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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two books coexist between the covers
There are at least two aspects of this book by BBC correspondent Kim Ghattas that make it particularly interesting. It's almost as if two books coexist between its covers, one written by an insider and the other by an outsider. Ghattas, born in Lebanon, covered the US State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, so The Secretary has a well-informed...
Published 22 months ago by Jaylia3

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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Reporter: A Journey with Kim Ghattas
This book poses a problem. How do you review a book that strays from its purported topic? The title of the book leads the reader to expect a portrait of Hillary Clinton, with a look at how she managed her duties as US Secretary of State. In reality, Hillary is almost a minor character in this book. Ghattas really delivers a look at US foreign policy, including some...
Published 21 months ago by Andy in Washington


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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two books coexist between the covers, February 12, 2013
By 
Jaylia3 (Silver Spring, MD United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
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There are at least two aspects of this book by BBC correspondent Kim Ghattas that make it particularly interesting. It's almost as if two books coexist between its covers, one written by an insider and the other by an outsider. Ghattas, born in Lebanon, covered the US State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, so The Secretary has a well-informed insider view of Clinton and the way she works. Ghattas spent a lot of time traveling around the world with Clinton and her staff, and what Ghattas was able to observe eventually convinced her that Hillary's intelligent and engaging style of diplomacy was re-positioning America's leadership role in ways that will help it stay effective and relevant in our rapidly changing world.

Ghattas witnessed major world events firsthand and her behind the scenes perspective make a fascinating history of the last few years. Pivotal developments she recounts in this book include the Arab Spring, the opening of Burma, the release of the Wikileaks documents, and the fallout from the Japanese earthquake. The September 11, 2012 attack on the US embassy in Libya occurred too late to be included, but it's not the events themselves that give structure to The Secretary, it's Ghattas's status as an outsider. Ghattas grew up in war torn Beirut and her evolving outsider observations, insights, and opinions about America's superpower status and what America could and should do in the world drive the narrative and make The Secretary much more fascinating than even a portrait of Hillary Clinton could be.
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Reporter: A Journey with Kim Ghattas, March 19, 2013
This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
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This book poses a problem. How do you review a book that strays from its purported topic? The title of the book leads the reader to expect a portrait of Hillary Clinton, with a look at how she managed her duties as US Secretary of State. In reality, Hillary is almost a minor character in this book. Ghattas really delivers a look at US foreign policy, including some insights on the middle-east and South Asia, along with some observations on how Hillary Clinton performed as Secretary of State.

=== The Good Stuff ===

* Ghattas is at her best describing her own experiences in growing up in the middle east. She relates her youthful impressions of the United States. As an example, the citizens of Lebanon viewed the US as some omnipotent force on the planet, and were surprised and discouraged when the limits of US power became evident. A good lesson for modern America.

* From her vantage point as a reporter, Ghattas relates several insights on how the US is viewed in the world. For example, I had never quite realized how easy the US Government was to manipulate into "taking a position". Ghattas relates a remarkable story of how foreign reporters would ask a question at a State Department briefing just to get something on the record of a US position. Then in the home country, the reporter could relate details of a "major US announcement".

* As a reporter traveling with Ms. Clinton on an overseas visit, Ghattas is able to capture the hectic pace that such a trip involves. Transporting the US Secretary of State, and her staff, to six countries in ten days is an incredible logistical problem, especially when security concerns and the ongoing demands of the office are considered. And while we like to think of US (or any nation's foreign policy) as a carefully thought out position, at least some of it is conceived "on the fly". Any business traveler who has redone a presentation while on the plane to the customer's facility will recognize the drill.

=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===

* While Ghattas does relate first-person experiences with Hillary, much of the material is based on events that happened when Ghattas was literally miles away. Fair enough, reporters do not get to accompany US cabinet secretaries in many of their official duties. The problem is that Ghattas uses the same voice in describing both direct encounters as those related by others. It is not easy to tell the difference, unless it is related in the context of the narrative.

* I found quite a bit of the book to be a repeat of information that I had read previously. I am an avid reader of news magazines such as The Economist, and a lot of the content Ghattas related was familiar to me. I am not in any way suggesting Ghattas has plagiarized any material, just that I had read previous descriptions of the same events.

* The book was a tough read. Ghattas writes in a easily read style, but I found a large portion of the content to be trivial, repetitive and just tedious. I am really not all that interested in the cookies served on the Secretary of State's airplane, or what time the reporters on a trip had breakfast.

=== Summary ===

If you are attracted to the title, as I was, the book is a major disappointment. The book is not an especially intimate portrait of Hillary Clinton, and offers few insights into her style of management and negotiation as Secretary of State. Much of the book is either Ghattas' recollections of previous events, or a retelling of modern history. With a little bit of additional material, the book has the potential to be a reasonable review of parts of US Foreign Policy in the last 15 years.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelatory tale of American power in a multipolar world, February 7, 2013
By 
Malvin (Frederick, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
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"The Secretary" by Kim Ghattas offers fresh insights on Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State. Ms. Ghattas is a correspondent for the BBC whose privileged access to Clinton as part of the select press corps allows her to view the workings of American diplomacy from a rarified and uniquely personal vantage point. This excellent book should appeal to everyone interested in Clinton and American foreign policy.

Ms. Ghattas' calculated risk of weaving her own personal story into the narrative succeeds brilliantly. What otherwise might have been a mundane account of travels within the press corp bubble becomes a revelatory tale about the American ideal and the exercise of power in a multipolar world. Ms. Ghattas shares with us her traumatic experience of growing up in war-torn Beirut, Lebanon where forces beyond her control came to define daily existence. (Indeed, the years of hard work that went into becoming the kind of high-value news correspondent selected to travel with Clinton might be seen as part of Ms. Ghattas' personal, life-long quest to come to grips with this past.) The pay-off comes when the author reconciles the realities of American power with the past tragedies of Lebanon; providing profound insights for all of us who seek greater understanding about America and its often confounding foreign policies.

Ms. Ghattas is clearly a Clinton admirer who views her as the right person for the job. We see how Clinton's expertise helped forge a mutually respectful and productive working relationship with President Obama in the wake of a bitter election. Ms. Ghattas amply and expertly provides background material to help us understand the myriad challenges that faced Clinton as she and her entourage traveled to various countries around the globe. From Clinton's diplomatic outmanuevering of China in the South China Sea to her adroit handling of the WikiLeaks scandal and the Arab Spring, Ms. Ghattas paints an attractive picture of a highly effective Secretary whose efforts have significantly improved America's standing in the world.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read before 2016, July 11, 2013
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The author given her first hand experience, clearly depicts Hillary Clinton in a different light from Fox News. I was not aware of her people skills and compassion. This behind the scenes look at our past Secretary of State and the grueling schedule she personally set for herself gives me new and more confidence in her next step.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kim Ghattas' THE SECRETARY Delivers A World View of Clinton's Diplomacy, January 28, 2013
This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
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I have to begin this review by saying that I have been fond of Hillary Clinton ever since reading her autobiography LIVING HISTORY. This new read by Kim Ghattas takes us behind the scenes of the woman that the world will forever remember---and the reader is not soon to forget either.

The role of Secretary of State is not just a title for Clinton. the author allows you to see how serious she takes her role, and what it means to us to be representing the United States and the policies of the President. It's not an easy task to articulate the plans of a nation, but Clinton understands the job's importance and gives it her all---even though at times it seems she is doing so even at the cost of her own well-being.

THE SECRETARY shines as a book that is more than just a "day in the life" of a former First Lady. It takes you across the world with a woman that is the living epitome of what it means to be a team player, giving your all to the task at hand, knowing the consequences.

Powerfully delivered and engaging from beginning to end Kim Ghattas' THE SECRETARY delivers a world view of Clinton's time with the Obama Administration.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Healing America's International Image!, May 17, 2013
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This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
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This book about Hillary Clinton's service as Secretary of State is really an education on the complexities of American foreign policy throughout the globe. Kim Ghattas is a Lebanese-born woman who rises through her war-torn country to become the State Department Correspondent for BBC news; here she seeks answers to pivotal questions about just how much can America as the number one world power accomplish - or not! Ms. Ghattas discovers that these multifaceted problems do not enable simple responses; and even if they did, we are invited to understand that perhaps we are not meant to run the world but to be there for others, support, challenge, oppose at times, all in the process of weaving that international tapestry of diplomacy, cooperation, and more. Hillary doesn't back up many times when being challenged by the press overseas as to why America doesn't do this or that - in Pakistan she robustly says to Pakistan leaders that you don't have to take our money since you object to our lack of doing what you want. Bravo to her for this as she challenges the approach that Pakistan historically has held between the West and its neighboring Afghan and Taliban powerful leaders. She continues to travel through the Middle East and addresses the differences in the rising Arab Spring crisis in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria, explaining and supporting the air strikes in Libya that led to a successful end of conflict but which have yet to bear fruit in civil war-torn Syria. Overall, this is a fascinating look at the inside world of a woman who may not have a significant event in her repertoire but who clearly has been a significantly forceful advocate of healing America's tarnished image overseas. Very nicely done and very worthwhile reading whether one knows much or little about American foreign policy.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I love HIllary but this book was disappointing, July 23, 2013
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This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
Not personal enough. Read more like a newspaper account of the Hillary journeys. Sorry. I will try to keep reading it but am falling asleep in the middle of it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comes at you from all directions, March 7, 2013
By 
Navy Bean "Navy Bean" (Amsterdam/Dayton, OH) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
I think the main thing we all have to acknowledge is the darn access. What an opportunity to get full access to Secretary Clinton's entire body of work! There's just something about the way the author's massage is conveyed that you realize the weight of the subject.

At times she puts Mrs. Clinton right in your face and it's just you and Clinton and you're staring at it and so many questions are running through your head and then the author answers them and then you just start to lap it up. My head was spinning and parts of my body were tingling and there was a french horn playing and I could smell the jungle.

I did find her perspective about American power sort of typical of someone of the author's background and a bit cliche. But that's not her fault, she is who she is and I am definitely NOT judging her for that. We all have secrets and lifestyles that we don't want our family to know about and that's probably why she's the ideal author for a book on Mrs. Clinton.

It does seem a little bit that she skirts the whole Benghazi issue and that seems deliberate, as it wouldn't match the deliciously fawning nature of the rest of the book. ]

Nonetheless a great read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Magic Wand for the Secretary of State, August 10, 2013
This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
This is an extremely insightful book on America's role as a superpower. What makes it so is the author's childhood in Beirut during Lebanon's devastating Civil War. All of the adults in her world felt angry and betrayed, convinced the United States had given Assad a green light in Lebanon in return for his support of the US invasion to remove Saddam from Kuwait. Only at the end of her four years covering the Secretary of State for the BBC does Ghattas understand the limits of US power sufficiently to question the foreign policy decision makers of the 1990s and realize that Lebanon was barely a blip on the US radar at that time, not a conspiracy decision with Syria.

It is her middle Eastern perspective that makes this book far more than the story of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Ghattas obviously found her more open and candid in private interviews than the public image often portrays and came to respect her for her long range goals of moving toward cooperation with regional leaders -- more a global chairman of the board than a superpower dictator. The fact that it required four years of intense personal interaction for an intelligent Lebanese journalist to fully understand US inability to wave a magic wand and solve problems across the world is discouraging, but it illustrates the need for patience and pragmatism in US foreign policy. The strongest chapter in this book is near the end, exploring the complexity of the current civil war in Syria. Ghattas does an excellent job of analyzing something few Americans understand -- the radical differences between the Arab revolts in Tunisa, Egypt, Lybia and Syria.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, May 10, 2013
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This review is from: The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Hardcover)
Well written from a different point of view. Author a bit too heavy handed in depicting Republicans as Evil Empire.
Well worth the time and a nice tribute to a very intelligent, tireless, dedicated public servant. Hillary Clinton is such an amazing woman, I enjoyed the intimate details of her trips abroad and the way she developed relationships with people.

Jan
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The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power
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