Customer Reviews: Hard Choices
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on July 9, 2014
Some disclosures up front:

--Unlike some of the people who didn't like this book, I am a long-standing liberal Democrat. Among other things, this means that I'm not at all bothered by her constant digs at W's foreign policy (such as it was).
--While I'm not one of those people who worships the ground Hillary Clinton even thinks about walking on, I greatly respect and even admire her. In retrospect, I think she'd have made a better President than Mr. Obama, and I'll likely vote for her in 2016 (and I have got to believe she's running).
--I usually like or love books that combine politics with history.

For all these reasons and more, it's totally disappointing that this book was so bad. Another reviewer called it "pabulum," and while I disagree with other comments he made, that one is spot on. The only thing good about the book is that it was organized by global region. Other than that, it's dull, pre-digested and formulaic. She manages to take matters that are fascinating, terrifying, dramatic or even "just" historically significant and turn them into pedantic pabulum (there it is again). As if that weren't bad enough, she feels compelled to give us at least one moral for every story, but in every case I can recall the moral was something like "I believe that it's important to reach out to people who disagree with you." That kind of thing is really insipid and, frankly, condescending to anyone who shells out big bucks to buy a book like that.

When I listened to the New York Times Book Review podcast in which Peter Baker commented on his review of this book, he said that two sections that should be read were those on Benghazi and on our relationship with Mubarak and why it's sometimes necessary to support people we don't like because it's in our national interest to do so. Both of these sections suffered from the infirmities noted above. Worse, it seemed to me that the Mubarak discussion is hypocritical at best.

Frankly, if I didn't know anything about Ms. Clinton other than what I read in this book, I probably would NOT vote for her.
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on July 22, 2014
I so badly wanted to like this book. Full disclosure, I am a strong liberal and I am very well-read on foreign policy and have read a large number of U.S. policy-maker memoirs. I respect Hillary a great deal and think she has had unparalleled experience, particularly in foreign policy, and was excited to see what she had to say. Unfortunately, I struggled through this. I read the first 300 pages very closely and then skimmed the last half. The whole book was written as if it was purely political rhetoric--unsurprising, I suppose, from someone who expected this book to be dissected on every page if she ran for President... but I can't help but think back to Obama's book shortly before he ran, and I did not feel this same way. The book is purely devoid of emotion; the closest it got to heartfelt genuine feeling was in discussing Richard Holbrooke's death, but even that felt guarded. It is full of cliches, fact-of statements, and few insights into decision-making, at least very very few that sound genuine at all.

Example: "It won't be easy to do that [make tough changes at home] in our current political atmosphere. But to quote from one of my favorite moves, A League of Their Own: 'It's supposed to be hard... The hard is what makes it great." Doing what's hard will continue to make our country great."

Cheesy, trite, and meaningless. This was an immense disappointment and I expected much more. I also did not think it was particularly well-written. Hillary exemplifies her diplomatic prowess, I suppose, but, as I read in another review online, proved that she has not mastered how to write a memoir. She somehow managed to take the topic I find most interesting and make it pedantic and dull.
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on July 6, 2014
Alright. I will lay out my political outlook first. I am a Conservative who is a bit of a political junkie and I follow politics like one would follow sports. Even though I am a Conservative I enjoyed Barack Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" and "Dreams from my father". My favorite political autobiography was that of Ted Kennedy. The point is I can be non biased when it comes to literature. Hillary's "Hard Choice's" is a very boring book and that isn't always bad as long as it is informative but this book is not informative and its very partisan without details or explanation like Obama did in "The Audacity of Hope."

For example. Clinton explains her work in trying to improve relations with Turkey in her tenure as Secretary of State. She explains how important Turkey is given its economy, education, and geo political position. She goes on to say the US has always enjoyed great relations with Turkey but these were dramatically ruined under Bush's Presidency and now she has to clean up the mess. This attack on Bush's foreign policy is a constant theme in the book which is OK except there is no explanation as to why Bush was unsuccessful in specific countries like Turkey. I personally know Bush and Turkey butted heads because Turkey constantly did cross border operations into Iraq attacking the Kurdish community in the North. Bush threatened them with sanctions if they continued these operations as it was damaging our efforts there. It would have been useful to readers who were not in Iraq during that time period for her to explain that dynamic and then criticizing Bush's handling of it instead of blindly throwing jabs at Bush's foreign policy.

Now I gave it two stars instead of one because I mostly enjoyed the two chapters on Afghanistan and Pakistan. I totally disagree with much of the policy her team had out there and I think a lot of it is dangerous but she did a good job explaining it. These explanations are missing in the rest of this very boring book.

Also, I was disturbed that Clinton is still calling Team Obama of 2008 "sexist" after spending so much time working together. It may have some truth but this is a prelude to her 2016 campaign for President that will include every Conservative attack with a "They are sexist vote for me" type of attitude and response. I don't expect much serious debate or discussion in 2016. It will be "They are sexist so don't listen to them" and the Republicans will spend most of the time explaining they are not. It is sad and troubling. This did not play a factor in my rating.
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on June 12, 2016
Paperback is a rewrite:

The paperback version of Hillary Clinton’s memoir “Hard Choices” fails to include her support of the international trade pact TPP that rivals Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have opposed, raising criticism about Clinton “reinventing herself” for the general election race.

The paperback version of Clinton’s 2014 book, which details her work as secretary of state for President Obama, omits the passage in which she touts her efforts to get the country to support the 12-nation trade deal, which she once referred to as the “gold standard” for such agreements.

“We worked hard to improve and ratify trade agreements with Colombia and Panama and encouraged Canada and the group of countries that became known as the Pacific Alliance -- Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile -- all open-market democracies driving toward a more prosperous future to join negotiations with Asian nations on TPP, the trans-Pacific trade agreement,” Clinton says in the hardback version about a 2009 effort.

However, Clinton changed her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in October 2015, about a month after the deal was signed and after weeks of being pressed by the news media for an answer.

A total 96 pages were trimmed from the hardback version. Publisher Simon & Schuster said a “limited number of sections” were cut to “accommodate a shorter length for this edition," according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which reported on the changes shortly after the paperback edition was released in April.

“That Clinton's own memoir is reinventing itself for the general election shows the lengths she will go to mislead the American people," Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short told, which along with The International Business Times earlier this week picked up on the changes and reported them.
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on July 24, 2014
This is the driest, most boring piece of non-fiction that I have ever read. If history is repeating itself and Hillary uses this book to spring into a presidential run, I'm unimpressed. All she did in this book was use smoke and mirrors to appear ready and able to run the country....again, not impressed.
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on June 21, 2014
My sister lent me this extremely long book. The cover of the book shows a photo that must have been taken many years ago, when Mrs. Clinton was much younger. I have read several books that portrayed the Clintons in a very negative light. Being an independent, moderate person, who watches ALL of the cable news channels and reads both liberal ("progressive") and conservative online blogs, I decided that I had better get to know Mrs. Clinton a lot better than I do, since she is obviously going to run for the Democratic nomination for President. Despite her being coy about it, it is obvious that she is definitely running. This is not a book that will allow you to get to know her. She tries to show that she is a decisive leader but she did not convince me of that. Whoever wrote this book (a ghostwriter?) keeps everything on a safe, surface level. I think that Mrs. Clinton is trying to convince the U.S. voters that she is NOT the sharp-elbowed, vengeful, unethical, get-into-the ditch, political street fighter that her foes claim her to be. No human being is as bland, mild, forgiving and nice as she portrays herself in this book. For example, some negative aspects of her personality have shown up, on her current book tour. Unfortunately, she decided to put out a dishonest, less-than-genuine book, instead of telling us the truth about herself; her bizarre-and-dysfunctional relationship with her husband; her relationship with President Obama; her time in the State Department; and her life. Almost everything about her, the State Department, fellow Democrats, Bill Clinton and the Obamas is just "wonderful." That's the conclusion that I came to, after reading ALL of this book. On another note, this is the most BORING book that I have read, in many years. I only finished reading it because I did not want to disappoint my sister. If you still are interested in reading this, wait until you can borrow it from your local library. It's a real YAWNER. Here's a personal guarantee: If you have insomnia and want to experience Clinton fatigue, along with a nice NAP, this is the book for you!
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on July 8, 2014
Want to save some money? Here is the synopsis of the book: she traveled to 112 countries, she worked hard and she traveled to a lot of countries.
She doesn't really explain why our relations with Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel.....112 countries are worse now than before she was Secretary of State.
But she did travel over one million miles!
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on July 17, 2014
I am halfway through, and I just can't make myself finish. This is not normal for me. I am an avid reader, and I read a wide variety. While I am a conservative, thus not in agreement with much of Mrs. Clinton's ideologies, I do read - and finish - numerous works by liberal authors, fiction and non-fiction. Not finishing a book is almost unheard of for me.

The content is hard to connect with, and rather dry and unengaging. It also has a decidedly pompous tone that is difficult to get around in an honest attempt to really dig deep for that elusive connection. I truly do not say that as a conservative vs liberal thing, as I've been bored or put-off by more conservative authors, as well.
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on May 17, 2016
Id on't like liars. This article explains why you should have hard copy rather than a paperback version: [...] Clinton orchestrated the demise of democratically elected President in Honduras and knew the aftermath of the coup would be chaos. "“We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot and give the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future,” Clinton wrote.

But that paragraph — indeed, the entire two-page discussion of the Honduran coup — disappeared from the paperback edition. In the paperback version, the chapter on Latin America ends abruptly after a look at the debate over whether Cuba should be included in the Organization of American States. The deletion was first noted in an essay by Belén Fernández in the forthcoming book False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton that was cited in The Nation.

It’s a striking cut, given that Zelaya was overthrown just three weeks after Clinton’s visit to Honduras for the OAS meeting at which Cuba’s membership was debated, which she recounts as the penultimate anecdote of the Latin America chapter.

When asked about the edit, a Clinton spokeswoman pointed The Huffington Post to the front flap of the paperback edition, which notes generally that the text has been trimmed.

“A limited number of sections from the hardcover edition have been cut to accommodate a shorter length for this edition. Those sections remain available in the ebook edition,” it says.

The omission seems especially problematic in light of Cacéres’ death last week. The high-profile activist was well known for opposing construction of the Agua Zarca Dam, which would have forced indigenous Lenca people to leave land they consider sacred. She was killed by unidentified gunmen after receiving a series of threats.

In the hardcover edition of her memoir, Clinton trumpets the resolution of the coup through a new round of elections as a triumph for regional diplomacy.
Former President Manuel Zelaya returned to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa in May 2011 under an amnesty deal.
Honduras plunged into a period of extreme violence after the coup, as the de facto government suppressed protests with force. Even after a new elected president took office in early 2010, drug cartels exploited the confusion to solidify their control over trafficking routes to the U.S., and political violence made activism a deadly enterprise.
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on November 13, 2014
I picked this up because, what the hey, if it's good enough I might plop down the list price at a bookstore signing session and get it autographed for my collection. My recommendation is a generic one: I wouldn't suggest bothering with a memoir written by someone who'll likely be running for President. I'm sure the one she writes after she really retires will be extra juicy. But this one just didn't give me much of a buzz.

Perhaps "anodyne" would describe the style best. You just know she's been in an awful lot of food fights -- but she's not tellin'. It's more of "If this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium". A lot of travelogue, conference rooms, grip-n-grins with world leaders. There just isn't a lot of "there" there, though. And in 600 pages, you do start to hope for some dishin' the dirt. Nope, hardly a single spitball.

So on the one hand, she has to leave out the hot stuff because she's a Presidential contender. And on the other, she has to tone things down so as not to grievously offend anyone, much less give her opponents anything to work with. I certainly understand the strategy -- really don't see how she could've done it much differently -- but it results in considerably less than a biff-bang book.

Don't get me wrong. It'd be pretty hard to take all the interest out of reading her "inside impressions" of major events and international diplomacy. I give it a reasonable 3 stars because we do get a pretty adequate picture of what a Secretary of State's daily life must be like. It's just a bowdlerized version, and I know she dassn't let loose some of her saltier perceptions of things while she's in her present situation.

I'm a speed reader, so I got through it pretty quickly and I'll show some similar mercy by ending this review without further ado. This one's 'mersh. Wait for "the kind".
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