"Hard Choices" by Hillary Rodham Clinton
It ’s all about the job
As a non-American, I’ve grown to admire Hillary Rodham Clinton somewhat. Not because of her political accomplishments so much as her resilience and her strength. I’ve admired the way she picked herself up from scandal – the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton which sort of overshadowed his presidency – to become of the United States' most formidable politicians.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t merely run with the boys, she has run ahead of them and has come out looking a lot smarter and much more dignified. She’s a smart woman with ambition and resolve, and in a world that is still very chauvinistic, she’s someone to look up to.
I picked up her latest memoir, Hard Choices, hoping to be inspired. I wanted to read about her musings during her time as US Scretary of State and get to know her a little more - not so much as a mother, a daughter or wife but as a powerful leader and negotiator. I wanted to know what it feels like to be in the boys’ club and Clinton promises, in a forward of sorts on the book’s sleeve, to reveal the “inside account of the crises, choices and challenges she faced as the country’s foremost diplomat.
Clinton talks about how she had to transition from being President Barrack Obama’s adversary in the contest for presidency in 2008 to being his ally in his Presidential campaign and later, the Secretary of State in his Cabinet.
That sounded interesting. After all, as diplomatic and clean as the president sounds, his campaign wasn’t completely without character attacks on Clinton (the mud-slinging went both ways, of course) - what would it be like to work alongside him as a comrade?
However, it is apparent that Clinton isn’t giving too much away in her memoir. Her apprehension of moving from foe to ally is briefly touched on.
“I had lost and he had won,” she writes about her defeat in the Democratic party nominations in 2008. “There hadn’t been time yet to come to grips with that reality. But here we were.” That’s about as much as we’re going to get.
When it comes to her feelings, Clinton is very matter-of-fact. She doesn’t dwell. She chooses her words carefully, barely revealing anything. You’re not going to find out more on her as an individual or what she really thinks of the people who have crossed her path. What you get is an extensive account of her role as Secretary of State - the decisions she’s made, the people she’s met, the issues she’s had to deal with and deals she’s negotiated. There’s a word for that kind of a read – a resume, maybe?
So this is it. Hard Choices is a 600-odd page memoir of Clinton’s four-year tenure as Secretary of State. Exactly that. It spares us no detail on Clinton’s travels, the many challenges she’s faced and the victories she’s achieved. She lays bare her analysis of the world’s most complicated diplomatic issues, her views and resolving problems, but she refrains from revealing personal conclusions about the issues or people she’s dealt with.
Well, she does a little, and those are really nice to read. Her passage about Nicolas Sarkozy, for example, is quite delightful.
“He would gossip, casually describing other world leaders as crazy or infirm; one was a ‘drug-addled maniac’; another had a military ‘that didn’t know how to fight’; yet another came from a long line of ‘brutes’,” she writes.
But she doesn’t really reveal the gossip. Where’s the “insight” you promised, Hillary? It’s like watching a two-minute teaser of a controversial movie that will never make it to our cinema screens. No doubt about it, the woman comes away looking sharp and competent. If you didn’t think so already, you will by the end of this memoir.
There is a lot of political jargon in Hard Choices. Even though Clinton herself did explain that the memoir was for Americans who want to know about the country’s international diplomacy during her years as Secretary of State, it is just too heavily political. Sure, there is some humour here and there, and a smattering of personal anecdotes – these are actually quite nice to read until they come to an abrupt halt.
Unless you’re interested in American policy and in Clinton’s detailed political accomplishments, Hard Choices is quite a hard read.