Hillary Clinton has spent much of her life in the political arena; as First Lady, Senator, presidential candidate, and Secretary of State. Clinton’s latest book, “Hard Choices” recounts her time spent as the Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term. Clinton’s memoir begins at the end of her primary campaign and explains her decision to campaign for President Obama and later accept the Secretary of State position. Clinton is certainly an eloquent and intelligent writer, making her memoir an easy and enjoyable read.
“Hard Choices” covers the Obama Administration’s foreign policy and Clinton’s participation in shaping and enacting it on behalf of the President. She gives a more in-depth look at foreign policy strategy in an easy-to-understand way. She breaks down the basic foundation of foreign policy and explains the role of the Secretary of State. It is not a stretch to say that “Hard Choices” is written to appeal to even people who do not love politics. She tries to highlight that while she worked for the Obama Administration, she was a bi-partisan entity, working with Republicans and Democrats when she could. She highlights her decision to ask for Senator McConnell’s support and help in her endeavors to bring democracy to Burma as an example of her willingness to work with Republicans. This is perhaps a strategy to help Clinton appear more down-to-earth in the event she does run in 2016.
While mostly serious (after all foreign diplomacy is crucial to protecting America’s interests abroad) “Hard Choices” is also full of funny anecdotes. These range from Clinton recounting her meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister, where she presented him with a reset button, to the night she went out and partied with staff members in Colombia. I truly enjoyed her anecdotes about conversations with the various leaders of the world. She also takes the time to provide the reader with her observations of the world leaders she met. While the depictions are mostly favorable—after all she might be running in 2016—she is certainly critical of the actions taken by the leaders of the Middle East, as well as President Putin’s involvement in Ukraine.
It is important to note that America and Western Europe are not spared from criticism. Clinton makes it clear that in her opinion America still has a lot to do in terms of improving itself and rebuilding its relationships with the world. She does an excellent job of laying out the history of America’s relationship with a country before discussing the State Department’s policy in interacting with that country. She also explains why this country is important to America and then describes her visit or what she did to further America’s interests in that country. I found this to be a great way of explaining not only the events we have lived through in the past four years, but also why some of these conflicts have not been resolved.
The most difficult part of reading “Hard Choices” was remembering that it is first and foremost a political memoir. Clinton is a practiced politician with years of spin experience, making even highly criticized actions appear less important in the scheme of things. She barely touches on Benghazi and does not even mention the Senate hearings. At times she places blame for botched policy implementation on the other country involved, instead of acknowledging that perhaps that the people of Burma or Afghanistan did not want America getting involved. Her decision to briefly discuss what happened in Benghazi, an event in which she received a large amount of criticism, was certainly a disappointment.
Part of the appeal of “Hard Choices” is that the events Clinton is discussing have only happened in the last four years, with the most recent being the Russia-Ukraine conflict that began in 2014. There are also about twenty pages with color pictures from Clinton’s trips around the world, and they certainly give more insight into the places she describes. Overall, “Hard Choices” was a good read. Just don’t forget that this might be Clinton’s warm up for 2016, so we only get the best decisions she made. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in politics or wants to learn more about America’s foreign policy. “Hard Choices” is Clinton at her best; part ballsy politician, part global feminist.
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