Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – Book Review

Hillary Clinton’s latest memoir ‘Hard Choices’ details her four years as Secretary of State in President Barrack Obama’s cabinet from 2008-2012. Battered and bruised from the race to seek the Democrat nomination, it is arguable that she had ideas of using this position as a stepping stone to the ultimate prize: the presidency. However, in this memoir she disappoints her readers by not laying out her motivations and being consistently vague.

Clinton travelled to more countries and accumulated more air miles than any other Secretary of State and in her book she seeks to recreate her many journeys to her readers at great length. She also clearly details her thought processes that brought her to take certain actions and broker peace deals. There are times when it appears that she pushed President Obama towards a certain policy direction, specifically in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria but even this ability of hers to command the American President is vaguely alluded to. The historical context is very important to Clinton; she argues towards the end of her book that one has to look back at the ‘sweep of history’ in order to see just how ‘remarkable’ America’s contributions to the world in the last several years have been. Whilst it is interesting to read these mini-histories close to the current context it makes for very dense reading.

There are moments where she delves into the personal and talks about her family who are clearly very important to her as both a driving force and a comfort away from politics. However, in comparison to her previous memoir, ‘Living History’, these are few and far between. In this book Clinton is keen to talk solely about her achievements but even then she is, again, vague. Also, she does not talk about her ill health which began to affect her badly towards the end of her tenure in office. Keeping her personal failings hidden away, she is keen solely to maximise upon her successes, perhaps foreshadowing how she will fight the 2016 presidential bid.

She is aware that nowadays politicians, especially those seeking to run for the presidency, have to be accessible to voters. She talks about her involvement in social media through tweeting and playing along with the ‘Texts from Hillary’ meme. This displays her “fun” side which is keen to argue that she has at several points, but through arguing the fact so purposefully it leaves one wondering if really she is as fun as she makes out.

Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was not without scandal and detractors and her chapter on the attack in Benghazi in 2012 when three United States ambassadors tragically lost their lives is perhaps the most vivacious of them all. Denounced for being complicit in the attack and conspiring to cover up the details afterwards, she clearly outlines the events of September 11 2012 and the days afterwards; baring her teeth against those who claim the attack was a political stunt arguing that they are ‘minimizing’ the sacrifice that the fallen made for their country.

Hard Choices’ is interesting in that it clearly details Clinton’s four years in office and her travels around the world but it is bitterly disappointing in that it lacks teeth. Clinton is cold, calm and calculated in how she handles foreign affairs and she is even more so in how she details her personal thoughts and aspirations in this book. She is consistently vague as to her feelings towards other politicians, relationship with President Obama and her plans for the future. After slogging through six hundred pages worth of detailed descriptions of other nation’s histories and current political climate, readers are left knowing nothing more about Hillary Clinton, as a person, after her White House Years.

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