Pondering the Complexities and Getting it Right

Alan Ehrenhalt reviews a new book by John F. Harris, The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House in today’s Times Book Review. Here is a section that gives a good glimpse into why he was so successful as president.

“Most presidents — most public leaders — are complex human beings, and that is certainly true in Clinton’s case. But as Harris makes clear, he was more than that: he was a man who appreciated complexities and pondered them endlessly; who saw the ambiguity in nearly any policy situation; who loved to tease out the subtleties and distinctions that lesser minds found uninteresting.

Occasionally during the Clinton presidency, writers dredged up Scott Fitzgerald’s definition of a first-rate intelligence: that of someone who could hold two opposed ideas in his head at the same time and still function. No one in the past century of American politics met that test better than Clinton.”