WASHINGTON I did it! Mere hours after hearing Hillary Clinton say she and her husband had to exploit their public service by earning millions and millions and millions of dollars to pay their mortgages by paid public speeches and memoirs, my finger clicked on “buy” on my e-reader.
Disbelieving that her new book, “Hard Choices,” could be as self-serving and boring as critics described, I paid $14.99 to see for myself. After all, I’ve interviewed her, drunk wine with her, traveled with her in such exotic places as China and Ohio, and followed her political ambitions for decades.
Believe me, the book is a self-serving travelogue. It was written by three ghost writers who stuffed it with as many facts as they could find. If you have followed the Hillary saga at all, there is nothing in this book that will surprise you.
It’s a little hard to accept her premise that her book clearly explains what a tense encounter in St. Petersburg, Russia, means for families in St. Petersburg, Fla., and how a revolution in Cairo, Egypt, impacts life in Cairo, Ill. Good thought, but, no, the book doesn’t explain it or what she would do about any of that as president.
This book will make her more money (a $14 million advance has been mentioned), keep her in the limelight, salute President Obama while cleverly praising herself and reveal nothing detrimental to her eventual campaign. She also claims she now feels free to say what she actually thinks although she doesn’t do much of it.
Here are the main points. She fought a tough race with Obama in 2008. She respected him. She was floored when he asked her to be secretary of state. After much angst, she said no. She had to pay off her $6 million campaign debt. Then she said yes because she’s a Methodist: “Do all the good you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” And Obama assured her, “I think we can become good friends.” They did, merging Obamaworld and Hillaryland. Sometimes they disagreed, but she can’t talk about that while he is still in office.
She learned her new job was being the nation’s chief diplomat, Obama’s principal adviser on foreign policy and CEO of a big bureaucracy. She had to balance her time and energy and decided not to pick a few issues and own them but “pay attention to the whole chessboard.” But she did want to pay more attention to Asia-Pacific and made that her first trip to “signal to Asia and the world that America was back.”
And she wants you to know that just one penny of every federal dollar spent goes to diplomacy and development.
Hillary studied her predecessors for guidance. When discouraged, she’d squeeze the paw of the teddy bear in her office to hear it sing: “Don’t worry. Be happy.”
Hillary Clinton is remarkable. Warm, funny, smart and incredibly diligent and ambitious, she was the high school friend who’d stay up with you half the night as you moaned about a devastating personal crisis such as not making the cheerleading squad and then she’d ace the big test at 8 a.m.
She may well be the first female president. Burning no bridges in this book, she cites a lot of facts about the world. Really, a lot. Ultimately, she had no big diplomatic breakthroughs. We learn nothing new about Benghazi and the deaths of four Americans. This catalogue of crises will neither help nor hinder her in getting back to the White House.
In short, I spent $14.99 so you don’t have to, but, of course, millions will.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune.
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