“Hard Choices: A Memoir” by Hillary Rodham Clinton
c.2014, Simon & Schuster $35.00 / $40.00 Canada 635 pages
Your mind may already be made up.
Political ads have barely started appearing on TV, but you already have an inkling of your future choice. Sure, there are a few important questions you’d like answered from the candidate who gets your vote; for the most part, though, you’ve decided.
Was it difficult to pick? Or, as in the new book by Hillary Clinton, will your decision in 2016 be one of those “Hard Choices”?
Let’s be frank: you already know who Hillary Clinton is. I’m safe in assuming that, since she’s been around politically for decades, I can dispense with the usual biography — and that’s OK because, though “Hard Choices” is obviously deeply steeped in politics from the last three decades or so, Clinton includes smatterings of her personal life and that of her husband and daughter in her book.
Along those lines, I imagine it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Clinton to avoid comparing her years as first lady with what she did as secretary of state — so you’ll find plenty of that. Many people she met as FLOTUS, for instance, were still in office years later, and Clinton writes warmly of friendships with Angela Merkel, Nelson Mandela, Dianne Feinstein and others that carried through time.
Clinton begins her book with her run for the presidency in 2008, her rivalry and “ultimate partnership and friendship” with President Obama, and her refusal to attack Sarah Palin during the campaign. About her decision to accept the secretary of state appointment, she says “When your President asks you to serve, you should say yes.” It undoubtedly helped that she received advice from past secretaries, including Henry Kissinger and Condi Rice.
Clinton remembers the difficulties with North Korea and Kim Jong Il’s misogyny; the loss of diplomat Richard Holbrooke in the midst of discussions with Afghanistan; what really happened the day bin Laden was killed; the delicate nature of negotiations between centuries-long enemies in the Middle East; and the “powder keg” that comes with any planned talks. And because, in “the 21st century, we’ve also had to pay attention to the emerging global challenges that affect everyone in our interdependent world,” Clinton writes about global warming, jobs, economic issues and issues such as women’s rights, human trafficking and LGBT issues.
And Benghazi? Well, like most of “Hard Choices,” there’s very little here that you haven’t already heard before. It’s the same old line with a few inconsequential behind-the-scenes observations mixed in — which is not to say that this book is unreadable. Though it’s understandably filled with literary globe-hopping and a panoply of names that will scramble the brains of all but the most dedicated political-watcher, and though it’s widely rumored to have been ghost-written, there’s enough Clinton in it to be a delightful — albeit a very long — read.
So should you?
I think so, especially if you’ve already signed a determined “Hillary for President” online pledge. Just be aware that “Hard Choices” isn’t bad, it isn’t great and it probably isn’t going to change your mind.