7 Revelations From Hillary Clinton's 'Hard Choices', From Benghazi And Bergdahl To Chelsea's Wedding
It hasn't even been released yet, but political analysts and journalists are already dissecting Hillary Clinton's new memoir, Hard Choices . Her first memoir since 2003's Living History, Hard Choices centers around the theme of, well, you guessed it — making the tough choices that shape your life. Published by Simon & Schuster, the memoir spans the four years Clinton was Secretary Of State and touches on issues like the Benghazi attacks, U.S. relations with Putin and Russia, her vote in the Iraq War, the conflict in Syria, and the Osama bin Laden mission.
In the author's note, Clinton writes, "For leaders and nations, [choices] can mean the difference between war and peace, poverty and prosperity." Indeed, each of the issues that she writes about has required monumental, defining choices, and the book gives us a glimpse into hers.
Hard Choices also incorporates personal stories about her husband, Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea, as well as personable anecdotes about meeting now-President Obama. She writes in her author's note that her biggest life decisions have been driven by both her head and her heart. And in many instances, she's been faced with the question, "Are you out of your mind?" Like when she left her promising career as a lawyer in Washington, D.C. to marry Bill in Arkansas, for example.
Here's what we've learned about Hillary's hard choices from the excerpt so far...
1. On Russia and Vladimir Putin
In a section on Putin and Russia, obtained by CBS News, Clinton argues that Russia's aggressive tactics should not be blamed on NATO's expansion towards its borders, and that NATO enlargement was not a mistake.
In the wake of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in early 2014, some have argued that NATO expansion either caused or exacerbated Russia's aggression. I disagree with that argument.... The NATO door should remain open, and we should be clear and tough-minded in dealing with Russia.
According to Clinton, those aggressive tactics probably won't cease anytime soon, although it's unclear what Putin's next move will be. She also called Putin out for not being able to handle what he dishes out.
If Putin is restrained and doesn't push beyond Crimea into eastern Ukraine it will not be because he has lost his appetite for more power, territory and influence.... He also proved over time to be thin-skinned and autocratic, resenting criticism and eventually cracking down on dissent and debate.
2. On Iraq
According to the New York Daily News, Clinton flat-out admits she was wrong when she voted for the war in Iraq. In a case of what seemed like a good idea at the time, Clinton admitted regret as early as 2006, when she said in an interview that "if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn't have been a vote."
[M]any Senators came to wish they had voted against the resolution. I was one of them. As the war dragged on, with every letter I sent to a family in New York who had lost a son or daughter, a father or mother, my mistake become (sic) more painful.
I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.
3. On Osama bin Laden
Clinton recalls the unforgettable moment, via The Hill, as she and Obama watched the SEAL Team Six enter Osama bin Laden's compound and waited for confirmation of the mission's success:
Contrary to some news reports and what you see in the movies, we had no means to see what was happening inside the building itself. All we could do was wait for an update from the team on the ground. I looked at the President. He was calm. Rarely have I been prouder to serve by his side as I was that day.
4. On Benghazi
In a chapter titled "Benghazi: Under Attack," obtained by Politico, Clinton addresses the lingering controversy and how some have outworn their use of the incident for political gain.
Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country.... I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans. It’s just plain wrong, and it’s unworthy of our great country. Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.
5. On Bowe Bergdahl
Since his release last Saturday in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, Bowe Bergdahl has sparked an immense political controversy over the legitimacy of the trade and the precedent it sets for negotiating with terrorists. According to TIME, Clinton writes in her memoir that she knew "that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war."
6. On Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin may be an easy target (which is completely her own doing), but Clinton refused to participate in denouncing her, even at the behest of the Obama administration. According to US News & World Report, Clinton recalls in her memoir:
[The Obama camp] immediately issued a dismissive statement and reached out to me in hopes I would follow suit. But I wouldn't. I was not going to attack Palin just for being a woman appealing for support from other women. I didn't think it made political sense, and it didn't feel right. So I said no.
7. On Chelsea's Wedding
Of all the crucial, influential choices she's ever had to make, none were more important than the seemingly insignificant ones Clinton had to make on her daughter's wedding day. In one of the more touching excerpts from the book, from CBS News, she describes the happy day in detail.
We were just over a week away from what would be one of the most important events in my life. ... This time it wasn't a high-level summit or a diplomatic crisis. It was my daughter's wedding, a day I had been looking forward to for thirty years.
Bill was as emotional as I was, maybe even more so, and I was just glad he made it down the aisle in one piece. ... Afterward Bill danced with Chelsea to 'The Way You Look Tonight.' It was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life.
8. On Her "First Date" With Obama
Via an excerpt by The Hollywood Reporter, Clinton describes her secret meeting with President Obama before the 2008 Democratic Convention. Although he had defeated her in the primaries, she had a positive outlook during their meeting and felt that a weight had been lifted.
We stared at each other like two teenagers on an awkward first date, taking a few sips of Chardonnay.... both Barack and I and our staffs had long lists of grievances. It was time to clear the air.... One silver lining of defeat was that I came out of the experience realizing I no longer cared so much about what the critics said about me.
Hmm. What teenager does she know drinks Chardonnay, let alone on the first date?The book concludes with one major choice she has yet to make. The New York Times reveals that in the final pages, she addresses whether or not she'll be running for president in 2016. Clinton writes, "I haven't decided yet."