HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton - book review

The biography doesn't answer the big question - will Hillary run in 2016?- but its authors suggest that is the wrong question to ask

Political Correspondent

If the best form of revenge, as Frank Sinatra once suggested, is massive success, then Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to become the next president of the United States. Forget forgiveness or mercy.

After losing the 2008 Democrat nomination campaign to Barack Obama,  her staffers drew up a Excel spreadsheet, that noted the names of backers, defectors and traitors. It was, according to journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes,  the co-authors of HRC,  just “a necessity of modern political warfare.”

The Clinton hit-list, strategically enforced with extreme prejudice by Bill Clinton, was graded one to seven. John Kerry, the man who took over from Hillary at the State Department, merits a seven, as did Ted Kennedy.

The opening of HRC suggests that Washington DC is awash with villainy, croaking ravens and far from delicate stratagems. But ‘twas ever thus. That one aide is quoted as saying “the Clintons are into loyalty” is a bit like acknowledging that Bill enjoyed side-dishes. I prefer Lyndon Johnson’s description of how he liked his loyalty wrapped: ”I want him to kiss my ass in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses.”

Yet Hillary’s misplaced loyalty, one of the key reasons Obama sits in the Oval Office, is skimmed over in HRC. She hired the over-rated pollster and strategist, Mark Penn, who helped deliver the presidency for her husband and who also advised Tony Blair in the 2005 UK election. A portrait of Tony hangs in Penn’s Washington office, signed with the words “You were brilliant – Tony”.

But there is no portrait of Penn in the Clintons’ Georgetown mansion and Penn should rate a seven on the couple’s hate-list. His over-focus on microtrends, appealing to small, tailored interest groups and misreading the big state numbers, shredded her early lead and ultimately cost her the big prize.

The book’s placement of Penn in a soft list of “convenient scapegoats” suggests all the dark-side mechanics might have a weak under-belly. And that anatomy is a worry if she competes again in 2016.

HRC is mainly a ride through Mrs Clinton’s redemptive tenure at the State Department [the equivalent of Whitehall’s Foreign Office].  It delivers a decent insider account of  the numerous refusals to Obama, such as “ain’t gonna happen for a million reasons”, to the final acceptance of a role that ultimately wouldn’t be defined by her celebrity or by “big ticket” peace accords, but by the rather more prosaic task of  simply clearing up the mess left by George W Bush’s administration.

A DC source claims: “Her first priority, above all else, that she talked about in every single meeting, was how to restore America’s standing in the world? What’s it going to take?”

But her practice of direct “expeditionary diplomacy” had its downsides. The book’s analysis of Benghazi, where the ambassador in Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other diplomats were killed in an attack on the consul, is a meticulous description of the personal consequences of power.

However HRC’s account of the attack in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden, delivers little more than the film, Zero Dark Thirty, did – apart from one gem.

The Special Forces raid was scheduled to go down the same night as the White House Correspondents dinner, a flashy, black-tie affair. So should the intelligence folk go or pass up their invite? What would preserve the discretion of the mission best? Hillary’s stated position was made clear enough: “F*** the White House Correspondent’s Dinner”. 

After the mission’s success, Obama apparently called Bill at the Clinton’s home in Chappaqua. “Hillary probably told you,” the president began. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” Bill said.

If true – and that’s a big caveat – it’s proof of a division, a separation, that will be required if Hillary shatters another of America’s glass ceilings in 2016 to become the first Madam President.

Short on revelations that could haunt or hinder a Hillary 2016 campaign, HRC’s over-positive tone suggests Allen and Parnes were keen not  to be added to the infamous hit-list.

And although they don’t answer the big question – will she run? – they suggest this is the wrong question.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has “built and maintained a political network” that keeps her options open. What we should be asking is whether she will stop running for “the one worthwhile rung left on the ladder”.

Publisher: Hutchinson, £20.

Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?