Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hillary Clinton's "Hard Choices"

For the past few weeks I have seen or heard much about Hillary Clinton's new book - and of course her "possible" Presidential campaign. And this is significant since, as even a critical review by Bret Stephens states,

"Hillary Clinton will likely be the next president of the United States, and why not? We live in an age of   will likely be the next president of the United States, and why not? We live in an age of choreographed reality, and hers is among the most choreographed of lives. Also, an age of the triumph of symbol over substance and narrative over fact; an age that demonstrates the power of the contention that truth matters only to the extent people want it to matter. Mrs. Clinton's career is testimony to these things as well."

To help us sort this out without/before reading the book, I offer two very different reviews of the book and her tenure as Secretary of State.

In the following friendly interview review on NPR, 

"Clinton, the former secretary of state and once and maybe future Democratic presidential candidate tell it, her new book "Hard Choices" isn't the kickoff to a 2016 campaign. She still hasn't made up her mind about another run for the presidency, she told Renee Montagne, co-host of NPR's Morning Edition. It's more a review of the decisions she made as the nation's top diplomat.
That the book looks backwards is proof, she said, that it's not a campaign document because, echoing a often used line of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, "I'm experienced enough to know that political campaigns are about the future, not the past."
But she acknowledged that the book tour gives her a chance "to work really hard to get out around the country to talk about what's on people's minds." In short, it sounds like she's embarking on another listening tour of the kind she used to launch her career in electoral politics in 1999 before she ran for a U.S. Senate seat from New York.
In any event, a review of her years traveling the globe as secretary of state during President Obama's first term gives her the chance to define her accomplishments even as her Republican critics ask, "What achievements?"

Here are some interview highlights:
Her accomplishments: To hear Clinton tell it, she helped rebuild the 
U.S. image in the world after the George W. Bush administration badly 
mangled it.
"The most important thing I did was to help restore America's leadership 
in the world. And I think that was a very important accomplishment. We were 
flat on our back when I walked in there the first time."
For the rest see:

In a different vein, Stephens contends,
"Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, doesn't really have a story to tell: Her book is an 
assemblage of anecdotes, organized geographically, held together by no 
overarching theme, or underlying analysis, or ultimate accomplishment. 
In April she was asked to name her proudest achievements as secretary. 
She fumbled for an answer, as well she might. There are none....

However one feels about Mrs. Clinton, she was the least consequential secretary of state since William Rogers warmed the seat in the early years of the Nixon administration. This is mainly the fault of the president for whom Mrs. Clinton worked, and of the White House hacks who had the larger hand in setting the tone and shape of foreign policy. Most everyone knows this, and most everyone doesn't want to admit it. So in place of a record we have a book.
Then again, Mrs. Clinton has, prospectively, the most consequential future of any secretary since James Buchanan (the last of her predecessors to become president). How does she secure her ambition?
There is a Platonic dialogue, the "Phaedrus," which observes that the surest way to forget is to write it down. Preferably in minute detail, at extravagant length. If there's a book you can consult, no need to remember it for yourself. "You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding," warns Socrates, "and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom."
Mrs. Clinton has produced a book that asks us to forget her tenure as secretary of state. It's going to be a blockbuster."
For the rest of the review see: