So many Hard Choices.
  • Kelly O
  • So many Hard Choices.

While reading Hard Choices, Hillary Clinton's memoir about her time as secretary of state, I got a lot done. I scoured my computer for duplicate files and erased dozens of gigabytes of redundant information. I cleaned and reorganized all the music in my iTunes folder. I sent about 10 e-mails I had been meaning to get around to for ages. I was feeling productive, but I wasn't making any progress in the book. I expected it to take me about three days to read—it took a week. Eventually, it dawned on me that I was doing anything in my power to avoid reading Hard Choices, because Hard Choices is a book without suspense, a narrative that leaves you with absolutely no desire to turn the page.

I certainly don't think Clinton is a boring person; she's one of the most interesting figures in modern American politics. And I don't think the time she spent in office as secretary of state was dull. Nor do I have any doubt that she could write an interesting book about her time as secretary of state. Hard Choices is just not that book, because Hard Choices is obviously a mechanism to promote Clinton's 2016 run for president. These campaign-ready books, especially from figures like Clinton who need no introduction to the general public, are intended to address as many issues as possible in the blandest language possible. That way, when a Benghazi-addled Republican heckles Clinton at her thirtieth Iowa steak fry, she can simply tell the howling white moron to read her book, which addresses many pages to the matter. Case closed. It's a useful trick, but it makes for one of the most dreadful reading experiences I've had in recent memory.

I suppose if you need a crash course in the current state of geopolitics, Hard Choices could be the (impossibly bland) textbook for you. It's arranged by region rather than in strict chronological order, and most chapters begin with Clinton's brief, cliché-addled debriefings for the part of world she's about to discuss. (Did you know that China is "full of contradictions," for example?) Sometimes, Clinton displays a substitute teacher's stiff attempts at a loose conversational tone: "Here's a question whose answer may surprise you: What part of the world is the destination for more than 40 percent of all US exports?... In fact the two largest single destinations for our exports are our closest neighbors: Canada and Mexico." And more importantly, these passages do the essential sucking up to our allies that every major presidential candidate has to do...

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