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REVIEW: Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’

Monday, 28 July, 2014

Words by Danielle Croci

Hillary Clinton’s latest book, Hard Choices, was released in June, to much curiosity. Would Clinton reveal any secrets in her political memoir? Would she announce her second effort for the presidency?

The 596 pages are divided into chapters organised around countries and events, reflecting the 112 countries that Clinton visited during her term as Secretary of State from 2008 to 2012. One chapter focuses on the Benghazi incident in 2012, expressing Clinton’s remorse for the deaths of two US diplomats along with members of the CIA. Another goes behind the scenes of the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Clinton admits, for the first time, that her 2002 Senate vote to authorise military action in Iraq was a “mistake”. Although some chapters are a little dry, they are certainly an interesting political read.

The recent headlines in the Australian media about Clinton’s comments on sexism are quite loud for an excerpt so small. In Hard Choices, she briefly mentions Julia Gillard as an example of female politicians experiencing double standards. The rest of the book is sprinkled with a few of Clinton’s personal experiences of prejudice, as well as her hopes for the improvement of the position of women.

While the book does focus on the more serious side of Clinton’s political role, there are a few lighter anecdotes thrown in for good measure. Clinton describes how she and President Obama pushed past Chinese security guards and barged into a private meeting at a climate conference in Copenhagen. She once met with the uncharacteristically anxious Prime Minister of Bulgaria, discovering that he’d been briefed that her hair pulled back meant that she was in a bad mood. And one tense exchange with Vladimir Putin was defused when Clinton raised the topic of Putin’s campaign to save the tigers in Siberia, resulting in Putin inviting Clinton’s husband to tag polar bears with him.

For some readers, however, the most important part of Hard Choices is what hasn’t been said. The anecdotes that I’ve noted are about as controversial as the book gets. This is no tell-all memoir, along the lines of Bob Carr’s recent autobiography. Some believe that this lack of candour spells Clinton’s second run for the presidency in 2016. For the record, towards the end of the book, Clinton states that she hasn’t decided yet whether she will run.

Whatever the outcome, Hard Choices stands as a fairly interesting look into the life of Clinton as Secretary of State.