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With the perspective of one who is both an insider and an outsider, Ghattas draws on extensive interviews with Clinton, administration officials, and players in Washington as well as overseas, to paint an intimate and candid portrait of one of the most powerful global politicians. Filled with fresh insights, The Secretary provides a captivating analysis of Clinton's brand of diplomacy and the Obama administration's efforts to redefine American power in the twenty-first century.
Populated with a cast of real-life characters, The Secretary tells the story of Clinton's transformation from popular but polarizing politician to America's envoy to the world in compelling detail and with all the tension of high stakes diplomacy. From her evolving relationship with President Obama to the drama of WikiLeaks and the turmoil of the Arab Spring, we see Clinton cheerfully boarding her plane at three in the morning after no sleep, reading the riot act to the Chinese, and going through her diplomatic checklist before signing on to war in Libya-all the while trying to restore American leadership in a rapidly changing world.
Viewed through Ghattas's vantage point as a half-Dutch, half-Lebanese citizen who grew up in the crossfire of the Lebanese civil war, The Secretary is also the author's own journey as she seeks to answer the questions that haunted her childhood. How powerful is America really? And, if it is in decline, who or what will replace it and what will it mean for America and the world?
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Mel on 04-17-13
Never got to the heart...
...unless the author is using this as a metaphor, saying that Hillary Clinton has such a heart...I don't know; I'm confused.
A more fitting title may have been THE BBC CORRESPONDENT: flights with Hillary Clinton. The title, as is, seems misleading, adding to my confusion--and I'm blaming the author. With her childhood recollections of growing up in war torn Lebanon (and her subsequent disappointment in America) sandwiched between information we already know regarding Clinton's political trips, and banal info about the condition of the plane, the food, the bad schedules, Clinton's cheerful group sits, her toe nail polish choices...Ghattas didn't seem to have a clear flight plan, so to speak. I wasn't expecting to hear so much about Ghattas and her views on America's decline in power and popularity, and so little about Clinton's views on the heart of American Power. (That decline aspect would have been an interesting book providing the premise was well supported and not just Ghattas' opinion.)
I'd like to have heard about Clinton's milestones during her time as the Secretary of State; what were her initial goals and what she felt she accomplished; what did she see as the biggest deterrents to achieving the priorities she had; her experience with No. Korea, and her opinions of where the current situation there is going; and I'd like to have had an *inside look" at her assessment of Obama; how she developed a relationship with her opponent; her plans for the future...I could come up with a whole legal pad list of things I'd like to have learned from this book--and not one of them would have been the color of Clinton's toenails, (something I'd expect to be left to Barbara Walters as additional ammunition to besmirch the office of the Secretary of State). There was nothing of substance (new), especially when held up to a current portrait of America, or even the possible America of the future. Anything of political importance, we've read already; anything that may have been an *insider-only look* at Clinton... can be summed up in the first 6 letters of the word Secretary (still). I still haven't figured out exactly the intention of this book . It was at times interesting, Ghattas perspective was fresh, and it was a harmless 2 1/2 star listen. (And I'd love to read a review on this by Hillary Clinton.)
22 of 24 people found this review helpful
By Jean on 03-31-13
Informative & enlightening book
If you are looking for a scholarly biography of Hillary Clinton this in not the book. This is a story of a BBC foreign correspondent who was attached to the State Department (U.S.). She has an office in the press section at the Harry Truman building in Washington and flies every where with Clinton on the Secretary's plane. Kim Ghattas was born in Lebanon (half Lebanese/Dutch) during the civil war and the occupation by Syria. She grew up wondering why the U.S. didn't help them. Kim provides a thoughtful commentary of the varied trips, with insight brought from her own life while growing up in Lebanon during the civil war. I found it interesting to have behind the scene look at what the travelling group of reporters face during trips such as, unexpected changes in itinerary, running out of food, no place to sleep, sudden changes in weather etc. It is also interesting that Clinton and her staff faced many of the same problems. It was apparent that Ghattas admired Clinton but that did not stop her from covering mistakes made by Clinton. Ghattas makes it clear from the beginning with an interview with Clinton what the goal of her term as Secretary of State was. To rebuild American relationships with all countries and improve the image of America. She set off on trips to visit heads of states but unlike other Secretaries she went out to meet the people of the country and held town hall meeting with students, and women. She answered all questions and "listened" to what the had to say. I really liked her response to complaints by the Pakistan student who complained America was controlling them by giving them money. She told him they did not have to take the money. That set them back a bit and they had no response to that. In the book she faced many challenges such as China, Israel/Palestine and Netanyahu; sinking of South Korean naval corvette Cheonan by North Korea, Wiki-leaks (that causes enormous work by Clinton and her staff detailed in the book) Arab Spring (Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria), Japanese Fukushima reactor melt down. In her interviews with Clinton Ghattas said Clinton was implementing "Smart diplomacy" and this had not been tried before. The book shows the dedication and hard work of the thousands of people in our diplomatic corp around the world. It also demonstrated from an inside view how hard the staff around Clinton work so she could have all the latest information and taking care of every minute of every day of her work life. The key item in the book is that the view point is from an outsider looking in at America, she provides comments and insight into the feelings and view points of the people Clinton visited that an American would not have. Makes it interesting indeed. The test of all her work with China came to ahead with the blind lawyer seeking asylum in the U.S. Clinton handled it quietly and expertly so relationship with China was not effected and human rights applied. Kate Reading did a good job narrating the book Regardless of your personal or political opinion of Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration or America's current military involvement this book is worth reading on several levels. .
9 of 10 people found this review helpful