An insider’s account of Clintonia might have been compelling, as the Rich pardon story is, and valuable — as Conason’s account of Clinton’s remarkable work in Africa is. But there are multiple problems here. Conason is too close, he feels the need to defend Clinton from every last negative story written about him and his family ... The book is overstuffed, and too often reads like a presidential memoir ... Many significant questions go unanswered, which is especially frustrating given Conason’s access to all the major players.
The book enthusiastically chronicles Bill’s philanthropic efforts since he left the White House ... The real contribution comes from watching Conason’s exertions as he tries to justify the Clintons’ more dubious actions. I’m convinced that he must be channeling their denial, injured pride and conviction that the ends not only justify the means, but anyone who questions their means is part of a right-wing conspiracy or, in the case of the news media, a tool of those conspirators ... For all the roiling, there is no proof of wrongdoing by either of the Clintons. Still, it is impossible to assess Conason’s rebuttals, because he offers only the Clinton camp’s perspective and, despite his access, there is no sign that he pressed any of them.
If he’s now a fervent Clintonista, chalk up another win for Bill’s legendary skill at beguiling people ... Because he’s still a solid reporter, he builds a solid case for Clinton’s achievements since leaving office. Starting with the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative, which saved innumerable lives in Africa and elsewhere, some of them have been worthy indeed. Still, one could wish somebody had told Conason to put a sock in the special pleading that gives the game away ... Once Conason finds a way of putting Clinton in a good light, he doesn’t have a lot of appetite for delving into distracting ambiguities and ramifications, a pattern repeated throughout Man of the World ... [Conason] comes off here as their shill.
The result is a partisan defense of 'The Man From Hope' that some will dismiss as spin but also a source of useful information about his post-presidential political and philanthropic activities ... Mr. Conason provides a detailed (and convincing) 'there is no there there' response to critics of the effectiveness, budget, transparency and potential conflicts of interest of the foundation. Revelations about annual deficits or how little money was doled out in grants, he makes clear, are based on misunderstandings of how the nonprofit operates and cash flows are reported ... Surprisingly...Mr. Conason at times appears too quick to downplay concerns about multimillion dollar contributions from foreign governments to the foundation.