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Bill Clinton at the Church of Baseball: The Presidency, Civil Religion, and the National Pastime in the 1990s

By author: Chris Birkett
Product Code: P683
ISBN: 9780881469127
Publisher: Mercer University Press
Availability: In stock
Price: $35.00

BILL CLINTON AT THE CHURCH OF BASEBALL reveals how the President of the United States deployed the mythology of America's national pastime in the exercise of political power. It demonstrates how he exploited the intimate relationship between two sacred, but fallible American institutions, the presidency and Major League Baseball, to shape some of the most fiercely contested debates of the 1990s. This is a story of the game's connections with national identity, heroism, race, and traditional American values, and how they were used by Clinton in his battles over affirmative action, welfare reform, and ethics in public life. It climaxes in the summer of 1998, when an epic home run chase between two baseball "gods," Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, acted as the cultural counterpoint to a more toxic drama simultaneously playing out in the public arena--the constitutional crisis and national moral spasm induced by a sex scandal involving the President and a White House intern. As the reality of impeachment closed in, Clinton sought to divert attention from his own moral failings by invoking an idealistic vision of a game, which itself was being corrupted by the use of performance enhancing drugs. Drawing on newly released documents from the Clinton archive, and original interviews with former White House staffers, this study reveals that by embracing the quasi-religious ideals of the national pastime, Clinton sought to address the anxieties of those who yearned for normality in an unsettled world, and to validate his troubled leadership at times of personal crisis and political peril.
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Review by: Iwan Morgan, emeritus professor of US History at University College London, and author of REAGAN: AMERICAN ICON and FDR: TRANSFORMING THE PRESIDENCY AND RENEWING AMERICA - May 24, 2023
"Highly original and exceptionally well researched, this integration of presidential history and sports history makes for a fascinating exploration of baseball's significance as a civil religion in the 1990s. Superbly written and insightful, this book should be equally pleasing to scholarly specialists and general readers--a must read for anyone interested in the Clinton presidency and/or one of baseball's most memorable decades."
Review by: Daniel Kryder, Louis Stulberg Chair in Law and Politics, Brandeis University - May 24, 2023
"The surprising embrace of baseball and its demigods by a fallen yet ambitious president has found the storyteller it deserves. In this gripping and perceptive book, Chris Birkett explains how Bill Clinton sought leverage and redemption by aligning himself with the uniquely American, culturally unassailable, secular church of baseball. This is a bittersweet story of attempts to rebuild fractured American civic life by appropriating baseball’s core narratives: the winning strategy of multicultural teamwork, the glory of running down the American dream and the virtue of uninterrupted hard work. An entertaining and poignant 'coming of age' tale of the intertwined fates of an increasingly commercialized and PED fueled national pastime and increasingly cutthroat national party politics, this book is highly recommended for anyone interested in baseball and political culture, Clintonian leadership, or wonderfully crafted historical narratives of the deepening of our divisions over time."
Review by: Nicholas Sarantakes, author of FAN IN CHIEF: RICHARD NIXON AND AMERICAN SPORTS, 1969-1974 - May 24, 2023
"Like him or not, agree with his policies or not, Bill Clinton was a smart political operator, and this book shows why. Like the man once said, 'Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.' In a fun recounting of the sport and political history of the 1990s, Chris Birkett shows that Clinton understood the ideas behind that quote and used them well in his effort to connect with the American people and govern."

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