by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
You don’t have to be a right-wing commentator to be left unimpressed by the latest element of Hillary Clinton’s next presidential campaign. TIME magazine has little good to say about the former secretary of state’s new memoir.
“Be careful to ‘be real,’” reads a now famous memo written for Hillary Clinton by a top aide back in 1999, when she was embarking on her first campaign for the U.S. Senate. It was sound advice, which Clinton appeared to be heeding 15 years later on June 9 when she chuckled and charmed her way through an hour-long interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer about her newest book, Hard Choices.
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But “real” is a tricky thing in politics. When Sawyer pressed Clinton on the enormous wealth–more than $100 million–that she and her husband have amassed from the public-speaking circuit, Clinton said point-blank that they needed the money after eight years in the White House. “We struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea’s education,” Clinton said, referring to the couple’s two homes, in the New York City suburbs and Washington, D.C., both valued at over $5 million. “You know, it was not easy.”
As far as political gaffes go, it was a fairly minor one. But amid a stage-managed rollout of a sanitized book, whose 635 pages read as though they were scrubbed by several dozen loyal aides and lawyers to prevent any admissions, it was the sort of reality that people notice. Until then, nothing had been left to chance. Select chapters of Hard Choices had been leaked ahead of time, and Clinton’s early book signings were case studies in micromanagement: a publication-day Barnes & Noble event in New York forbade personalized inscriptions and photos with the author.
All of it underscored the obvious: Hard Choices is not a literary event but a political one.