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Thursday June 19, 2014 MYT 6:55:00 PM
Thursday June 19, 2014 MYT 7:22:25 AM
by steve holland AND gabriel debenedetti
Pundits are saying that US president wannabe Hillary Clinton is using her ‘Hard Choices’ book tour to see if Americans are ready — and they're probably right.
The reception Clinton gets is likely to help her decide whether to launch a bid to be elected the first woman US president. So far, polls point to her as the overwhelming favourite for the Democratic presidential nomination should she run.
Clinton says she will make up her mind about a presidential run after congressional elections in November, though many Democrats think she will run. Those close to her say the book tour will help her decide.
Clinton — a woman whose every move, from her hairstyle to her pending status as a grandmother, is watched with an unsparing eye — will use the book tour to shift the conversation to her foreign policy record.
“I think essentially this is to gauge what the reaction is to the book and gauge what the reaction is as she tours the country,” said a Clinton associate. The tour allows her to “get her toe in the water without drowning,” the associate added.
Hitting shelves in US bookstores on June 12, Clinton’s book and the ensuing tour that passes through New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, puts her in the public spotlight in a more intensive way than at any time since she resigned as secretary of state early in 2013.
Clinton loyalists believe the book will show her to be a foreign policy pragmatist during what she considers to be the most successful period of her political life. Her four years at the State Department were not, however, without controversy, and Clinton is using the tour to defend her record and explain her reasoning behind key decisions.
Of Benghazi and ‘linguistic mistakes’
A chapter is devoted to the Sep 11, 2012, attack by militants on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya, in which the US ambassador to Libya was killed. Republicans have accused then-state secretary Clinton of not doing more to ensure the safety of Americans there.
In an ABC interview that aired on June 9, Clinton said she was “ultimately responsible for my people’s safety.” But pressed on whether there was more she could have done, Clinton said there were limits. “I’m not equipped to sit and look at blueprints, to determine where the blast walls need to be or where the reinforcements need to be,” she said. “That’s why we hire people who have that expertise.”
Republicans are vowing to keep the issue alive, saying it calls into question how she would deal with foreign policy crises as president. “Benghazi is not going away,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed.
In the book, Clinton treads a careful path between being a faithful servant to Obama and someone who would chart her own course on the global stage. In what may be an attempt to head off criticism from the left, she disavows her 2002 Senate vote in favour of the Iraq war — a vote Obama used effectively against Clinton in defeating her for the nomination in 2008.
In the book, Clinton also defends her much-criticised ‘reset’ in US-Russian relations as a linguistic mistake, an episode that is all the more glaring now with Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and Washington-Moscow ties at their lowest ebb since the Cold War.
Clinton says she differed with Obama on deciding not to arm Syrian rebels. She is sceptical about negotiations with the Taliban, a move that gives her some distance from uncomfortable questions regarding Obama’s recent swap of five high-value Taliban prisoners for Army Sgt Bowe Bergdahl.
In the book, she wrote: “I acknowledged, as I had many times before, that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war.”
For some, it’s hard enough to lob footwear at the former first lady. In April, while addressing the audience at an event in Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Clinton was caught on video dodging a flying shoe. “Is that somebody throwing something at me? Is that part of Cirque du Soleil?” Clinton reacted. “Thank goodness she didn’t play softball like I did.”
The shoe thrower, Alison Michelle Ernst, who was charged with evading security and assault, is currently undergoing a judge-ordered competency evalutation to decide whether or not she was mentally sane when she hurled the soccer shoe and several papers at Clinton.
Regardless of brickbats and flying shoes, Clinton is a woman determined, and the book may just be the deal-breaker.
Not even Republican accusations that the princely sums she’s been receiving for public appearances – she is speculated to have been paid up to US$250,000 (RM807,866) for a recent speaking engagement with trade groups in Chicago – is placing her “out of touch” with working class Americans have done much to derail her from the end goal.
“It’s a campaign book, but what she is trying to do is set the record straight, then move on to other things. So that’s why it’s coming out now,” said Keith Urbahn, a book agent for conservatives. The book tour recalls Clinton’s ‘listening tour’ of New York state, which she conducted before deciding to run for a New York Senate seat in 2000, an election she won.
“I am convinced that she has already decided to run and that she will run and that she will be the nominee. I think this is just the first phase of the process,” said Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, who advised John Kerry on his 2004 presidential run.
But can Clinton convince the rest of America that she’s not a ‘hard choice’? That remains to be seen. – Reuters
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