Clinton's memoir, "Hard Choices," will be released Tuesday, accompanied by interviews with ABC News and other news organizations. Clinton will appear at book events this week in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and suburban Washington, D.C.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: What's In the Book? | CBS's John Dickerson: Book Plays It Safe
SHARE YOUR COMMENTS:
At Facebook.com/WBEN930 | At The Bottom Of This Page | In Our Webpoll (at Right)
Exclusive WBEN Audio: What's In The Book? Hear CBS's Nancy Cordes
The former first lady remains the leading Democratic contender for the White House if she chooses to run for president again and Republicans have aggressively challenged her record at the State Department in anticipation of another campaign.
In her new book, Clinton presents her four years as President Barack Obama's top diplomat as a period of tough decision-making that sought to repair relationships around the globe and reshape American foreign policy
"Clinton's book has no gossip, which is no surprise, but it also only hints at the inside feel of the way national security policy is made"
-CBS Political Director John Dickerson READ MORE BELOW
It's certainly going to be an exciting book," says former Erie County Democrativ Party Chairman Len Lenihan, who worked with Clinton on her Senate campaign.
"Issues will arise, which can either spun or promoted either by her detractors or supporters," says Lenihan. "This book will generate comments from both sides and will keep her name in the news."
.Clinton's words have been carefully parsed for clues to her thinking about 2016. In an excerpt of an interview with ABC News that aired Sunday, the former first lady said she looks forward to traveling the country to promote the book and would "help in the midterm elections in the fall and then take a deep breath and kind of go through my pluses and minuses."
She suggested her timetable could stretch into 2015, and said she would decide on running "when it feels right for me to decide."
But she also told ABC's Diane Sawyer that potential Democratic primary rivals were free to "do whatever they choose to do" and recalled that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, didn't launch his first presidential campaign until the fall of 1991.
Some Democrats worry that by freezing the field, she could leave other Democrats at a disadvantage if she decides not to run.
Republicans have said the 66-year-old Clinton's health could be a relevant issue after she dealt with a concussion and was treated for a blood clot at the end of 2012. Clinton has said in interviews that she is in good health and noted that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a potential Republican candidate, told her about his own experience with concussions. She told ABC News she would release her medical records in accordance with past presidential candidates.
For Clinton, the book tour could shine a light on her health and endurance. The events will put her in front of large crowds and long lines of book buyers eager for an autographed copy. The schedule resembles the frenetic nature of a campaign.
The tour will take her to Canada next week, with stops in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, along with U.S. appearances in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. Other stops in June include San Francisco, San Diego and Denver, where she will join her husband and daughter for the family's annual Clinton Global Initiative America meeting.
Passages of the book offer hints of Clinton's political future and the tour could signal how she might frame a campaign.
While her book takes readers through international hotspots, her epilogue delves heavy on domestic politics and concerns about the decline in middle-class income, the growth of poverty and the need for "more opportunity and less inequality."
Republicans are creating their own book launch. America Rising, a GOP super PAC that has offered a steady critique of Clinton's policies, released an e-book called, "Failed Choices." It argues Clinton's record was flawed by "caution that comes from a calculating politician" and "poor judgment."
Among Republicans, the leading example remains Clinton's handling of the deadly 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Asked in the ABC interview if she will testify before a new congressional committee investigating the attacks, Clinton said that will depend on the people running the hearings.
"I'm not going to say one way or another," Clinton said. "We'll see what they decide to do, how they conduct themselves: Whether this is one more travesty about the loss of four Americans or whether this is in the best tradition of the Congress, an effort to try and figure out what we can do better."
|INSIDE THE BOOK:
Clinton on ....
THE BERGDAHL RELEASE: In describing the off-and-on negotiations over the release Berghdal, Clinton wrote, "The Taliban's top concern seemed to be the fate of its fighters being held at Guantanamo Bay and other prisons. In every discussion about prisoners, we demanded the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been captured in 2009. There would not be any agreement about prisoners without the sergeant coming home. ...
"I acknowledged, as I had many times before, that opening the door to negotiations with the Taliban would be hard to swallow for many Americans after so many years of war," she continued.
She also offers a window into the other aspects that will inevitably factor into any potential campaign -- from the professional, like her relationship with President Barack Obama and scuffles with his White House aides -- to the personal, like the "elaborate diplomacy required" to help plan her daughter's wedding.
BENGHAZI: Her chapter on the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, where she took a defiant tone about the multiple congressional investigations into the attacks, was widely reported last week.
She concluded, "There will never be perfect clarity on everything that happened. It is unlikely that there will ever be anything close to full agreement on exactly what happened that night, how it happened, or why it happened. But that should not be confused with a lack of effort to discover the truth or to share it with the American people."
BIN LADEN: Clinton wrote that during the 2008 campaign, she and then-candidate Barack Obama criticized George W. Bush's administration for "taking its eye off the ball in Afghanistan and losing focus on the hunt for bin Laden. "After the election we agreed that aggressively going after al Qaeda was crucial to our national security and that there should be a renewed effort to find bin Laden and bring him to justice. ...
"All these memories were in my mind as the SEALs approached the compound in Abbottabad. I thought back to all the families I had known and worked with who had lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks nearly a decade before. They had been denied justice for a decade. Now it might finally be at hand. ...
"We watched on the video feed as the SEALs improvised, sweeping through the courtyard of the compound and heading inside to look for bin Laden. Contrary to some news reports and what you see in the movies, we had no means to see what was happening inside the building itself. All we could do was wait for an update from the team on the ground. I looked at the President. He was calm. Rarely have I been prouder to serve by his side as I was that day.
"After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually about fifteen minutes, word came from [Admiral William] McRaven that the team had found bin Laden and he was 'E-KIA,' enemy killed in action. Osama bin Laden was dead."
RUSSIA & VLADIMIR PUTIN: "In the wake of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in early 2014, some have argued that NATO expansion either caused or exacerbated Russia's aggression. I disagree with that argument, but the most convincing voices refuting it are those European leaders and people who express their gratitude for NATO membership. ...
Those making that argument "should ponder how much more serious the crisis would be - and how much more difficult it would be to contain further Russian aggression if Eastern and Central European nations were not now NATO allies. The NATO door should remain open, and we should be clear and tough-minded in dealing with Russia."
"If Putin is restrained and doesn't push beyond Crimea into eastern Ukraine it will not be because he has lost his appetite for more power, territory and influence...
"He also proved over time to be thin-skinned and autocratic, resenting criticism and eventually cracking down on dissent and debate..."
The "reset" button origins: "[I]t was not the finest hour for American linguistic skills. But if our goal had been to break the ice and make sure no one would ever forget the reset, then our translation error had certainly done that."
CUBA: In her new book, Clinton says she pushed President Barack Obama to lift or ease the decades-long U.S. embargo on Cuba because it was no longer useful to American interests or promoting change on the communist island.
Clinton writes that the embargo has given communist leaders Fidel and Raul Castro an excuse not to enact democratic reforms. And she says opposition from some in Congress to normalizing relations - "to keep Cuba in a deep freeze" - has hurt both the United States and the Cuban people. She says the 2009 arrest by Cuba of USAID contractor Alan Gross and Havana's refusal to release him on humanitarian grounds is a "tragedy" for improving ties.
"Since 1960, the United States had maintained an embargo against the island in hopes of squeezing Castro from power, but it only succeeded in giving him a foil to blame for Cuba's economic woes," she writes. She says her husband, former President Bill Clinton, tried to improve relations with Cuba in the 1990s, but the Castro government did not respond to the easing in some sanctions. Nonetheless, Obama was determined to continue the effort, she writes.
She says that late in her term in office she urged Obama to reconsider the U.S. embargo. "It wasn't achieving its goals," she writes, "and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America. ... I thought we should shift the onus onto the Castros to explain why they remained undemocratic and abusive."
Clinton writes that in the face of "a stone wall" from the Castro regime, she and Obama decided to engage directly with the Cuban people. The steps that Obama took, including allowing more travel to the island and increasing the amount of money Cuban-Americans can send back to the island, have had a positive effect, she writes.
However, Clinton notes with disappointment that Cuba arrested and imprisoned a contractor working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, who the U.S. says was trying to help Cuba's small Jewish community communicate with the rest of the world. In the book, Clinton says she spoke out frequently about Alan Phillip Gross' imprisonment and was disappointed that "the Castros created new problems by arresting" him.
She said Cuba has refused to consider Gross' release until the U.S. frees all of the "Cuban Five" spies who have been imprisoned in the United States. The U.S. has rejected Cuba's demands to link the cases.
"New Book Plays It Safe:
During the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton ran a blunt television ad asking whether Barack Obama could handle a foreign policy crisis. In it, a phone rang and a variety of children were shown in their beds. "It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?" asked the narrator. After the parade of adorables, the ad showed Clinton on the phone. It was a contrivance since she'd never answered a red phone either. But now she has, and over more than 600 pages of Hard Choices, her memoir of her time as secretary of state, Clinton details what it's like to steer U.S. diplomacy in a dangerous and changing world.
It turns out the secretary of state's emergency phone is actually yellow and that the world of campaign ads is more exciting than the incremental painful work of diplomacy. (Unless you find excitement in the strengthening of multilateral responses to Chinese encroachment on international boundaries in the South China Sea.) This book, which is not scheduled to launch until June 10, but which clever elves from CBS This Morning found in a bookstore, is a risk-free telling of Clinton's world travels. Parents who read it will startle no sleeping children reacting to its admissions, and nothing in it would seem to imperil Clinton's future presidential chances--though Vladimir Putin, whom she calls "thin skinned," might be grumpy if they ever have a bilateral meeting together. What comes across, though, is that whatever Clinton leaves out--and there's plenty in her omissions for critics--she put in thousands of hours grinding her way across the globe doing the painstaking work of diplomacy.
This is not a book from someone who has nothing to lose. When former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote his recent book, Duty, it was full of tough assessments and candor. Clinton's book has no gossip, which is no surprise, but it also only hints at the inside feel of the way national security policy is made. Gates' book had lots of spice, which is always part of even a well-functioning foreign policy team. Clinton's account is the low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie offering with vanilla pudding as the dessert. She goes on at great length, but not great depth.
Even Condoleezza Rice, one of the most loyal Bush aides on the planet, was more candid in her memoir about the inside workings of power relationships than Clinton. Describing her effort as national security adviser to get the egos in Bush's foreign policy team to focus on postwar planning in Iraq, she said that President Bush started a meeting by announcing, " 'This is something Condi has wanted to talk about.' " She wrote, "I could immediately see that the generals no longer thought it to be a serious question." After the meeting, her deputy Stephen Hadley said that he "would have resigned after that comment by the President," and later, when the lack of postwar planning became plain to everyone, she wondered "if Steve had been right."
Clinton's book has none of this. She describes a "shouting match" with Leon Panetta over a drone strike but doesn't tell us why voices were raised. She snaps once when a question is mistranslated and she thinks a student in Kinshasa is asking what her husband thinks. "My husband is not the Secretary of State. I am. So you ask my opinion and I will tell you my opinion." The young man was asking about Obama's opinion, not Bill Clinton's.
It's hard to imagine the author of this book snapping about much of anything. The tone is easy, confident, and placid. It starts after the 2008 election, with Clinton feeling like she let her supporters down but anxious to repair relations with Obama. She portrays her relationship with her opponent as brusque but cordial, like the opposing football coaches greeting each other after a game. Then, when Obama has beaten her, she describes the two of them like teenagers on a first date.
Though she admits to some early tensions between "Hillaryland" and "Obamaworld," the book only glances at the tensions between the State Department and the National Security Council. Clinton occasionally ascribes political thinking to the White House, and talks about the political urge among Obama's aides to hunker down and go into damage control, but those asides are mild and infrequent.
When Clinton holds a different view than her president, as she did on big issues like arming the Syrian military and pressuring former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, there is no rancor. The entire message of the book is that foreign policy is hard and complicated, so when Obama goes another route, Clinton explains that it was a reasonable path to take having weighed all the complexities.
If two wrongs don't make a right, this book seems to operate under the theory that 381 rights might overcome a wrong. Clinton repeats her regret about voting for the Iraq war but upgrades her language. "I was wrong," she says. But on so many other issues, however, Clinton always seems to be right. She told the Obama campaign not to attack Sarah Palin when John McCain first picked her as his running mate. She was "an early voice calling publicly for Palestinian statehood." Her "diplomatic intervention [in Egypt after Mubarak's fall] was the only thing standing in the way of a more explosive confrontation." She warned Middle Eastern leaders before the Arab Spring uprising "that if they did not embrace reform their region was going to sink into the sand." After Mubarak was ousted, Clinton "came away worried that they would end up handing the country to the Muslim Brotherhood or the military by default, which in the end is exactly what happened." She reports that world leaders agreed with her assessment and started using her language.
The book falls into a pattern where either events lead up to a confirmation of her perceptive initial take or her wisdom is the only thing leading to a good result. "Some of the President's advisors, keeping their eyes on the reelection campaign, were allergic to the idea of any apology," she writes after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed accidentally by U.S. forces. But Clinton explains why it's important to sooth Pakistani feelings to keep supply lines open for U.S. troops. And whaddya know: It worked!
Clinton does not stop to engage in introspection about the Iraq decision or any evolutions in her positions or mistakes she might have made. The hard choices she writes about are ones where she and the president are managing vast, complex interlocking interests with no clear path. She writes, for example, that Syria was a "wicked problem." But what she does not tell us what she learned from blowing any of the hard choices. She regrets her Iraq vote, the deaths in Benghazi, and that the United States didn't do more to help Iranian protesters, but she's not going to put herself on the couch. At one point she writes, "Your critics can actually teach you lessons your friends can't or won't. I try to sort out the motivation for criticism whether partisan, ideological, commercial, or sexist, analyze it to see what I might learn from it, and discard the rest." It would have been fascinating to see some evidence of this in the book.
Secretary Clinton certainly doesn't put herself on the couch when it comes to the attack on Benghazi. Clinton devotes two chapters to Libya. The first is about the messy and perilous process of keeping the coalition together. Like several passages in the book--on Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and even China--there is a good pace to developments and the back-and-forth will be interesting for anyone who'd like to know more about the competing interests of nations. It feels like a lively textbook. The chapter on the attack on Benghazi recounts events and reprises the spirited defense she and her team have been making for months.
As a campaign document, Hard Choices presents the picture of a methodical, hardworking public servant. For voters who worry about a complex world, Clinton will be the candidate most equipped to show voters that they will not be taking a risk by putting the world in her hands. But if Hillary Clinton decides to run for president, the election will be decided by what voters feel about the economy. Clinton closes the book talking about the unresolved economic challenges facing the country--student debt, a weak job market, and a struggling middle class. They were the ones that she wanted to get back to after her 2008 primary loss, she writes in the book's opening pages, before Obama convinced her to be his secretary of state. Now she has a chance to return to those issues as a presidential candidate, if she wants to. "Will I run for President in 2016?" she asks. "The answer is, I haven't decided yet." But 600 pages of safe, methodical writing suggests the answer is yes, and if she doesn't run maybe she'll write an epilogue and tell us what she really thinks.