Will she? Won’t she?
For more than a decade, Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations have lingered around the political rumor mill. Would she take on President George W. Bush in 2004? Would 2008 be her year? Would she dare leave the State Department to mount a primary challenge to President Barack Obama in 2012? Is she ready to run again in 2016?
Publication of Hard Choices, Clinton’s memoir of her time as Secretary of State, will only feed the speculation about her 2016 plans. In it, she portrays herself as a shrewd but pragmatic diplomat, and she responds sharply to Republican criticisms of her time at the State Department.
Mostly, though, it’s a long-winded resume of someone who at least wants to appear ready for another run at the White House.
Clinton’s book begins in 2008 as she bowed out of the presidential contest and eventually — and, she writes, reluctantly — joins Obama’s cabinet as Secretary of State.
From there, she meticulously goes through dozens of crises, region by region, depicting a complex world of difficult decisions and a United States with diminished international standing after the Bush years. She recounts the decision-making behind Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan, explains the “reset” with Russia, and describes the tense moments in the Situation Room watching SEAL Team Six take out Osama bin Laden.
Clinton also takes on two issues where her critics continue to pound her: supporting the Iraq War and the 2012 attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi.
On Iraq, she is apologetic. “I still got it wrong,” she says. “Plain and simple.” And while she takes blame for the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, she strikes back at those who continue to question the administration’s response.
Still, it’s largely a politically risk-averse account that plays up her role in dozens of international conflicts without ruffling too many feathers. In that sense, it is starkly different than Duty, the memoir by Robert Gates, who served as Defense Secretary under both Republican and Democratic presidents. While both authors pull back the curtain on the inner workings of the current administration, Gates is highly critical of many Washington players, including Vice President Joe Biden, and of the Beltway culture. By contrast, Clinton takes few shots — and even has nice things to say about Bush and his paintings.