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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: bill clinton, , history binge, richard nixon, , watergate   

    The Ultimate Slow Burn Reading List 

    Podcasts have come into their own in recent years, and in a post-Serial world, we’re all suffering from choice paralysis when it comes to picking our next engrossing listen-in.

    Right now, the podcast that’s proving to be the most addictive of them all is Slate’s Slow Burn, now in its second season. After a season spent teasing out the untold and overlooked stories behind the Richard Nixon/Watergate (and making us obsess over that 18 minutes of missing tape again), the show has moved on to the logical followup, focusing on the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal of the late-1990s, and the president’s subsequent impeachment back in the 1990s.

    If you haven’t listened yet, binge away. If you have, we’ve come up with a reading list of books mentioned on the show, used in the research process, or which complement the proceedings.

    Season 1: Watergate

    All the President’s Men, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
    If you’re going to sound smart about Watergate—still the number one “gate” of many in American politics—you have to start with the mother lode, the book famed Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein penned about their investigation into the scandal that shook the country and took down a president. In a modern day when the term “fake news” is common parlance, it’s refreshing to be reminded what real journalism looks like. It’s also easy to forget what a sensation the book was when it first published in 1974.

    Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes, by Stanley I. Kutler
    You can’t beat original sources for getting your facts straight and gaining insight into historic events, and Richard Nixon was kind enough to literally record everything that happened in the Oval Office as he was conspiring to abuse his power, break the law, and cursing a blue streak. Twenty-five years after the existence of the tapes was revealed, Kutler successfully sued to get access to all of them, and it’s quite amazing to see the conspiracy unfold in black-and-white as the events at the Watergate Hotel are directly addressed by an increasingly paranoid, desperate president.

    The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate, by James Rosen
    John Mitchell was, by all accounts, the most powerful member of Nixon’s cabinet, an attorney general confident in his sense of justice and how to enforce the laws of the land. He was also the highest-ranking member of the government to spend time in jail, convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury—distinctively not law-and-order activities. The question of what Mitchell knew and what he did about it—and whether he was set up as the fall guy for the president—brings a flavor of uncertainty to what is largely settled history. This book paints a sympathetic portrait of Mitchell, which complicates the traditional narrative of Watergate—and makes this deeply-researched work a must read for anyone diving into Slow Burn.

    Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, by Conrad Black
    To understand Watergate, you have to understand Nixon: a ball of rage, intelligence, insecurity, and resentment mashed within a brilliant politician. No stranger to legal difficulties and falls from grace himself, Conrad Black brings a warm sympathy to Nixon that somehow makes the president’s flaws shine even more brightly. Nixon was a complicated man, not a cartoon villain, and yet he often undermined his own success and seemed incapable of enjoying it. If you think of Slow Burn as a reality-based aural novel, this book will assist in your appreciation of Nixon the character.

    Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years, by J. Anthony Lukas
    Beginning as a work of journalism chronicling the impeachment proceedings against Nixon, this 1973 book is a visceral work of time travel. Where many history books can be a bit bloodless, calmly consider ing events of the distant past, Lukas captures not just the facts but the sense of chaos and decline that afflicted the country as the Watergate scandal spiraled out of Nixon’s control. It’s an incredibly detailed, well-organized account of the scandal, walking the reader through every drip of new information and every move the White House made as it sought to avoid its inevitable fate.

    The Great Coverup, by Barry Sussman
    While most Watergate accounts focus on the public events and the personalities involved, Sussman’s digs into the skulduggery and secret orders intended to keep the scandal contained—even as it was blown ever wider in congressional hearings and newspaper reports. The laundry list of things Nixon attempted in his efforts to stave off disaster included everything from interfering with the courts, to directing the CIA and FBI to investigate his enemies, to announcing military movements seemingly designed to change the headlines. Sussman captures all of it in fascinating detail.

    Season 2: The Clinton Impeachment

    The Death of American Virtue: Clinton Vs. Starr, by Ken Gormley
    This massive, almost overwhelming book is not just a source of information, but an experience. Packed with endless detail, it follows every thread of the Whitewater investigation that ultimately led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, making it the ideal reference guide to Slow Burn’s new season. No one in this shabby drama comes off well—not the president, nor the special counsel, and certainly not the other politicians involved.

    My Life, by Bill Clinton
    Clinton’s charm is a physical force, and explains much of his political success. It’s certainly on full display in this autobiography. Going in knowing that he’s trying to charm you is a smart strategy, but there’s still a lot of fascinating stuff here that helps explain how a brilliant man could repeat mistakes over and over again—and how a newly-elected governor could so alienate everyone in his state that he found himself in the political wilderness for years could become a president who then immediately alienated many in the federal government. Knowing how Bill Clinton ticks will inform and shade the rest of this season for you—even if it’s hard to trust what he says here about the Lewinsky affair.

    Monica’s Story, by Andrew Morton
    There’s a crucial voice missing in season two of Slow Burn—that of Monica Lewinsky herself (she understandably declined to be interviewed for the podcast). We do get a glimpse of the events from her perspective in this 1999 book from Andrew Morton, based on hours of intimate interviews with the young intern who held the fate of a country in her hands. While we will probably never know if Morton’s account is skewed by his own biases (at least until Lewinsky decides to tell her own story—though that looks unlikely), his work remains essential to our understanding of how a private affair became a public scandal, and goes a long way toward challenging the Lewinsky’s image as a lovesick little girl, painting her as a real, complex person with her own sense of agency.

    A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President, by Jeffrey Toobin
    Toobin’s brilliant bookreads like a thriller detailing a slow-rolling group of scandals that alone would have been merely disastrous, but combined, almost destroyed a president. The author brings a level of even-handed, journalistic objectivity to the flashy sex and money scandals that spurred impeachment proceedings and cast the Clintons as something more than just politicians for millions of conspiracy-minded Americans. It’s a recounting of outrageous events that shows clarity and laudable restraint.

    Inside the Clinton White House: An Oral History, by Russell L. Riley
    Bill Clinton was president for eight years, and it’s important to look past the Whitewater and Lewinsky scandals and delve into what his administration accomplished during that time, if only for added context. This collection of interviews offers a sharp impression of what life was like in the Clinton White House—how things ran, which personalities dominated, and, of course, how business got done even when the future of the administration hung on a vote in the Senate.

    Blood Sport: The Truth Behind the Scandals in the Clinton White House, by James B. Stewart
    Stewart focuses on the scandals that underlay the investigations, which swirled together to reinforce each other, bring each other back from obscurity, and create a palpable sense that something must be wrong, in the where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire sense. Pivoting off the shocking suicide of Vince Foster (an event that still gets plenty of attention from Clinton conspiracy theorists) Stewart separates fact from fiction in each strand of the Clintons’ no good, very bad couple of years, a time when everything they did—and didn’t do—seemed to hurt them.

    Contempt: A Memoir, by Ken Starr
    If there’s one voice people have been waiting for in the context of the Whitewater investigation and eventual impeachment proceedings, it’s Ken Starr’s. Derided by some as an incompetent who messed up the case, and by others as a stalwart defender of simple justice, Starr finally breaks his silence with this anticipated memoir of the whole dirty affair. No fan of Slow Burn—or just history—should miss their chance to see everything from Mr. Starr and his team’s perspective; he recounts the entire investigation, from the first whispers of scandal to the vote that preserved Clinton’s office.

    Did we miss any essential books on Nixon and Clinton?

    The post The Ultimate <i>Slow Burn</i> Reading List appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/06/07 Permalink
    Tags: bill clinton, consider the source, , , ,   

    The Ex-Presidents Bookshelf 

    With a few notable exceptions, becoming president of The United States is a demanding career path that requires boundless energy, deep resources both personal and practical, and formidable brain power. Just getting into office takes decades of work, and once there, you’ve got to be able to process a lot of information and basically be always-on. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that ex-presidents do things like write books after they leave office—a lifetime of outperforming everyone else from your high school class doesn’t just go dormant when you leave your successor’s inauguration. It also shouldn’t surprise that many of these books are excellent works that endure the test of time.

    Here are 10 books written by ex-presidents that deserve their shelf in your personal library.

    The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
    This new release gets the top spot for the simple reason that it’s the rare work of fiction by an ex-president. No one could have predicted that Bill Clinton had the chops to write a novel, but partnering with Patterson means that whatever Bill might lack in storytelling skills is made right. The combination of one of the modern masters of the thriller and someone who spent eight years as the most powerful man in the world, reading all the classified reports and dealing with situations we won’t even learn about until a century from now, is pretty exciting, and the premise had us hooked from page one: determined to stop a terrorist threat, the president goes rogue—and goes AWOL—and takes matters into his own hands.

    The Diary of James K. Polk During His Presidency, by James Polk
    What makes this book a must-read? On the one hand, it’s a glimpse into what being president was like in the mid-19th century, when the U.S. was a much different country and holding the office was a much different job. On the other hand, Polk passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks after leaving office, leading many historians to note that he therefore had no opportunity to edit and revise his memoirs. These are the raw notes he took, in the moment, recording his thoughts and reactions in real time. Considering hew began keeping a diary in service to his frequent arguments with his cabinet, the drama quotient is delightfully high.

    Crusade in Europe, by Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Eisenhower is one of then most remarkable men to have ever served as president. After a brilliant military career that culminated in the D-Day invasion of Europe and the ultimate defeat of the Axis powers in World War II, Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 and became one of the most important people to serve in the office, overseeing a country that was rapidly transforming into a superpower in just about every sense of the word—military, economic, and otherwise. His 1948 book about his experience in World War II is remarkable, walking you through events and decisions that continue to impact our world today and giving you a glimpse into the challenges of commanding such a huge and disparate military effort.

    Profiles in Courage, by John F. Kennedy
    Kennedy’s authorship of this book has been thrown into question over the years, but it remains a remarkable book from a politically ambitious senator who would be elected president a few years after its publication. What sets it apart from many other books by politicians is the fact that Kennedy didn’t write about himself, instead choosing to highlight eight other senators throughout American history who risked their political lives and futures to do what they felt was right, despite pressure from their peers or party to do otherwise. Whoever actually wrote the book, it’s a stirring work that still reminds us that sometimes, you have to put country over party, and justice over everything.

    The Virtues of Aging, by Jimmy Carter
    Jimmy Carter lost his bid for re-election in 1980, when he was 56 years old. Nearly two decades later, on his way to being one of our wisest and steadiest ex-presidents, he wrote this charming, thoughtful rumination on aging in modern times, a subject few like to think about. He was in his mid-70s then, of course, and that seemed like an appropriate time to think about old age, but here we are, 20 years after that moment, and Carter is, thankfully, still with us, and still active. If you can’t learn something about aging gracefully from a man who’s been alive post-presidency almost as long as he was alive pre-presidency, you’re not trying very hard.

    Portraits of Courage, by George W. Bush
    Like John F. Kennedy before him, Bush chose to make his 2017 book not about himself, but about the true heroes that serve our country. Poignantly, many of the men and women depicted in Bush’s portraits served while he was president, meaning that his decisions directly affected their lives, a heavy burden that many would seek to insulate themselves from. Bush is a surprisingly accomplished artist, proving that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself, or to grapple with the darker side of your legacy in new ways. His own courage in addressing the consequences of his own decision-making results in a remarkable book.

    The Jefferson Bible, by Thomas Jefferson
    The amazing thing about the United States is how dynamic it is; laws are reinterpreted, policies changed, and roles redefined on a regular basis. Determining what our Founding Fathers truly thought about various subjects has therefore become more than an academic exercise, but a vitally important element of our legislative and judicial process. Thomas Jefferson had very unique ideas about religion and spirituality that don’t necessarily jibe with today’s mainstream understandings of either, and his “bible” is a prime example, a version of the book Jefferson hand-crafted by cutting out sections and rearranging them onto the page with glue–excising the miracles, references to Jesus’ divinity, and other aspects of the good book Jefferson found to be “fanciful.” The result is a fascinating glimpse into one of our most unusual presidential minds.

    Through the Brazilian Wilderness, by Theodore Roosevelt
    There have been few presidents as accomplished—and indefatigable—as Roosevelt, who served led the Rough Riders, served two presidential terms, ran for a third, and spent his retirement doing more before 6AM than most of us do all week. Roosevelt was pushed throughout his adult life to be physically fit and strong after a childhood of weakness and poor health, and his expedition into uncharted areas of South America at the age of fifty-five is a testament to the energy he brought to every aspect of his existence. The expedition encountered cannibals, flesh-eating bacteria, and plenty of other dangers, but was ultimately a scientific success on a grand scale. Roosevelt’s firsthand account is thrilling, and will make you wonder why modern presidents seem to do little more than collect fees for speeches.

    Dreams of My Father, by Barack Obama
    Obama remains a singular president, and a man already recognized for his writing and speaking prowess long before his political career saw him become the first black president of the United States. His 2004 book explores his biracial legacy in a strikingly personal manner. Where most political books tend towards policy and wonky recitations of campaign speeches, Obama chose to be intimate and honest as he struggled with his father’s memory, his African roots, and his identity as an American. Even if he hadn’t become president, this would be a book worth reading, just to understand a little better what it means to be an American in the 21st century.

    Personal Memoirs, by Ulysses S. Grant
    One of the greatest examples of a memoir written by a man with nothing left to lose, this vibrant and sharply written work was composed by Grant when he was dying and nearly broke—he wrote it hoping set his family up with an income after he was gone (and died just a few days after completing it). In these pages you get insight into Grant, who was both one of our greatest military leaders and possibly one of our worst presidents—either a drunken layabout or a brilliant commander, depending on who you ask. His decisions during his military career had direct impact on the development of this country, and his decisions while president are still being debated today. This is a book any student of history should read.

    The post The Ex-Presidents Bookshelf appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • BN Editors 2:18 pm on 2018/03/30 Permalink
    Tags: bill clinton, , , ,   

    The President Is Missing! Watch the Trailer for the Thrilling New Novel by James Patterson and Bill Clinton 

    The White House is the home of the President of the United States, the most guarded, monitored, closely watched person in the world. So how could a U.S. President vanish without a trace? And why would he choose to do so?

    Bestselling author James Patterson and President Bill Clinton team up for The President Is Missing, the biggest thriller of the year. Watch the book trailer below, and place your preorder now.

    The President Is Missing will be published on June 4, 2018.

    The post The President Is Missing! Watch the Trailer for the Thrilling New Novel by James Patterson and Bill Clinton appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 5:00 pm on 2018/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: 11/22/63, abraham lincoln vampire hunter, all american girl, american queen, american wife, , bill clinton, , , , , dolley, eighteen acres, ellen feldman, eugene burdock, executive orders, failsafe, frost/nixon, , harvey wheeler, , it can’t happen here, jailbird, , jenn marie thorne, joe klein, , , leader of the free world, , lucy, , , mount vernon love story, mrs. President, nicole wallace, peter morgan, , primary colors, , seth grahams-smith, sierra simone, sinclair lewis, stephen carter, , , the impeachment of abraham lincoln, , the plot against america, , the wrong side of right, , wide awake   

    25 Fictional Presidents 

    President’s Day is around the corner, so we compiled a list of 25 fictional presidents for you to read about! If watching the news bums you out, but political intrigue does not, these books are for you.

    Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
    This haunting novel centers around the true story of Lincoln’s son, who died during his Presidency. While President Lincoln visits the gravesite of his son, the ghosts who have clung to life narrate a deeply moving, complex thread of tales.

    11/22/63, by Stephen King
    This political sci-fi is about a man who travels back in time with one goal—to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While the President does not “officially” appear in the story, the entire plot centers around Jake Epping managing to stop Lee Harvey Oswald…but will his actions have the opposite impact on American history than he hopes?

    American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
    Loosely based on Laura Bush, this novel stars Alice, a small-town girl who grows up to marry a future President. Follow Alice in her courtship by a dazzling Republican man she finds herself unable to stay away from…but once they enter the White House, she realizes she disagrees with in ways they may be unable to reconcile.

    Jailbird, by Kurt Vonnegut
    Watergate gets even more insidious in this story, told from the perspective of a fictional co-conspirator in the Nixon Administration cover-up. Wry and humorous, but also dark and revealing of the jagged edges of human nature, Vonnegut’s anti-hero shares the story from his perspective years later, after serving his time for the crime.

    Dolley, by Rita Mae Brown
    Dolley Madison was the fourth first lady in American history, and this novel explores her fictional diary. Being the wife of one of America’s founders was both glamorous, full of fashion and parties…and horrendous, as her husband ushers the country into war.

    Primary Colors, by Joe Klein
    Originally published anonymously, this novel takes readers behind the political curtain of presidential campaigns. Based on Bill Clinton’s rise to the presidency, told from the perspective of a lower-level aide, every moment is rife with drama on the verge of scandal.

    Eighteen Acres, by Nicolle Wallace
    Nicole Wallace is a former Communications Director of the White House (and current political pundit) and wrote a novel imagining the first woman president as she weathers a re-election campaign, an infidelity scandal, and an international blunder.

    American Queen, by Sierra Simone
    Now for a very different kind of novel, this erotic romance imagines a completely fictional scenario in which a girl finds herself in love with two men: they just happen to be the President of the United States…and the Vice President of the United States. Confused? Once you meet Greer, Embry and Maxen in this reimagining of Camelot, you’ll be in love.

    The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
    This book isn’t even available yet, but it’s totally pre-order worthy…because it’s the first novel written by a former President! Bill Clinton teamed up with James Patterson to write a political thriller about what happens when a President vanishes without a trace.

    Failsafe, by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler
    Published in 1962, when tensions between Russia and the US were at an all-time high, this speculative novel imagines a scenario in which American bombers take control of the nuclear weapons and decide to put an end to the conflict once and for all…and the President must act before Russia engages them in all-out war.

    The Dead Zone, by Stephen King
    Stephen King returns to the list with this bestselling speculative novel about a man who wakes up from a coma with the mysterious ability to see people’s futures. But this becomes a problem when he has a vision of a man running for President…and it’s disastrous. Does he intervene to prevent it from coming true?

    Executive Orders, by Tom Clancy
    The worst has occurred: the President, the cabinet, and most of congress is dead. That leaves the VP, Jack Ryan, in charge. President Ryan must govern without a government all the while trying to figure out who is responsible. Riveting and with twists that will leave you breathless, fans of Designated Survivor will love this novel.

    The Inner Circle, by Brad Meltzer
    An adventure of presidential proportions begins when an archivist and his one-time crush find a mysterious dictionary that belonged to the first president, George Washington. They must race against the clock to decipher the meaning of the dictionary, and, once a man ends up dead, hope they don’t end up suffering the same fate.

    The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen L. Carter
    This fascinating novel imagines a world where Lincoln did not die, and instead lived to face the consequences of the Civil War…namely, an impeachment trial for a breach of executive powers. When one of Lincoln’s lawyers is murdered, a young black woman working for his defense team must unravel the mystery.

    Mount Vernon Love Story, by Mary Higgins Clark
    Mystery master Mary Higgins Clark wrote an historical novel about George Washington! Did you know that many people believe Washington, despite being married to Martha, was in love with someone else? Higgins Clark is not one of them; she writes the love story between America’s FIRST first-couple as one of mutual respect, admiration, and affection.

    Lucy, by Ellen Feldman
    In contrast, this novel is about a president who was in love with someone who wasn’t his wife. Before he was President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved Lucy Mercer…Eleanor’s social secretary. Through polio, a world war, and two presidential terms, despite his promises to Eleanor, Franklin and Lucy remain connected. Heartbreaking, romantic, and beautiful.

    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith
    Presidents go paranormal in this fun novel that reveals the true story behind our 16th President. Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter, hell-bent on vengeance against the creatures responsible for his mother’s death.

    Mr. President, by Katy Evans
    Matt and Charlotte have known one another since they were kids. He was the son of a President, and vowed never to follow in his father’s footsteps…except now he has, bringing Charlotte along for the ride. The problem? Charlotte loves him, but knows she can never love a President. This erotic romance novel sizzles with political steam.

    The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth
    An Alternative history where FDR loses the 1940 election to isolationist Charles Lindbergh…who strikes a deal with Hitler to stay out of his way. But tensions rise, along with anti-Semintism, and the consequences are seen through the eyes of one boy.

    It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis
    This book was written during the Great Depression, but the subject matter is still relevant today. Featuring another character who unseats Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the Presidency, this novel details the dangers of populist rhetoric with a President who halts progress on all fronts and holds his enemies captive.

    Frost/Nixon, by Peter Morgan
    This play dramatizes the epic showdown between journalist David Frost and President Nixon, in which the former tries to get the latter to confess to his crimes. (You can watch the movie, too!)

    Crooked, by Austin Grossman
    Grossman’s reinvention of Tricky Dick as the inheritor of a presidency imbued with magical powers—a man consistently distrusted and marginalized by the people who could have prepared him for the battles to come—is thoroughly enjoyable. Most importantly, it offers up an idea of a president who has more than a veto up his or her sleeves. Certainly a little black magic would be very welcome in today’s unsettled world.

    All American Girl, by Meg Cabot
    One of my favorite YA novels featuring regular-girl Sam Madison, who saves the president from an assassination attempt. Sam is in love with her older sister’s boyfriend, but as she spends more time with the President’s son—the only person who seems to understand the downsides to her newfound fame—she starts to question both her choice, and whether she could love the kid who lives in the White House.

    The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thorne
    Kate has never known her father, but when her mother dies, he reveals himself: a powerful politician vying for the White House. Suddenly, Kate is embroiled in the world of politics, a new family, and a dangerous first-love…all the while grieving for her mom, and the life she once loved.

    Wide Awake, by David Levithan
    This speculative novel stars the first gay, Jewish President…whose election is promptly declared invalid by a governor of a crucial state. Jimmy and Duncan, a teen couple, decide to lend their support by joining the protests to support him.

    What novels featuring fictionalized presidents do you love?

    The post 25 Fictional Presidents appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 8:14 pm on 2014/06/10 Permalink
    Tags: , bill clinton, , , , , , political figures, , , vladimir putin   

    5 Revelations from Hillary Clinton’s New Memoir, Hard Choices 

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    Hillary Clinton, kicking off her book tour today at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, New York.

    She’s nothing if not a polarizing figure, and if you ask ten people their thoughts on Hillary Clinton, chances are you’ll get twenty different responses. But it’s undeniable that she’s led a fascinating life filled with unique experiences—and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. I sat down with a cup of coffee and a copy of Clinton’s highly anticipated new memoir, Hard Choices, to see what our former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State has to say about the tumultuous years since her 2008 Presidential bid. Here are a few of the more interesting subjects (of the many, many topics Clinton touched on) in this engaging, absorbing, and occasionally wry and funny read:

    Life in the Sky: Clinton’s Second Home Aboard a U.S. Air Force Boeing 757:
    During her four years as Secretary of State, Clinton spent over 2,000 hours (or 87 full days) aboard her 757, where she told her staff to “dress casually, sleep as much as possible, and do whatever they could to stay sane and healthy amid the rigors of a grueling schedule.” While in the air, she and her staff also celebrated birthdays, watched (and occasionally cried over) sappy romantic comedies, and were delighted by Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke’s “bright yellow pajamas that he called his ‘sleeping suit.’” She added that the plane broke down several times, stranding her briefly in different countries across the world. Even when you’re Secretary of State, you still end up occasionally waiting around thanks to a plane’s “mechanical issues.”

    The Truth Behind Clinton’s Decision to Accept the Position of Secretary of State:
    In Hard Choices, Clinton reiterates that serving as Secretary of State for Barack Obama’s new administration was not something she immediately agreed to. In fact, she initially turned the offer down, then spent several days mulling the decision over, speaking with family, friends, and advisers, before accepting the offer. Clinton notes she was concerned that taking time out of her career in the Senate would derail the work she was doing in that position. She explains that what finally swayed her decision was, “a simple idea: When your President asks you to serve, you should say yes. As much as I loved my work in the Senate and believed I had more to contribute there, he said he needed me in the State Department.” Discussing her father’s service in the Navy during World War II, she notes that although he “often grumbled about the decisions various Presidents made in Washington, he and my mother instilled in me a deep sense of duty and service.” This story offers insight into Clinton’s decision to wholeheartedly support and serve President Obama, after waging a sometimes acrimonious campaign against him for the presidency.

    She’s Even Gotten Vladimir Putin to Open Up:
    In September 2012 Clinton attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, which was hosted by President Putin in Vladivostok, in place of Barack Obama, who couldn’t attend due to his campaign schedule (which Putin resented). Seated next to Putin at dinner, Clinton discussed visiting a memorial in St. Petersburg for the victims of the 1941–44 Nazi siege of that city (then called Leningrad). Putin then told her a story about his family that she had never heard nor read before: During WWII, he said, his father came home for a brief break from military service to find men loading a pile of bodies into a truck outside the apartment he shared with his wife. Approaching them, he recognized that one of the bodies belonged to his wife, and demanded that it be returned to him. After some arguing, it was—and he discovered she was still alive. Putin’s father nursed his mother back to health, and eight years later their son Vladimir was born. Clinton noted that she’s never been able to verify the veracity of this story—but that it’s a fascinating glimpse into the psyche of Russia’s complicated president.

    She Believes Technology is a Double-Edged Sword:
    Although Clinton admits she is “not the most tech-savvy person,” she also describes “falling in love with my iPad,” even as she acknowledges that new technologies, including more widespread use of cell phones and ever expanding social media channels, are tools that are “in and of themselves value-neutral. They could be forces for bad as easily as for good, just as steel can be used to build hospitals or tanks, and nuclear power can either energize a city or destroy it.” She adds that we must “act responsibly to maximize technology’s benefits—while minimizing the risks.” Ways she and her staff were advised to minimize those risks included leaving “BlackBerrys, laptops—anything that communicated with the outside world—on the plane, with their batteries removed to prevent foreign intelligence services from compromising them” when they visited places like Russia. She was also advised to keep sensitive material confidential by reading it “inside an opaque tent in a hotel room. In less well-equipped settings we were told to improvise by reading sensitive material with a blanket over our head. I felt like I was ten years old again, reading covertly by flashlight under the covers after bedtime.” I can’t help but smile at the thought of Clinton reading important classified documents with a blanket over her head, the way I read Twilight.

    So? Is She Running For President in 2016?
    The short answer, in the epilogue of Hard Choices, is: “I haven’t decided yet.” I know, this didn’t satisfy me, either. But as Clinton also notes, “the most important questions anyone considering running must answer are not ‘Do you want to be President?’ or ‘Can you win?’ They are ‘What’s your vision for America?’ and ‘Can you lead us there?’” It’s the kind of pragmatic approach to presidential politics that can only come from someone who has run for president before. Whether Clinton decides to run again or not—another hard choice that is still on the horizon—remains to be seen. But with this memoir, she’s given us a thorough and detailed account of her experiences as Secretary of State, and her hopes for the future of the country—which if she does decide to run, will be useful information for voters.

    Are you planning to read Hillary Clinton’s new memoir?

     
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