In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography

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9780312596835: In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography

William Jefferson Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States is undoubtedly the greatest American enigma of our age -- a dark horse that captured the White House, fell from grace and was resurrected as an elder statesman whose popularity rises and falls based on the day's sound bytes. John Gartner's In Search of Bill Clinton unravels the mystery at the heart of Clinton's complex nature and tells the story we all thought we knew, from the fresh viewpoint of a psychologist, as he questions the well-crafted Clinton life story. Travelling to Arkansas and around the world, Gartner uncovers long-held secrets about Clinton's wild and seductive mother, Virginia Kelley, the truth surrounding Clinton's birth, and how Kelley's character set the tone for Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. He considers Clinton's two fathers as the root of his self-destructive nature and looks afresh at Sec. of State Hillary Clinton to see in her the figure of Edith Cassidy, Clinton's stern grandmother. Gartner then shows a Clinton reborn from diplomatic triumphs and humanitarianism across the globe. John Gartner's exhaustive journey provides the richest portrait of Clinton yet, a man who is one of our national obsessions. In Search of Bill Clinton is a surprising and compelling book about a man we all thought we knew.

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About the Author:

John D. Gartner is a clinical psychologist on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University Medical School, where he has taught psychotherapy technique to psychiatric residents for the last 18 years. His first book, The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America, was cited by The New York Times Magazine as one of the most noteworthy ideas of 2005.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
Like Mother, Like Son
VIRGINIAClinton is not as enigmatic as he might appear. Much of his behavior can be accounted for by the simplest and most commonsense psychological explanation of all: He takes after his mother. As a psychologist, I knew I could never comprehend the man without understanding his parents. While Bill Clinton’s every move has been overreported, overexposed, and overanalyzed, Clinton biographers have, for the most part, accepted Virginia’s version of her life at face value, relying on her memoir, Leading with My Heart. But my clinical instincts told me there was more to Virginia’s story than meets the eye. What I had not expected was how much more I would discover when I traveled to Hot Springs, where I interviewed her oldest friends as well as the first and last men she ever loved. By the end I had unearthed a startling portrait of an amazing woman that shed a new light on the psychology of her son. Friends and associates, most now in their eighties, provided me with straight answers about Virginia, answers that often contradicted the official version of events presented by Virginia in her memoir. Virginia was an unforgettable character who always left a strong impression. Part of the impression was visual. In high school she began wearing the signature heavy makeup that would become her trademark."She stood out, with that makeup, she really did. She piled it on," said Jenny Sue McKee, who attended high school with her. Indeed, virtually everyone I spoke to about Virginia brought up her makeup. From midlife on, Virginia sported a white stripe down the center of her black hair, creating an appearance that reminded many of a skunk. She achieved this effect by coloring her hair black, then leaving a swath undyed. She liked the look, and in this, as in so many things, she didn’t give a hoot what anybody else thought. She dressed in idiosyncratic ways that made her stand out: sporting white cowboy boots to formal black- tie events; donning a white Mexican wedding dress to a funeral; and at election time, covering herself from head to toe—literally—in campaign buttons. But a far more powerful impression was made by the force of her personality. She was intensely gregarious. She"never met a stranger," her friends Marge Mitchell and Nancy Adkins told me, and she always managed to be the center of attention in any room."She’d mix with anyone. She loved people. If she walked in that door right now, she’d hug and kiss me, and probably you too," said McKee. And she was funny,"a cutup," according to McKee. In their yearbook Virginia wrote,"I’d like to take life seriously, but things are just too funny." Virginia was a tireless extravert who commanded attention. And as we will see in her son, her endless need to be the center of attention had a compulsive, driven quality:"Truth is I like bright colors and I like people to notice me. I think Bill and Roger and I are all alike in that way. When we walk into a room, we want to win that room over. Some would even say we need to win that room over. . . . If there are one hundred people in a room and ninety- nine of them love us and one doesn’t, we’ll spend all night trying to figure out why that one hasn’t been enlightened."1 Indeed, Bill Clinton would forever view anyone who didn’t like him simply as someone who had yet to see the light. It has been said that in Bill Clinton’s world there are two types of people:"constituents and potential constituents."2 Virginia was oblivious to the normal social boundaries that might prevent her from commanding attention. For example, when she was a student nurse in New Orleans and would go to clubs to hear live music, she got into the habit of jumping onto the stage with the performers."When we had time off we would go to the French Quarter and hear Dixieland Jazz or big band music," she wrote,"and I would embarrass my friends by getting up and singing with whoever was up there. I wasn’t obnoxious or anything, I was just convinced I had more talent than most of the singers we heard, and didn’t want to deprive anyone of the chance to hear me."3 Virginia had extraordinary energy, drive, optimism, and self- confidence that made people feel good when they were with her. In short, she had that hypomanic charisma."She was bigger than life," said Bill’s childhood friend Larry Crane. But in addition to having hypomania’s assets, she also manifested its excesses and liabilities. Virginia needed continuous stimulation and excitement. She chain-smoked, gambled, drank, and partied, all while running a very successful and demanding practice as a nurse anaesthesiologist, which required her to be on call twenty- four hours a day for seventeen years. She seemed to have an endless capacity to burn the candle at both ends throughout her life. As she wrote in her memoir,"For someone working the hours I was working, nightlife was a strain. On the other hand, how could you resist?"4 "She laughed hard, drank hard, played hard, and worked hard," said Larry Crane."And she loved a party." Virginia describes herself as"flirtatious," and Clinton biographers briefly allude to rumors of her having had affairs but pursue it no further. However, to understand how Bill Clinton became who he is, it’s important to know that these were more than rumors. Extramarital sex was a lifestyle for Virginia; perhaps we could even say an addiction. Joe Purvis’s mother was one of Virginia’s best friends in high school, and Joe had been friends with Bill Clinton since their mothers walked down the streets of Hope, together pushing their boys in strollers."There are things I probably shouldn’t tell you, and I won’t," Joe Purvis told me,"but Virginia was exuberant in her love of life, and people, and good times . . . and she loved guys. There was always a guy in Virginia’s life." Like Bill, Virginia had a long string of adulterous affairs that till now have been undisclosed. Her liaisons, including her five marriages (she had four husbands, but married Roger Clinton twice), were often impulsive, and usually showed poor judgment. The extent of her promiscuity was one of the most surprising findings in my research. And, of course, when confronted about her sexual liaisons—she lied. As we shall see, young Bill Clinton was not shielded from this. Just the opposite. He was inculcated into the Kabuki dance of adultery, jealousy, and lying from an early age, and it became an unconscious paradigm that was burned into his psyche."If Bill has been shown to have a roving eye, he comes by it naturally," Joe Purvis told me. These traits expressed by Virginia—energy, drive, impulsivity, optimism, infectious exuberance, creativity, and charisma—are all signs of hypomania. Hypomanics are highly gregarious, active, and need little sleep. They often seek out pleasure and excitement in such areas as sex, gambling, and substance abuse. They behave impulsively, often showing poor judgment about the probable consequences of their behavior. And when things blow up in their face, they rarely take personal responsibility. They are often unconventional mavericks and creative visionaries who unapologetically do things their own way, and think the world should follow their lead, not the other way around. If they have a self- esteem problem, it’s that theirs is outrageously high. In the social hierarchy of Hope, Virginia’s family, the Cassidys, occupied the bottom rung, just one step above African- Americans. In those days, people like them were called"common," what today we might derogatorily call"white trash." But brimming with the unquenchable innate confidence of a hypomanic, Virginia wrote,"I’ve never felt inferior to anybody. . . . I like myself—did even as a girl."5 When one girl told Virginia that her parents had forbidden her to play with her because Virginia’s family was"not good enough," it didn’t even faze her."That’s all right, I have lots of friends," Virginia retorted.6 Virginia’s inborn high self- esteem was captured in a photo that appeared in the local paper, the Hope Star, which featured half a dozen high school girls in bathing suits positioned around a diving platform."I was standing at the very top. I had a nice figure, but the thing that people comment on is my facial expression: the camera had caught a look of supreme self-confidence that makes me look older than my years. As one friend said, ‘This was before people talked about attitude, but you had it even then.’"7 Like most hypomanics, Virginia had a powerful, positive exuberant force inside of her that she used to overcome all obstacles, both internal and external."I compensated by calling attention to my cheerfulness, my flamboyance, my optimism, my upbeat outspokenness. I kept the darker feelings inside, deep down and out of sight."8 Yet, there is one extraordinary trait that Virginia passed on to her son that has nothing at all to do with hypomania. All the people I spoke with described her as the most loving and caring person they had ever encountered. This was not mere sentimental praise for the dead. Over and over people who knew her for decades emphasized to me how her capacity for love was a phenomenon unprecedented in their experience. Many employed spiritual language to explain this exceptional gift. As we shall see in Chapter 3, Bill Clinton’s ability to feel and communicate love was an irreducible part of what made him the most charismatic political figure in a generation. Virginia died soon after finishing her memoir. Bill Clinton read the manuscript with Jim Morgan, who co-authored Virginia’s as-told-to memoir, at his side in a cabin in Arkansas. When Clinton finished the book, he looked off into space for a moment, and said:"Mom lived a large, messy, sprawling life."9 But if she had lived a smaller, neater, and more contained one, she never would have produced someone as remarkable as Bill Clinton. As Virginia’s old high school boyfriend, Richard Fenwick, said:"Some people around here just can’t get it through their heads. No matter what Virginia did, no matter who she ran around with, from her being a president of the United States emerged." THE FAMILY DRAMA It was the same nightmare, night after night. Except it was no dream. As young Virginia lay in bed, seeking the refuge of sleep, the madness would begin. Her mother would scream at her father, curse him, beat him, hurl things at him. "I remember lying awake in the dark in that little house on Foster Avenue, listening to my mother shrieking at my father in their bedroom next door," Virginia recalled in her memoir."Just pacing the floor and screaming. Sometimes this would go on all night . . . These fits went on for years."10 Her mother, Edith Cassidy, accused her father of cheating on her. While Virginia was too young to understand the source of her mother’s"nightly screaming fits," she understood that her beloved father was being accused of doing something bad with another woman. Her father, Eldridge Cassidy, would deny it emphatically, repeatedly pleading with his wife to be reasonable, begging her to calm down and consider the terrified young child in the next room. For three generations in Bill Clinton’s family, the plot line would be much the same: accusations of adultery and emphatic denials. Virginia’s parents, Edith Grisham and Eldridge Cassidy, grew up next door to each other in the southwest corner of Arkansas, in the hamlet of Bodcaw, population one hundred. Actually, they grew up outside Bodcaw, in an area called Ebenezer Community that consisted of only three families, two of whom were the Grishams and the Cassidys. These families barely eked out livings, raising cotton on their hardscrabble farms. The real price of cotton had been dropping steadily since the mid-1800s, which reduced the subsistence farmers of Arkansas to an existence well below the poverty line. When Edith and Eldridge married in 1922, their horizons seemed pretty limited. They crossed a little dirt road in front of her parents’ house and moved a hundred yards away into a four-room tin-roofed shack.It was Edith’s drive that got them out of Bodcaw. After Virginia’s birth, in 1923, Edith insisted they move to the big city of Hope, seat of Hempstead County, with a population of around five thousand."So it’s no wonder that my mother wanted to move from the monotonous country to the aptly named Hope," wrote Virginia."In Hope, at least, there were possibilities."11 Though she never graduated from high school, Edith dreamed of becoming a nurse, and enrolled in a correspondence course taught through the Chicago School of Nursing."For something like eighteen months she received her lessons and pored over them at the kitchen table and then shipped them back as quickly as she could. Her energy was amazing, because while she was doing this, she was also keeping house, and fixing meals and taking care of me," wrote Virginia.12 Edith received a practical- nursing degree in the mail. That was sufficient for her to get good-paying work, and more important in the Depression years, steady work, at the first rung of the professional ladder. By all accounts she was an excellent and hardworking nurse. Virginia recalled:"I inherited some of my mother’s willfulness—which could be good or bad depending on how I used it—as well as her energy and ambition." The force of Edith’s personality had a dark side: She was aggressive, suspicious, and controlling, while in comparison Eldridge was relatively amiable and passive."Eldridge was a nice guy who was just hen- pecked," said Joe Purvis."Edith was stronger than cat food. She was a control freak. She was the one in charge." Purvis remembered that when Edith came to pick up Bill from kindergarten, he was impressed by her nurse’s cape and uniform, but also noticed that she had a"stern demeanor" that scared him. Virginia’s cousin Dale, according to one friend of the family, thought Edith was just"plain mean." From her father Virginia inherited the sunny optimism and sociability that we would later associate with Bill Clinton. She wrote,"I had also inherited my father’s outgoing personality and his love for people."13 In later life Eldridge ran a small grocery store. In small towns the grocery was the local hangout, where people gathered and talked. So it was the ideal environment for the extraverted Eldridge."My father loved to be with people. He had an infectious smile, which lit up the room." He was"irrepressibly friendly."14 Virginia’s friend Virginia Heath recalled that"Eldridge was well liked. He had a wonderful personality and was real kind and nice to everyone."15 Eldridge’s store was one of the few places where both blacks and whites shopped. Eldridge was an unusual white man in Depression- era Arkansas. Genuinely unprejudiced, he treated his black customers as friends. Playing with black children in his grandfather’s store is one of Bill Clinton’s earliest memories."Bill could not understand why children with whom he played every day should not be able to attend school with him," wrote William Coleman III, Clinton’s African- American Yale Law School roommate. Coleman found Clinton’s racial attitudes unique among whites."Dealing with these issues at an early age caused him to reject racism with a personal ardor that, frankly, I have found rare in people who are not themselves victims of racism."16 At Yale the blacks segregated themselves, as happened at many universities in thos...

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Book Description Griffin Publishing, United States, 2009. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Bill Clinton remains the great American enigma. John Gartner, a practicing psychologist, unravels the mystery of Clinton s complex nature by questioning the well-crafted Clinton life story we thought we knew. Travelling through Arkansas, Gartner uncovered long-held secrets about Clinton s wild and seductive mother, Virginia Kelley, the truth surrounding Clinton s birth and how Kelley s character set the tone for Clinton s relationship with Monica Lewinsky. He considers Clinton s two fathers and how they might have contributed to his self-destructive nature and looks afresh at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to see in her the figure of Edith Cassidy, Clinton s stern grandmother who set limits on him at an early age. In Search Of Bill Clinton puts our 42nd President on the couch for the first time and tells us, finally, what makes him tick. Bookseller Inventory # AAV9780312596835

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Book Description St. Martin's Griffin. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 496 pages. Dimensions: 5.7in. x 5.7in. x 0.8in.William JeffersonClinton, the 42nd President of the United States is undoubtedly the greatestAmerican enigma of our age -- a dark horse that captured the White House, fell from grace and was resurrected asan elder statesman whose popularity rises and falls based on the days sound bytes. John Gartners In Search of Bill Clintonunravels the mystery at the heart of Clintons complex nature and tells the story we allthought we knew, from the fresh viewpoint of a psychologist, as he questions the well-crafted Clinton life story. Travelling to Arkansas and around the world, Gartner uncoverslong-held secrets aboutClintonswild and seductive mother, Virginia Kelley, the truth surroundingClintonsbirth, andhowKelleys character set the tone for Clintons relationship with Monica Lewinsky. HeconsidersClintons two fathers as the root of his self-destructive nature and looksafresh at Sec. of State Hillary Clinton tosee in her the figure of Edith Cassidy, Clintons stern grandmother. Gartner then shows a Clinton reborn from diplomatic triumphs and humanitarianism across the globe. John Gartners exhaustive journey provides the richest portrait of Clinton yet, a man who is one of our national obsessions. In Search of Bill Clinton is asurprising and compelling book about a man we all thought we knew. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780312596835

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