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I have often wondered what former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was thinking on May 1, 2011 when that famous photo of her, with her hand over her mouth, was taken in the White House Situation Room as she waited for the results of Operation Neptune Spear. I read/listen to just about everything I can get my hands on about the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden, like Mark Owens and Kevin Maurer's "No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden" (2012) and former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates "Memoirs of a Secretary at War" (2014). I would have listened to HRC's "Hard Choices" (2014) just for her perspective on that mission, but this book has so much more.
HRC sets forth comprehensive US foreign policy, starting with her husband, Bill (William Jefferson) Clinton, president from 1993 to 2001; George H. Bush, 2001 to 2009; to Barack Obama, 2009 to the present. HRC has been a first hand observer or participant in international politics for more than 20 years, as First Lady; then as a Senator from New York; and then as Secretary of State.
The book is so current, it talks about Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimea. HRC's position on Russia is hawkish, and Vladimir Putin should count himself fortunate she isn't president right now. I'm not an up-and-coming or current world leader, or rebel general working on being a dictator, but if I were - and wanted to know where I, or my country stood with the current most-likely-next-president of the United States, I'd find out in "Hard Choices".
If I wanted to know about her husband's infamous dalliance more than 20 years ago, I guess I could read "The National Enquirer" - but I wouldn't waste my I time reading about it and HRC doesn't waste my time writing about it. I would rather know her position on Iran's nuclear enrichment program, Syria's use of chemical weapons, or what might work in patching up international relationships badly damaged by leaks of candid assessments of world leaders in State Department cables. "Hard Choices" talks about those issues, not about whether staying with her husband was a difficult decision.
HRC has a unique view of countries and their leaders. Some nations - for example, China and India - have national feelings and attributes (inferiority and insecurity) that she does not confuse with the beliefs or actions of their leaders. Other very small nations - such as Qatar, with a population about 20% of that of Los Angeles County - are so closely aligned with their leaders, they can't be distinguished. HRC's ability to separate the nutcase in charge from the population as a whole has been key in the Obama administration's arguable successes in various Arab countries.
Which brings me to the editor part: "Hard Choices" is 657 pages in print and 27 hours on Audible. Even with 'a long commute' it took me a while to finish the listen, because, well, I got a mired in the details, and sometimes, I got bored. I had the same problem with Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" (2005). I could have used a Playbill, a world map, and a timeline for both books.
HRC has a great voice, and I would have been happier with her doing the entire narration. She did the introduction, and there's an Easter egg: there's a 15 minute epilogue in her own voice. Kathleen Chalfant is fine, but it's not the same.
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103 of 119 people found this review helpful
Pros: Secretary Clinton is clearly fiercely intelligent and dominates the international landscape. While this IS a campaign book, the breadth and depth is impressive.
She is candid about her ideological position, even though she is more hawkish than the average democrat.
Throughout there are weak points were there is no substance, just platitudes that sound like they've gone through focus groups.
Glad I listened to this book in its entirety, but I did consider quitting a few times.
The reading and production are excellent.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
What would have made Hard Choices better?
The whole thing should have been read by Hillary. It was really disappointing that after the first chapter, the rest was by another reader. It just didn't carry the weight or tone of the author's own voice. I stopped listening.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
A ripping re-telling of American foreign policy during the time of Hillary Clinton as Sec of State. The book adds many insights into the events and tangled personal relationships developed while she was in office. Well worth listening to even if you are left with the feeling it is only the US and indeed Hilary her self who can affect change around the globe. Many fascinating vignettes and glimpses into the life of a senior politician and the office of Secretary of State, a life of a person who may well yet become the next and 45th president of USA. Enjoy, another extraordinary and very formative part of the unfolding Clinton dynasty
1 of 1 people found this review helpful