Book review: Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton

by Laura Sear

Clinton opens her memoir with a scene just after losing the primary election in 2008. In it, she shares her disappointment at the results, tells the story of her awkward encounter with Obama and the difficulty in accepting his offer for the role of Secretary of State.

She explains that loyalty and duty stirred her to accept Obama’s offer, “When the President asks you to serve, you should say yes”. This statement doesn’t reveal or explain Clinton’s motivations and the reader wonders how her husband and advisors may have helped her make the decision. Her narrative is as manufactured as her image and desperately tries to be personal, but its allure lies in maintaining a sense of mystery.

It goes on to explain her diplomatic victories and losses, reminding us with needless repetition of the 127 countries she visited during her time at the State Department. Hillary comes across as studied, precise and regularly pushing for fierce action.

She describes Asia with caution, while offering glimpses of insight on her opinion of China. She doesn’t have a kind word for the former Chinese president, Hu Jintao, saying “He lacked the personal authority of predecessors such as Deng Xiaoping or Jiang Zemin. Hu seemed to me more like an aloof chairman of the board than a hands-on CEO”.

The chapter on Benghazi is of particular interest to American readers. The attack on the US consulate on 11 September 2012, which claimed the lives of 3 Americans and the US ambassador to Libya, is frequently used as an example of how Clinton is an unsuitable leader.

Clinton doesn’t admit to any error, maintaining that she acted as well as anyone could with a lack of information. She claims responsibility for the mistake and says she deeply regrets the tragedy.

“Hard Choices” gives an impressive lens of 21st Century foreign relations and the chance to have a look behind the curtain of Clinton’s life, guarded by the protective façade of the ever calculated and impenetrable Hillary.


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