Hillary Clinton's 'Hard Choices' Leaves Out a Few Important Things
It's June 2008 and Hillary Clinton is lying on the floor of a van. She's tired, disappointed and a tad bit angry about her failed bid for the Democractic presidential ticket — an admirable effort that ended in a concession speech to Barack Obama. With Clinton practically hyperventilating as she shields her face with her hands, Hard Choices (Simon & Schuster) begins like a set-up for a boozy chick-lit novel full of mental breakdowns or a memoir detailing a summer of life-altering global adventures à la Elizabeth Gilbert. Of course, it's neither. Clinton picks herself up off the backseat of that van, has a glass of California chardonnay with Obama at Senator Diane Feinstein's house, and assumes the role of Secretary of State, with a few campaign stumps in between.
Much has already been said — well, more like speculated — of Clinton's latest memoir. Namely, that it's a pre-campaign stunt, complete with a cross-country book tour and presidential charter bus. If you go by book sales alone, it seems to be working: Hard Choices sold 85,721 copies in its first week alone, clinching the No. 2 spot for bestselling hardcovers. And though Clinton has been elusive about whether or not she wants to make a go at another presidential bid, Hard Choices shows you can't always trust her word. In the book's first chapter, Clinton repeatedly writes that she wanted to continue serving as a U.S. Senator; by the chapter's last part, she fulfills Obama's "team of rivals" cabinet.
But enough about what Clinton has said — it's time to focus on what she hasn't. At 656 pages long, Hard Choices remarkably leaves out a lot of details. Sure, there's a ton of name-dropping, as well as flashbacks to her time as First Lady and senator, which provides some insight into how Clinton made her toughest decisions years later. But Clinton plays it fairly safe with her breezy tone and matter-of-fact description. Although you learn all that Clinton has done, by the end of Hard Choices you're still wondering just who Hillary Clinton is.
Here's a look at what Clinton left out of Hard Choices:
Her Dinner With Condoleeza Rice
You know Clinton is going to be choosey about her details when, during a chapter full of descriptive asides about nearly everyone she's met in her life, she glazes over a private dinner with Condoleeza Rice at her Watergate apartment. You would think the outgoing Secretary of State — who not only had to fight to be taken seriously, but also endured the vicious fallout of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — would have imparted advice on how to handle ego-driven male colleagues, cabinet fights and, you know, a mounting war.
Instead, Clinton gives Condi five sentences, concluding: "Her advice about what I should expect in my new role proved very helpful." What that advice was, Clinton wouldn't say. Is Rice just a terrible dinner guest, or were the conversations just too juicy for print?
Her (Political) Friendship With Aung San Suu Kyi
The chapter on Burmese activist-turned-politician Aung San Suu Kyi is perhaps the best one in Hard Choices, particularly because Suu Kyi's story of grace, strength and perseverance while under a 20-year-long house arrest is one that truly can't be captured on the page. Suu Kyi struggled for peace and freedom for decades in her homeland of Burma, and was an integral force behind Burma's shift from a military dictatorship to a democracy.
"I felt as if we had known each other for a lifetime," Clinton writes of meeting Suu Kyi for the first time. The blossoming of their relationship is lovely to watch, but it takes a slight Claire Underwood-turn when Suu Kyi arrives in Washington, D.C. Clinton teaches Suu Kyi how to not only be a political pawn, but to use it to your advantage — very House of Cards (minus Zoe Barnes).
Her Defense Of Drone Warfare
During her chapter on war and upheaval in Pakistan, Clinton finally addresses the drone program — a U.S. foreign policy tactic that has sparked outrage in both the Middle East and America. Her five-paragraph defense of drone warfare, however, reads like a government press release for the counterterrorism technology.
Clinton calmly defends the use of drones, writing that the Obama administration "intensely debated the legal, ethical, and strategic implications of drone strikes." The administration kept to closely written guidelines, Clinton writes, and the piloted aircraft have been an "effective" element. But even as she travels through Pakistan in 2009, with protesters holding "Hillary Go Back" signs on all sides, Clinton never challenges the counterpoints to using drones, nor seems to grapple with any ethical qualms.
Her Shouting Match With Leon Panetta
The tone of Hard Choices may be steady and matter-of-fact, but Clinton's not afraid to let her personality show through candid asides. Her quips are sporadic but welcome, ranging from noting her new nail polish color ("sexy siren red") to Vice President Biden kissing her hand while on one knee ("Who says chivalry is dead!")
However, there are some asides that, while on the periphery, should really be part of the story. For example, the heated moment with then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. What were they shouting about? And why?
The Events Leading Up To The Osama bin Laden Assassination
There's no Zero Dark Thirty story line here: the details of the plot to capture and assassinate Osama bin Laden are clear and succinct. Clinton never addresses the controversies surrounding the assassination — namely, that waterboarding did or did not provide any intelligence in the hunt of bin Laden. Of course, any such torture would have occurred during the Bush administration, when Clinton was serving as senator.
Instead, Clinton focuses on her memories of 9/11. Somehow, those are the memories that led us to that historic Situation Room photo taken in May 2011.
Fans of Alex Jones will be disappointed; there are no secrets or confessions here.
The brutal September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was possibly the lowest point in Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State. She pays a respectful tribute to the four Americans who lost their lives in the assault, while also claiming full responsibility for their deaths. "Diplomacy, by its very nature, must often be practiced in dangerous places," Clinton writes.
She adds that Benghazi occurred during the "fog of war," where details are conflicting and incomplete. Her Benghazi chapter is none of those things, but don't expect to discover new information about the days leading up to the rebel assault.
So for those knee-deep in false flag conspiracy theories, keep looking.
Her Relationship With Barack Obama
Early on, Clinton is straightforward about her relationship with pre-presidency Barack Obama. The 2008 primary was long and bitter with many less-than-polite phone conversations, and while she agreed to back him after her loss, there's a sense of unwillingness to the agreement. Still, Obama and Clinton were never enemies, but Obama did see her as part of his "team a rivals," a reference to the title of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography on Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. Clinton even compared herself to Lincoln's Secretary of State, indulging in this "rivals" relationship.
Clinton makes it seem like that rivalry evaporated in January 2009 — even though, deep down, we know it didn't.