TIME 2016 presidential election

Romney: How Republicans Will Take Back the White House

Romney criticized Clinton's response to Bergdahl's release and expressed confidence that a Republican will take back the White House in 2016

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After hosting a high-profile summit over the weekend that included many Republican presidential hopefuls, Mitt Romney appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday to discuss politics within the G.O.P. and the 2016 election.

When asked by host David Gregory what he would do if he were a presidential candidate running against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Romney pointed to Clinton’s past political record as her weakness.

“I think you have to consider what’s happened around the world during the years that she was secretary of State,” Romney said. “And you have to say it’s been a monumental bust.”

Romney also referred to Clinton’s comments regarding the exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, in which she said the released Taliban leaders did not pose a threat to the U.S.

“And she came back with a clueless answer,” Romney said. “She was clueless.”

According to Romney, those points will be “the foundation of how a Republican candidate is able to take back the White House.”

TIME Hillary Clinton

Sonia Sotomayor Ran into Hillary Clinton While Shopping at Costco

The Supreme Court Justice accidentally crashed Clinton's book signing

Costco is apparently the new place to be to rub elbows with the nation’s political elite.

While browsing at the members-only retailer in Arlington, Va., on Saturday, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stumbled upon former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was appearing at a book-signing event to promote her new memoir, Hard Choices.

Sotomayor, who said she was “just shopping,” promised Clinton that she would read the new book, to which Clinton said, “You better! I read yours!” according to tweets from observers.

Government leaders, they’re just like us — they buy in bulk.

TIME politics

No, Hillary Clinton Didn’t Lose Her Cool on NPR

Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Copies Of Her Memoir "Hard Choices"
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes "Hard Choices" at Barnes & Noble Union Square on June 10, 2014 in New York City. John Lamparski—WireImage/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton refused to be pigeonholed in an conversation about gay marriage, and that's okay

NPR’s Terry Gross tried to get Hillary Clinton to make some hard choices in an interview on Fresh Air Thursday, asking her if her opinions on gay marriage had changed from against to for, or if she had always supported gay marriage but had kept her views concealed until 2013 for political reasons. Neither answer is particularly flattering, and the Hard Choices author and possible presidential hopeful knew that. So she evaded, and then towards the end of the interview, she pushed back.

The media reaction was instantaneous: “Hillary Clinton gets testy over gay marriage,” the Politico headline reads. Similar accounts of Clinton “snapping at” or “sparring with” interviewer Terry Gross over her position abound.

It’s bad enough that she has to answer for her husband’s decisions as president. Hillary Clinton did not sign the Defense of Marriage Act; Bill Clinton did. And, as Hillary Clinton points out at the end of her NPR discussion, 1996 was a different time: “I did not grow up even imagining gay marriage and I don’t think you did either. This was an incredible new and important idea that people on the front lines of the gay right movement began to talk about, and slowly but surely convinced others about the rightness of that position. When I was ready to say what I said, I said it.”

And yet Clinton was asked to defend DOMA when Gross asked, “And DOMA was actually signed by your husband when he was president. In spite of the fact that he signed it, were you glad at this point that the Supreme Court struck some of it down?”

Clinton of course began by evading the question—as many politicians do. And then Gross asked her to clarify—as many reporters do. That’s when things got tense.

But before we become too critical of Clinton, let’s remember that she used the same rhetoric that President Obama used as well, when defending the “evolution” of his stance on gay marriage. Clinton said, “I think that we have all evolved, and it’s been one of the fastest, most sweeping transformations that I’m aware of.”

Obama said something similar in 2010: “My feelings about this are constantly evolving.” In 2004, the president said he believed marriage was “something sanctified between a man and a woman” and that the difference between civil unions and marriages were an issue of “semantics.”

I understand the desire to nail down when Clinton’s views on gay marriage changed and whether they changed for purely political reasons. Though the movement has moved quickly, in a historical perspective, to LGBT activists and allies, and to those who have suffered under discriminatory policies for many years, it’s not moving quickly enough. However, Clinton, as an interviewee, had every right to push back against being boxed into a simple narrative, one in which she is either a reformed homophobe or a political animal.

Some are taking the Gross interview as a sign that Clinton has gotten rusty—that she’s not quite ready for the campaign trail again. But in another light, the fact that she was bold enough to push back suggests that she’s more ready than she was in 2008.

Here’s the entire interview:

TIME politics

Hillary Clinton Wants You to Call Her a Feminist

Clinton Global Initiative America Meetings Begin In Chicago
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on June 13, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. The CGI was established in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton with the intention of convening world leaders to address pressing global issues. Scott Olson--Getty Images

During an appearance in Chicago, the "Hard Choices" author and potential 2016 Presidential candidate revealed she doesn't believe there's "anything controversial" about being a feminist

Though we live in an era in which women in the public eye seem to waffle over whether or not they consider themselves feminists, Hillary Clinton has made it perfectly clear: she’s a feminist and she has no problem with letting the world know.

During an appearance in Chicago’s Harris Theater with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday night, Clinton defined the ‘f-word’ simply as supporting equal rights for women, before adding, perhaps pointedly, “I don’t see anything controversial about that at all.” She also addressed the women — and men! — who view feminism as old-fashioned or out of date, saying, “I don’t think you’ve lived long enough.”

As the former U.S. Secretary of State, Clinton discussed how feminism plays a key role in the U.S.’s foreign policy. “[W]omen and girls … [are] central to our foreign policy,” she said, explaining that nations that support women are more stable and “less likely to breed extremism.”

Clinton — who is widely thought to be the leading Democratic contender for the 2016 presidential race though she hasn’t committed to running — is busy promoting her new book Hard Choices, which was released this week. The 656-page political memoir goes into detail about the many difficult decisions she’s already made throughout her career in politics. Evidently, deciding to call herself a feminist wasn’t one of them.

 

 

TIME politics

Are You There, Angela Merkel? It’s Me, Hillary!

Hillary Clinton Addresses National Council for Behavioral Health Conference
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MAY 06: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers remarks during the National Council for Behavioral Health's Annual Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on May 6, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. Patrick Smith—Getty Images

Hillary Clinton's new book is not as boring as you think. It's actually kind of funny.

Who knew Hillary could be so hill-arious?

Her new book Hard Choices isn’t as dour as the title suggests or as long and boring as it looks. It’s actually really funny. It probably would sell better if it were called something like Richard Holbrooke Wore Yellow Pajamas or Are You There, Angela Merkel? It’s Me, Hillary, but neither of those titles sound quite as presidential.

Hillary comes off as smart, tough, and kind of… cool. Maybe even cooler than 1980s-Obama-with-cigarette, if you factor in her Normcore advantage. It’s probably part of a highly calculated personal branding move in anticipation of some kind of big national announcement (touring with Katy Perry?) but it’s appealing nonetheless.

She told Diane Sawyer in an interview Sunday night that she’s finished being the scripted, guarded cautious Hillary we saw in the 2008 campaign, when Obama sneered that she was “likable enough.” But she also says she’s sick of the whole “likability” question altogether. “I’m done with that, I’m just done,” she said. “I think I have changed, I’m not worried so much about what other people are thinking…I’m going to say what I know, what I believe, and let the chips fall. For me, it’s time. I don’t know if I could have done it earlier, because I was trying to find my way.”

So in Hard Choices, she shows much more personality than we’ve seen from her before. For example, when she talks about being compared to William H. Seward, who was Secretary of State under Lincoln and part of his “team of rivals,” she says “I hope no one ever describes me as a ‘wise macaw,’ which is how Seward appeared to the historian Henry Adams.”

Or when she says her first meeting with Obama after her 2008 defeat was “like two teenagers on an awkward first date,” but later describes the moment she and the President became official BFFs:

Before one of our meetings in Prague, on that same April trip, [Obama] pulled me aside and said, “Hillary, I need to talk to you.” He put his arm around me and walked me over toward a window. I wondered what sensitive policy matter he wanted to discuss. Instead he whispered in my ear, “You’ve got something in your teeth.”

The book is funny in a way that only the unexpectedly personal observations of an unfunny person can be. For example, this is how she explains her “Texts from Hillary” meme to her fellow olds:

“Her photo, to everyone’s surprise, became an internet sensation many months later and the basis for a ‘meme’ known as ‘Texts from Hillary.’ The idea was simple: an internet user would pair the photo of me holding my phone with a picture of another famous person holding a phone and add funny captions to narrate the texts we supposedly sent back and forth. The first one posted showed President Obama lounging on a couch, with the caption ‘Hey, Hil, Watchu doing?’ the imagined response from me: ‘running the world.’ Eventually I decided to get in on the fun myself. I submitted my own version full of internet slang: ‘ROFL @ ur tumblr! g2g–scrunchie time. ttyl?’”

Somewhere a lightbulb just went off over Dianne Feinstein’s head.

Hillary chuckles at the German newspaper that featured her and Angela Merkel as interchangeable faceless pantsuits, and wonders aloud whether Putin was messing with her when he told her a sad story about his childhood. She admitted she’s “no Condi Rice on the piano” but still tried to play along with Bono after Nelson Mandela’s funeral. She calls former French President Nicolas Sarkozy her “Prince Charming” for helping her when her shoe fell off. She reveals they sometimes watched romantic comedies on the State jet, and that Richard Holbrooke wore yellow PJs on long flights. She even talks about America’s foreign policy using a quote from A League of Their Own: “it’s supposed to be hard… the hard is what makes it great.”

“In politics a sense of humor is essential,” she writes. “There are countless reasons why you have to laugh at yourself.” And it may be that this enormous behemoth of a book is just the kind of controlled environment where Hillary can let her freak flag fly. She’s too calculated to get funny in off-the-cuff interview, and she’s too serious to crack jokes in speeches or debates. Obviously every joke and story in the book is carefully crafted to be as unobjectionable as possible (I’d love to read the uncensored version), and the fact that nobody comes off badly is probably even more proof that she’s trying not to annoy anyone before she *maybe* runs for President.

Hard Choices isn’t likely to convert any Hillary-haters or get her a job writing for Parks & Rec, but it’s still kind of funny, which is funnier than I thought it would be.

 

 

 

 

 

TIME politics

A Zagat Guide to ‘Hard Choices’—According to Amazon Reviewers

Hillary Clinton's new book already has as many reviews as the hottest restaurant—so why not harness the "wisdom" of the online bookseller's crowd?

On its first day out, Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices hit #2 on Amazon’s bestseller list (sorry, Hillary—John Green trumps Tom Cruise, too), and is picking up around 12 user reviews per hour. Whether or not the reviews are based on actual digested information, well, you be the critic…

Hard Choices

by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Political memoir | Ubiquitous

Prose: 25 | Poesy: 17 | Candidness: 12 | Cost: $35.00 $21.00

This “well-written stage setter” of an “engaging memoir” comes across as “election propaganda” “designed not so much to enlighten as to persuade” to some; others think it could give The Manchurian Candidate some competition “in the fiction section.” Clinton’s “resume is quite impressive” stands among the fainter praise, though another reader “had to stop myself from vomiting”—perhaps there is some political salmonella in the “low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie offering with vanilla pudding as the dessert.” Or maybe that was from someone else “just here to troll the Democrats.” For anyone “hoping for something more,” um, duh, get the net—“Hello, people, she can’t reveal too much until AFTER her presidency.” (I mean, really, “It’s a memoir—did they expect her to paint herself in a negative light?”) Several reviewers were skeptical of peer ethics: “Unless you’re really fast readers, I doubt that you finished reading the book, let alone bought it.” To read or not to read, ain’t that the question? “Under no circumstances would I ever read this book even if Hillary paid me a million $$… I am serious!” (And we will bet another million “$$” you’re not serious.) Nevermind all the Benghazi brouhaha, though; Hillary failed to answer that other all-important question: “I was really hoping to find out who killed Vincent Foster.”

Claire Howorth is an editor at Time and a writer for other publications

TIME White House

The Clinton Family Business

Brooks Kraft/Corbis for TIME

As partners in Hillary’s political dynasty, Bill and Chelsea bring a lot to the party, as well as some baggage

This originally appeared in TIME’s book Hillary: An American Life, available on newsstands everywhere June 27.

When Chelsea Clinton announced in April 2014 that she was pregnant, it took the media about two nanoseconds to zero in on what that could mean for national politics. Namely, that Hillary, should she run for president in 2016, could campaign as a grandmother. Within hours, Democratic analysts predicted gleefully that the new role could be a “game changer” on the campaign trail, while Republicans downplayed the potential shift in public persona. A few of the more conservative commentators even suggested, rudely, that the Clintons had planned the pregnancy to maximize good optics in 2016. The morning after the announcement, New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, described the disclosure as the beginning of “the human drama that is Grandma Clinton.”

The speculation, while admittedly absurd—calculating the political implications of an unborn child requires a certain audacity, at least—was also an indication, as Sorkin suggested, of the continuing role that the Clinton family has played in the American political drama for a generation. The Clintons have been more or less constantly on stage since the late ’70s, when Bill first ran for governor of Arkansas. After Clinton entered the White House in 1993, Chelsea was featured in 87 network news stories and 32 articles in the New York Times, among the most of any president’s kid, according to the political scientist Robert Watson. And the White House years were just another act in the long-running drama. We have, over the years, carefully scrutinized their decisions, their health scares, their haircuts; we have weighed in on their missteps and victories. We were there when Bill joined the ex-presidents club and when Chelsea went to high school, then college, then graduate school. We had front-row seats when Hillary’s political star began to rise, first as a U.S. senator from New York and then as the secretary of state. And we watched as the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and the recently renamed Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Family Foundation became one of the most influential players in the field of international development.

The question now is whether all that history—a quarter-century of memories, goodwill and baggage—will help or hurt if Hillary runs for president in 2016. Voters tend to like political dynasties in both parties, almost despite those dynasties’ history. America is on its fourth generation of Bushes; Mitt Romney’s father ran for president in 1968, 40 years before the son mounted his first run. Al Gore’s father was in national politics long before his son tried his hand. Even Rand Paul is a legatee of his libertarian father’s years in Congress. The ways that candidates with familiar names both fit in with and stand apart from their clans matter, because such behavior is a window into their values, priorities and private lives.

The good news for Clinton supporters is that, according to an April 2014 Washington Post/ABC News poll, 66% of Americans viewed the Clinton family favorably. Analysts say that’s largely because many Americans remember the Clinton era, from 1993 to 2001, as one in which the economy was booming, unemployment was down, wars were won quickly, and important federal issues, like welfare reform, were actually addressed head-on. Bill Clinton’s charisma and charm is a trickier thing to measure: like it or not, he has an almost preternatural ability to connect with voters young and old, black and white, rich and poor. But if he was at times Hillary’s secret weapon in 2008—acting as headliner at fundraisers, expert interview-giver, proxy and consultant—his feel for the electorate was sometimes off-target.

Chelsea, for her part, has dutifully campaigned for both her parents over the years. Chelsea remembers, as she told Fast Company magazine in May 2014, waving little American flags at her father’s gubernatorial races in the early ’80s, when she was barely 3. More recently, on her mother’s primary-campaign trail in 2008, Chelsea gave hundreds of speeches, mostly on college campuses, where she—herself a bright-eyed, articulate member of the millennial generation—worked to connect with young people, a demographic to whom her then-60-year-old mother had a harder time appealing.

If Hillary throws her hat in the ring in 2016, analysts expect that both husband and daughter will play larger, and perhaps better-defined, roles in the next campaign. Bill, whose speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention electrified the audience and sent pundits writing encomiums about Bill as the “greatest communicator,” will likely be used to win over key voting groups and pull in influential help, while Chelsea is expected to take on a fairly robust high-level role, possibly in strategic management. “I can see her being a senior adviser,” Amie Parnes, co-author of the recent New York Times best seller HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, told Fast Company.

Regardless of what happens next, the Clintons’ center of gravity as of now is CGI and the Clinton Family Foundation, which together employ more than 2,000 people in 36 countries. CGI has helped create $103 billion of pledges to 2,800 philanthropic projects around the globe. Unlike other family-branded foundations like the Gates Foundation, which disburse families’ personal wealth, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea must solicit grants from wealthy friends and corporations to fund projects that range from curbing global warming to ending elephant poaching. In 2014 the foundation launched the “No Ceilings” project, which Chelsea will help steer and which will monitor and facilitate the progress of women and girls worldwide.

The financial motor behind much of these efforts is CGI, which hosts an annual conference in Manhattan and draws the brightest stars from the political and development firmament, each of whom coughs up a $20,000 yearly membership fee to cozy up with one another for the three-day love-fest. For campaign-finance and tax reasons, no dollars raised by CGI or the Clinton Family Foundation can be used toward Hillary’s—or anyone else’s—campaign, although the relationships developed beneath the CGI umbrella are, of course, fair game. Both critics and admirers of the Clintons have noted that the family’s charity work has allowed them to assemble a team of wealthy donors, while simultaneously cultivating a reputation for service, a position that certainly doesn’t hurt a national campaign. It also offers Chelsea, who recently started working at the foundation (“I joined the family business,” as she puts it), the opportunity to work closely with her mother in an organizational capacity, should she end up taking on a similar position in her campaign.

“You can see it already,” Parnes said in Fast Company. “She and her mom are working on these issues together . . . Something her mom learned last time was that there was arrogance at the top. She wasn’t hearing the truth from people, and Chelsea will give her the truth.”

But while in this context the Clintons may appear an unstoppable triumvirate, their arms around each other’s waists at state dinners, funerals, fundraisers, galas and countless charity events, the media—and their rivals—have hardly forgotten their less-TV-ready past. In an interview with Vanity Fair in April, Monica Lewinsky herself came forward to defend Hillary, asking the nation to “bury the blue dress,” while Senator Rand Paul, whose name is floated as a potential nominee in 2016, has done everything he can to resurrect it. In an interview with Meet the Press in late Jan. 2014, the Kentucky Republican suggested that the Clinton family’s social advocacy, especially with regard to girls’ and women’s rights, is disingenuous, given what he described as Bill’s “predatory behavior” toward women while he was in office. “If they want to take [a] position on women’s rights, by all means do,” he said in early February on C-Span. “But you can’t do it and take it from a guy who was using his position of authority to take advantage of young women in the workplace.” Paul’s wife, Kelley Ashby, also suggested in a Vogue article in 2013 that Bill’s history with Monica Lewinsky “should complicate his return to the White House, even as First Spouse.”

And well it may. But trying to make an issue of the Clinton family’s well-litigated past could also backfire during a time in this country when unemployment is still high, real wages are declining, and Americans are feeling squeezed. The electorate may feel that attacking Hillary for the mistakes of her husband (for which she has already paid a painful price) is simply untoward. Nor does it follow that the past is prologue. In the late ’90s, the Clinton family is arguably what helped refurbish Bill’s legacy. Following a press conference in 1998 in which the president admitted that he had had an affair, Chelsea, who was 18 years old, walked between her mother and father and held each of their hands. The resulting image—the visual equivalent of sticking-togetherness, of forgiveness—came to define the Clintons in the following year.

As for Hillary’s future role as grandmother? To indulge in a bit of our own speculation: the precious bundle could be a mixed blessing, in political terms. The most obvious risk to Hillary’s new role is that it will inevitably highlight her age, a vulnerability some conservatives have already begun exploiting. (At 66, Hillary is “not particularly old for a man,” conservativecolumnist Wes Pruden argued last year, but “a woman in public life is getting past her sell-by date.”) And although such calculations might rightly infuriate feminists—who cared how many grandchildren Mitt Romney had?—whether Hillary is being a “good grandma” or not may make headlines as well.

By the same token, however, becoming a grandmother could also help Hillary excite and relate to younger voters for whom the title of “grandmother” is powerful. While it might have been a political liability in 1975 to be seen as a graying older lady, the role has taken on new meaning, particularly among younger, black and Latino voters, whose families are often bound by strong matriarchs. “In a world where nearly 40% of new mothers are single, many communities rely on grandmothers to hold together the whole family,” says Anne Liston, a Democratic strategist. “The image of a grandmother is one of a compassionate caregiver.”

That might be exactly the ace in the hole that Hillary needs as a national candidate. While poll after poll has found that voters find her competent, strong, intelligent and electable, in 2008 she struggled to connect with crowds of even strongly Democratic supporters, who found her calculating or aloof. Becoming a grandmother could help her warm up her public image and provide her speechwriters with a supply of rich material that they could use to connect her to the advocacy for children, families and public health that she’s championed for decades.

Of course, regardless of how deftly Hillary fits into her new role, and no matter how solid the Clinton family is, her many critics will complain. They will, as they have before, remind voters of past mistakes or paint Chelsea as a pawn of her parents’ political regime. They’ll accuse Hillary of using the grandchild as a campaign tool and suggest that the Clintons’ considerable influence is misused. But throughout it all, the Clintons will have one another, holding hands onstage. And if the past 25 years is any indication, it can be unwise to underestimate their staying power.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary’s Hard Choices, By The Numbers

Hillary Clinton Reads From Her New Memoir In New York City
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to a crowd during a book signing for her new book, "Hard Choices" at a Barnes & Noble on June 10, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The book is over 600 pages long, so here's what you need to know from the index

The price of fighting Osama bin Laden? $1 trillion. Chelsea Clinton’s wedding? $2-$5 million. Appearing in the index of Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, Hard Choices? Priceless.

Ancient astrologers used to divine the future by counting the kinds of stars that appear in the sky. We’re doing the same thing, but instead of reading constellations, we’re reading the index of Clinton’s book.

First of all, her index is heavy on Presidents and light on First Ladies. Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Barbara Bush are each mentioned only twice. By contrast, George W. Bush gets 13 pages and George H.W. Bush gets four. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama get too many to count. Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan get three mentions each, Jimmy Carter gets two, Richard Nixon gets seven. JFK got four pages, Jackie only one. Coincidence?

The only First Lady to outdo her husband in the index was Eleanor Roosevelt, with a cool five mentions to FDR’s paltry three. Clinton talks about how she’s lifting from Eleanor when she talks about women’s rights as “unfinished business” and pushes for “full participation” of all genders. She also has Eleanor’s picture in her office.

Benghazi got a chapter all to itself, as did Syria and Iran. And Angela Merkel got tons of love, especially since Clinton revealed that she has a German newspaper in her office that portrays Merkel and Clinton as interchangeable on the cover.

The Clinton index also freezes out the philanderers. Huma Abedin gets mentioned nine times, including a heartwarming story about that time when President Obama called her an “American patriot” after she got accused of sympathizing with the Muslim Brotherhood. But her disgraced husband Anthony Weiner is nowhere to be found. David Patraeus got 15 mentions, Paula Broadwell not a one. Is she taking the high road, or doing a complete whitewashing?

Guess who else didn’t make the cut? Monica Lewinsky or Gennifer Flowers. Surprise, surprise.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Mania Comes to New York

Hillary Rodham Clinton Signs Copies Of Her Memoir "Hard Choices"
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes "Hard Choices" at Barnes & Noble Union Square on June 10, 2014 in New York City. John Lamparski—WireImage/Getty Images

Many see a book launch as the start of a campaign

The line stretched down the street and around the corner—then down the next street and around another corner. Fans of her political celebrity—young, old and everything in between—donned “I’m Ready for Hillary!” stickers, waiting hours just to get into a New York City bookstore. They had come early, hundreds of them, some as early as the night before, and all to get a glimpse of—and a book signed by—the woman they hope will be the next President of the United States: Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton, the former Secretary of State and would-be 2016 presidential candidate, kicked off the tour for her new book Hard Choices at a Manhattan Barnes & Noble on Tuesday. Forget Iowa and New Hampshire: For a few hours, Union Square was the epicenter of American politics, with all eyes on Clinton as she promoted a book that is widely seen as a prelude to one last run at the White House.

She wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 11 a.m. Not wanting to miss out, some came at 9:30—the night before. Dana Watters, a 27-year-old New York grad student, said she was already behind several people in line when she arrived about 13 hours before the event.

“I’m not 100 percent sure what came out of my mouth [when meeting Clinton], but it was somewhere along the lines of telling her I’ve been a fan of her since I was 6,” Watters said.

“I asked her if it was too soon to call her ‘Madame President,’ and she said ‘Hillary’ was fine for now,” said Bert Feldstein, a 72-year-old retired human resources worker from Long Island.

Clinton has said repeatedly—both in remarks and in her book—that she hasn’t decided whether or not to seek the White House again. But with a bus sponsored by the Ready for Hillary super PAC parked outside the night before, presidential politics were the first, second and third topics of conversation.

“The main reason I’m here is because of my mom. She passed away two months ago, and it was her dying wish that Hillary become president,” Kevin Gussiaas, a 54-year-old health care worker in New York, said. “I don’t think there’s anybody who could replace her.”

Republicans, convinced as anyone that the book tour is a campaign-in-waiting, wasted few opportunities to take Clinton down a peg. They highlighted bad reviews of the book, drew attention to off-tone remarks Clinton made earlier about being “dead broke” after leaving the White House, and circulated “fact vs. fiction” opposition research about the book’s contents. The Drudge Report highlighted a journalist’s Twitter post about the book being deeply discounted atop its site with the banner headline “SLASHED.”

“@HillaryClinton’s book launch facing poor reviews & stumbling messaging,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus wrote on Twitter.

But outside the Union Square Barnes & Noble, Clinton supporters saw opportunity. Warnings about security measures and that the former first lady wouldn’t be personalizing the signatures on books didn’t seem to dent the mood.

“I think it would be political malpractice to not take the energy and excitement around her and organize it around that today,” said Adam Parkhomenko, the executive director of Ready for Hillary, the super PAC that has been quietly blessed by Clinton allies and has raised more than $6 million.

Bailey Ellicott, a 17-year old student from Manasquan, N.J., who woke up at 4:30 a.m. and missed school, hopes to cast her first vote in a Presidential election for Clinton. “She’s my role model. I look up to her,” Ellicott said. “I can’t picture myself voting for anyone else but her.”

Others said their support for Clinton stretched back to her 2008 campaign and earlier, to when her husband was in the Oval Office.

“When I voted for Bill Clinton, I was really voting for Hillary,” said Robert Shanley, a 63-year-old New York hotel worker. “I think she was really the brains behind Bill, and she’d make a great president. … I’ll be thrilled to see her in the White House.”

“I would sell my soul to work on her campaign,” Watters said.

Camille Desantis, the 53-year-old founder of a brand development company in New York, echoed many in expressing optimism that 2016 might finally see the first election of a female president.

“I think it’s time for the country to have a woman president,” she said. “It’s time for that ceiling to go away,” Desantis said. “I don’t think we would be having some of the issues we’re having today if she were in the White House now.”

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Avoids Hard Choices in Hard Choices

US-POLITICS-CLINTON-BOOK-ILLUSTRATION
Hillary Clinton's memoir titled "Hard Choices" after its release on June 9, 2014 in Washington. Eva Hambach—AFP/Getty Images

It reads like—and is—a political campaign book

The first thing to get out of the way is this: Hillary Clinton is running for President in 2016, even if she says on Page 595 of her new book, Hard Choices, “I haven’t decided yet.”

Without the reality of a coming candidacy, the rest of the book just doesn’t make any sense. This is a campaign book, written by a candidate (via her speechwriters), processed through a political machine, and delivered to the public with the contradictory goals of depicting the author as a decisive leader and not betraying any evidence of leadership that would turn a voter off. Here is how the candidate-without-an-official-campaign describes the choice facing the country in the next presidential election:

Ultimately, what happens in 2016 should be about what kind of future Americans want for themselves and their children—and grandchildren. I hope we choose inclusive politics and a common purpose to unleash the creativity, potential, and opportunity that makes America exceptional. That’s what all American people deserve.

Real people who aren’t running for office do not write like this. They do not think like this. They do not try to string together feel-good words in decisive ways that pretend at taking bold stands on the future without actually taking any stand. There are no clear-thinking Americans who do not want “inclusive politics” or “common purpose.” There is no one in public or private life in this country who does not want to “unleash the creativity, potential and opportunity” of the nation. So why write it? Because it is campaign mumbo-jumbo, and campaign mumbo-jumbo works if you want to win elections.

Clinton is only able to say that she not yet decided about running for President because of a legal technicality: She has not yet declared that she is running for President. But in the current environment, and with this book, that should not matter. She is doing exactly what she would do if she knew she was going to declare. It’s as if she left her home, walked down the street to her local bar, took a seat on a stool, handed the barkeep her credit card, and then told him, “I haven’t decided whether or not to order a drink.” She still has time to choose not to order the drink. She may not be a candidate when the Iowa caucuses meet. But that shouldn’t prevent anyone from observing what she is doing in the meantime.

And what she is doing in this book is a thing to behold. Over nearly 600 pages, she gives a grand tour of American foreign policy as seen from the communications operation of the U.S. State Department. There are dozens of pages devoted to singing the praises—and naming the names—of the people she worked with and the things she accomplished. There are hundreds of pages of history, recounting the major events of the last five years in a useful, matter-of-fact voice that would be well-suited to a high school textbook. There are some wonderful admissions and asides, like her habit of digging her fingernails into her hand when she gets sleepy at meetings, or the time when former French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared, while watching a traffic jam of motorcades after a frustrating day of summits in Copenhagen, “I want to die!”

There are also carefully constructed personal recollections of some of the hard choices she made, like her support for the Osama bin Laden raid, with which President Barack Obama agreed, and her support for arming the Syrian rebels, with which Obama disagreed. But as often as not, the hard choices are so polished as to lose their edge. She admits to a shouting match with the former CIA director over whether or not to authorize a particular drone strike, but on the subject of her approach to drone strikes in general she offers only diplo-babble fortune cookies. She agrees with Obama that the strikes raised “profound questions,” and writes that it’s “crucial that these strikes be part of a larger smart power counterterrorism strategy that included diplomacy, law enforcement, sanctions, and other tools.” Got it?

There are other hard choices she clearly runs away from making. After mentioning the controversy over the National Security Agency’s mass collection of domestic phone records without a warrant, she offers a puzzle instead of a position: “Without security, liberty is fragile,” she writes. “Without liberty, security is oppressive. The challenge is finding the proper measure: enough security to safeguard our freedoms, but not so much (or so little) as to endanger them.” Even the NSA will struggle to decode that one.

She devotes an entire chapter to the need to take on climate change, imploring policy makers to save the world in the most vacuous language of policy making, which keeps rearing its head throughout the book: “Building a broad national consensus on the urgency of the climate threat and the imperative of a bold and comprehensive response will not be easy, but it is essential.” But she makes no mention of her position on the Keystone pipeline, which is arguably the most central domestic climate change issue she faced, and which coincidentally divides the Democratic Party.

Perhaps there is no reason to expect more from a politician in mid-stride. Barack Obama’s first book, Dreams of My Father, was widely hailed as a deeply personal literary work in its own right. The book he wrote before his 2008 campaign, The Audacity of Hope, was a far inferior list of policy maxims, Republican bashing and feel-good utopianism. But assuming she continues her campaign, Clinton has a problem to solve that Obama never had before he ran: She must convince voters both within and without the Democratic Party that she is a real person people can believe in, not just a political brand that is repolished and reintroduced to the public at regular intervals under the soft lights of a primetime television interview.

In Hard Choices, Clinton limits her personal admissions to the expected: Praise and pride in her daughter Chelsea, a tribute to her mother Dorothy, who passed in late 2011, and some glimpses of the personal toll of traveling 2,000 hours by plane to 122 countries over four years. Then, in the final pages, there is the hint of more:

Recently, Bill and I took another of our long walks, this time with our three dogs, near our home. It had been an unseasonably long winter, but spring was finally peeking through the thaw. We walked and talked, continuing a conversation that began more than forty years ago at Yale Law School and hasn’t stopped yet.

Do you want to know what happened next? What they talked about? How things have changed for the most storied political couple in the land? Well, you won’t find it here. The paragraph over, she changes the topic, and moves on, with no indication why the walk might have been important or interesting, or needed to be included in her book.

Clinton has made the hard choice to hide any details of the hardest choice to come in a book she calls Hard Choices. It’s exactly what candidates do—when they are preparing campaigns.

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