Hard Choices, by Hillary Rodham Clinton (Simon & Schuster, 656 pp., $35)
Reading Hillary Clinton’s memoir of her State Department years is like wading through an ocean of oatmeal. Cloying, tiring (sometimes to the point of exhaustion), and as controversy-free as possible, the more than 600 pages of Hard Choices are a hard slog. The book reveals precious little new information, it is overloaded with clichés, and the superficiality of its policy analysis is remarkable even for the campaign-biography genre.
That may be exactly what Hillary and Bill intended. Whether Hard Choices enlightens or educates, or whether it sells many copies, is, for the Clintons, beside the point. They are focused on the politics rather than the policy of Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state, and on how that tenure might enhance their ongoing 2016 presidential effort. Polishing her thin record, excising or at least recasting her mistakes, and, perhaps most important, anaesthetizing her critics are the real priorities. And if my reaction is any indication, the chloroform technique could well work. The crushing effect of the clichés alone may be enough. Really, how much can readers be expected to endure of repeated references to high-wire acts, hard truths, “facing the world as it is,” the need to “keep my eyes wide open,” foreign leaders “riding high horses,” “the legacy of history hanging heavy” over issues, and — not to be forgotten — those clever Israelis who “made the desert bloom”? And did I mention “hard choices”?