Hillary's Hardest Choice

The best way to justify Hillary’s barnstorming across the country while pretending not to be on the campaign trail is for her to write a book. Even before Hard Choices hit the stands, Hillary Clinton was madly making the rounds, amassing enough celebratory sashes to mount her own Ms. America contest. Now she can justify her supposedly non-campaign stops by capping them off with book signings. 

Canny Ms. Clinton has come up with a hands-on excuse for her constant public appearances, one she hopes will sufficiently mask her true intentions. If there are voters out there who may wonder how such a peripatetic politician found the time to even write a book, perhaps she didn’t. Time is hardly a consideration when there’s a stable of speechwriters, pens or laptops poised.

In recent months, Hillary has been experimenting with rearrangements of  her hairstyle. Now comes another experiment: rearranging history. A different twist here, a change of part there, and so forth. Tone down the brash color. Tease the  troublesome strands of her past a bit to make the lady seem more caring and less calculating.

Book critic Michiko Kakutai of the New York Times, wrote, “The rollout of Clinton’s new book, ‘Hard Choices’… has all the subtlety of a military operation ramping up to full speed.”  Others judged it to be more soporific than terrific, Mike Allen of Politico calling it “a newsless snore, written so carefully not to offend that it will fuel the notion that politics infuses every part of her life.“

Still, the intent of the book is not to get tongues wagging, but to calm them down, maybe even silence them. Mrs. Clinton’s underlying purpose for bringing forth her latest literary tome, however boring and “newsless,” is to anticipate and thus deflect the avalanche of criticism that is bound to gain momentum when she declares her candidacy, which she will. It is clearly an attempt to jump the gun on her opposition. All the sincere protestation is nothing more than vintage Clinton.

The underlying thrust of Hard Choices is to soften Hillary’s image. By concentrating on “choices,” she seeks to portray herself as just another conscientious person, like you and me, who must grapple with decisions in our daily lives. For anyone who might suspect that Hillary’s decisions were selfishly arrived at in order to advance her vaulting ambition, her latest book offers the alternative of a kinder, more even-handed and less polarizing figure whose choices were dutifully centered on family and country, rather than around herself. 

There is the possibility that the general public will tire of Hillary even before the 2016 campaign season gets officially underway. It’s a chance she takes. But the Clinton camp is betting on the opposite effect: that by then she will have become such a ”popular” figure – i.e. being so well known to the public -- she will already seems back in the White House.  The hardest choice of Hillary’s life, perhaps, will be to make her election appear inevitable.

In the meantime, she’s everywhere. I came across her recently at our mutual college reunions, which always take place in the same cycle on the Wellesley campus. Under Secret Service protection, she took her place in the audience that listened to a talk by another alumna and former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who spoke engagingly about her signature pin collection. Hillary received a rousing ovation when she was introduced. But she did not show up the following morning to march in the alumnae parade; her appearance would likely have been too disruptive in that crowded, open  venue. As it is, she and Madeleine generally suck the oxygen out of all other reunion events.

One of her many returning fans had a different take on this, insisting that Hillary Rodham Clinton couldn’t dare appear in the parade, since her opponents would  immediately read something nasty into that, such as an attempt to  drum up votes. Yet how can that be so, when Hillary’s not even running for president? Besides, she can’t easily march and sign books at the same time, can she? Well, can she?