Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Criticism for Clinton’s “Giving”

As many of you probably know, President Bill Clinton has released a book entitled “Giving.” The book (unfortunately I’m only half way through it) deals with the impact that the simple act of giving can create, and how much good people in all walks of life can do. The book however, has not been entirely well received. In fact, there are a number of outlets that have actually kind of panned the book. (see
Chris Hedges Review where he analogizes the Clinton Book to the “political equivalent of ‘Marley & Me’”)

The L.A. Times Book Review says, “Clinton doesn't quite come to grips with the hard questions. He prefers cheerleading to analysis, lavishing indiscriminate praise on everyone from the plucky little girl who picks up litter on the beach to the friendly billionaires who finance scholarships and microcredit loans in poor countries. Although the book is nominally divided into chapters highlighting different kinds of giving, the dozens of philanthropic stories that Clinton recounts in these pages swiftly blend into a fuzzy, feel-good blur. Most conclude with the same homily: If only everybody gave their money or time, we'd be living in a different world.”

Another topic is that the book overlooks what is considered by some to be government blame in the area of philanthropy. Jeffrey Sachs of Fortune Magazine says “We wince, for example, at Clinton's description of the "historic Israeli-Palestinian peace accord" of September 1993 and the many good works in its wake. Since the accord actually collapsed, what are the lessons? We are not told. We wince again at Clinton's praise for the outpouring of volunteer efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, since we also know that New Orleans has not, in fact, been rebuilt. The problem is that the great policy-wonk President has gone private. Government is a side note, mentioned in passing in the penultimate chapter.”

Having not yet finished the book, even if it is lighthearted, and doesn’t tackle the true underlying issues of the day, I applaud the former president for trying to increase the awareness and the contributions of all Americans. As my grandmother used to say, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

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