-referenced entries on important personalities, including the president, his advisors, his family, his opponents, and his critics, as well as members of Congress, military leaders, and international leaders. This book is a vital access point for students, researchers, and anyone interested in the presidency of Bill Clinton.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 394Size: 6 x 9
978-0-8108-5972-2 • Hardback • March 2012 • $110.00 • (£75.00)
978-0-8108-7396-4 • eBook • March 2012 • $104.00 • (£70.00)
Richard S. Conley has been teaching at University of Florida since 1998, where he is presently associate professor in political science. He is a recognized authority on the U.S. presidency and executive-legislative relations. He has written numerous articles, book chapters, and several books, including the Historical Dictionary of the Reagan-Bush Era and the Historical Dictionary of the George W. Bush Era.
Conley (political science, Univ. of Florida; Historical Dictionary of the George W. Bush Era) covers subjects, issues, and people pertaining to Bill Clinton’s election, administration, and a handful of years immediately following the end of his tenure, as well as prominent nonpolitical events such as O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. In addition, the book features a detailed time line, an extensive bibliography, and 13 appendixes of data such as a list of Clinton’s presidential pardons, his yearly approval ratings, and transcripts of his State of the Union addresses. The dictionary’s standout feature is that often, with various broad terms (“budget,” “education policy”), places, and groups, Conley’s entries focus specifically on their importance during that time. VERDICT A large part of the success or failure of a reference book focusing on straight information rather than opinion and analysis is determined by how well it competes with Internet sources on the same subject. In such a comparison, this work is the definite winner. The heavily cross-referenced entries provide a solid picture not only of a specific issue but also of the entire period without sacrificing the opportunity to focus on narrow subjects. For anyone wanting to learn about Clinton’s presidency or the 1990s, this book will be extremely valuable, and for scholars who already know about these subjects, it will be useful as a crib sheet.
Library Journal

There is no question that the forty-second president of the U.S. is a polarizing figure—at the end of his second term, Clinton left office to extremely high approval ratings but found himself with the dubious distinction of being only the second president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House. As Conley notes, “Voters were clearly able to distinguish between Clinton the elected leader . . . and his personal conduct. How this translates into Clinton’s place in history remains an open question.” This volume is not a biography of Bill Clinton but rather a concise overview of his presidency. More than 300 cross referenced entries cover not only Clinton but his advisors, family, and detractors as well as members of Congress, military leaders, and international powers of the time. The introductory essay serves as a discussion of Clinton’s politics, policies, and legacy. The brief and informative dictionary entries that follow range from one to six paragraphs, with notable personalities (such as Jesse Jackson and Monica Lewinsky) and policies (e.g., health-care reform and economic policy) getting the longer treatments. The entries are remarkably unbiased and plainly written, with see also references in bold type. The second half of the book consists of the appendixes, which include “Vetoes of Public Bills Cast by President William J. Clinton, 1993–2000” and “President William J. Clinton’s Monthly Approval Data (Percent), 1993–2001” as well as the text of his inaugural addresses and State of the Union addresses, and concludes with an extensive bibliography. Most public and academic libraries will want to add this to their political-science collections as a neutral source on a controversial presidency.

This volume is the third book in the "Historical Dictionary of U.S. Politics and Political Eras" series by presidential scholar Conley (Univ. of Florida). His previous volumes are Historical Dictionary of the George W. Bush Era (CH, May'10, 47-4783) and Historical Dictionary of the Reagan-Bush Era (2007). A to Z entries feature the "main people, events, politics, social issues, institutions, and policies" of the Clinton presidency, with concise entries that capture the essence of the topic, but little more; e.g., "Whitewater" gets half a page with a reference to "impeachment," which merits a page and a half. Helpfully, the book makes liberal use of boldface print for main ideas, and see also references are common. Conley shows off his expertise in a well-written, 11-page introduction that encapsulates the high and low points of the two-term presidency, along with a fascinating 7-page chronology. Surprisingly, almost half the pages consist of appendixes, mostly transcripts of Clinton's State of the Union addresses, which are readily available online through The American Presidency Project http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ (CH, Oct'07, 45-1042) and other news sources, some with audio and video. Appendixes also include records of Clinton's success rate in Congress, his vetoes, and his approval ratings. An ample 24-page bibliography covers 1993-2011 scholarship. This is a balanced and excellent, but also very basic, resource on the Clinton presidency. Summing Up: Recommended.

Understanding Clinton’s presidency is critical for comprehending today’s polarized politics and policymaking. The Dictionary is an essential resource for students researching the Clinton presidency or policy and politics during the 1990s. The data and bibliographic sources, as well as the historical entries, provide invaluable primary and secondary sources on the Clinton era for students.
Jeffrey Peake, Clemson University

This comprehensive volume on Bill Clinton and his presidency is superbly written and researched, and provides an excellent reference for anyone interested in a better understanding of the political complexity of the 1990s. This dictionary is a "must-have" for any university library, as well as any serious scholar of the Clinton years, whether from a political or historical perspective.
Lori Cox Han, Chapman University

This one book provides students and scholars with everything they might want to know about the Clinton administration. The dictionary format facilitates research; the appendixes contain a wealth of quantitative and qualitative data; and a comprehensive bibliography provides additional readings for further inquiry.
Stephen J. Wayne, Georgetown University

The short alphabetic entries are only about half of the book. The rest is taken up by very valuable bibliography of data and primary source material. A well-organized introductory essay, a chronology of his presidency, a list of all presidential vetoes, all State of the Union addresses, approval ratings for each month he was in office, and a very thorough bibliography all make this dictionary more valuable than it would be otherwise. Libraries supporting high school and undergraduate students who research American history and politics would be well served adding this to their collection if they are looking to provide basic context for the Clinton Era.
American Reference Books Annual