HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton (Book Review)
HRC is not a book that you read if you want to know Hillary Clinton as a person, though you may get a sense of that from reading it as well. Ultimately, though, HRC is what you read if you want to know what Hillary Clinton is like as a politician, strategist, and ball-buster, and that’s exactly what you’ll get, including a few of the aspects of her political personality that have worked against her in the past.
The book opens on the desperation and frustration of Clinton’s defeat in the 2008 primary elections, then moves through her rising influence and then her perceived lack of power (and the very real lack of trust the public held for her) as she worked from her position as Secretary of State to change America’s reputation abroad (as well as her own reputation here at home). We see what happened behind the visible, media-drenched displays of moments like the disaster at Benghazi, examine the heated rivalries and the personal and political relationships that grow out of them, and watch Clinton work to get back into the spotlight of domestic policy to set up for what many expect to be an intense 2016 (as yet unannounced) presidential run.
This is, as I say, not a personal biography, and it doesn’t read like one—it is all about politics and strategy, including the ones that seem ugly when read from a personal level rather than a strategic one. HRC is largely all about strategy—about making connections, deciding on a public face, and above all, rewarding friends and punishing those seen as traitors.
The book is engaging, written in a dramatized narrative style both in prose and in structure. While occasionally lending us superfluous details in attempt to set the scene (a random detail about what kind of chairs were in an office before important dialogue, for example, may pull you out of the narrative for a moment rather than the intended effect of reeling you in), overall the dramatized style keeps the pages turning as effectively as the reader’s interest in Hillary as a presidential candidate might. By the end of this book, you get a sense of Hillary Clinton as a person of many faces and attitudes: strong-willed, cunning, perceptive, quick-thinking, rigorous, disciplined, and above all, loyal to a fault. As described by Obama, “She’s smart, she’s tough, she has a status in the world” (p. 50). And it’s one that can easily be put to use for a presidential bid. This book tells us exactly how her work over the last several years has set her up to do just that.
*I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.