“HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton” by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes is a riveting, almost-impossible-to-put-down chronicle of the five years in the life of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that begins with her loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential primaries and ends with her departure from the Department of State in early 2013 with the ashes of Benghazi just beginning to be sifted and her campaign for the presidency just beginning to take shape. It is a must read for conservatives –an indispensable guide to Hillaryland, the Planet Bill and the vast Clinton Universe which now looms over the country like a political death star. Allen and Parnes have done the GOP a favor: They have given it a map. Now the GOP must study it.
Part of that map emerges because of what isn’t detailed in the book. The gaps are revealing –very revealing. They point us to what Hillaryland fears most. Allen and Parnes had lots and lots of access to almost everyone in Hillaryland — Chelsea and Huma Abedin, Hillary’s “second daughter” seem to be the only major figures in the drama they didn’t talk with directly and at length– but everyone else gave them their takes on the five years in question, and from those vast hours of interviews comes the first comprehensive account of what went on at State from the time “HRC” walked in the doors.
I taped my three hour interview with Allen Wednesday, and will air the first two hours today and hour three tomorrow –a classic radio tease, that– and Allen’s voice is almost gone because of book tour talking. So perhaps was his resistance to conservative probes, because his candid, often very surprising answers and agreements will render a verdict on Hillary’s tenure at State you won’t want to miss, which is why you want to read the book. The interview should alert you to the book’s value to conservatives, but it has to be read to be appreciated, for Hillaryland’s strengths and weaknesses to be understood at least in part.
Hillary failed at State. She failed spectacularly, and in almost every undertaking. She failed in Libya, which was to have been her capstone achievement and instead became the specter that rightly haunts her ambitions.
She failed in Egypt, where she first betrayed “family friends” –the Mubaraks– and then lurched with the Administration through a series of spectacularly bad decisions to leave Egypt in the firm control of a serious man with a long term hold on power who is dealing with the Russians —reversing a historic triumph of American statecraft achieved over 40 years of driving the Russians out of the regions most important country.
She failed in the Congo, and she failed in Pakistan, and very much so with China. She succeeded only in Burma, and with one blind Chinese dissident. That’s her record.
And she failed most spectacularly and obviously with Russia. Allen and Parnes account of the “red reset button” –it should be called the Red Buttons Reset it was such a slapdash, slapstick pratfall of a move– is actually painful to read, and the account of Hillary aide Philipe Reines begging to get the button back should actually be humiliating to any American. I have no doubt that the button sits somewhere in Putin’s office, where he eyes it often and laughs regularly. Hillary gave the button to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, with whom she thought she had created a strong professional bond. Well, check out Lavrov’s comments over the months of the Ukraine crisis. He’s just another Russian strongman, but one who easily duped the woman who would be president.
There is much to dwell on in “HRC,” much and more for GOP strategists to ponder and plan over. Reince Preibus ought to send out copies to all of his senior staff and arrange for a book club like series of sessions where the many lessons of “HRC” are teased out of the book. They will be invaluable in the next two-and-a-half-years.
So ought every would-be GOP nominee to read the book. Hillary looks tough –she is tough, very, very tough– but she cracks, and at the worst time. There is as detailed an account of the night of Benghazi as is available anywhere in “HRC.” It isn’t very detailed, however, and Allen tells me the Department of State won’t release its own very detailed internal timeline on that night, but it is hard to escape the feeling that Hillary cracked that night and got sent home by the most powerful figure in Hillaryland –Cheryl Mills. Allen denies this, but read the few pages for yourself. Things got “frantic” at State, and Hillary went home. Hillary called State’s number 2 in Libya –Greg Hicks– at 8 PM D.C. time– and never called him back, an astonishing thing considering the circumstances. Allen and I will discuss this today. GOP operatives should be discussing it for years to come. What did Hillary do and not do that night? Exactly. Did she crack and panic, flee and weep, or command the crisis like the calm, competent leader she wants us all to believe she is? If it was the latter, don’t you think Allen and Parnes would have been told the details in a minute-by-minute fashion?
There is much and more in “HRC” which may not have received the reading it deserved in conservative and GOP circles because Allen –like me and many other journalists– is a partisan. Allen ran the PAC of Debbie Wasserman Schultz for goodness sakes, and worked for Mayor Bloomberg, but that doesn’t make him a bad reporter or writer, just one from the left. He and Parnes are in fact terrific reporters and writers. (The arc of the story of Bill Clinton’s revenge on a Hillary traitor –former Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire– is worth the price of the book alone. Talk about serving the dish cold –and very, very long after the original betrayal.)
There is a tendency –a terrible, self-blinding tendency– of partisans to ignore key books from authors whose politics don’t align with their own. Thus Republicans will have missed Jonathan Alter’s very important The Center Holds which takes them deep inside the Obama election machine that beat them at every level of professional competence in 2008 and 2012, and lefties will have missed Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments which actually and faithfully explains what is motivating the Tea Party in ways that might allow some Democrats to co-opt as to oppose, disdain and smear some old Democrats with Tea Party leanings (and they are legion, like Reagan Democrats.)
“HRC” also received the curse of a “damned-with-faint-praise” review in the New York Times by Jodi Kantor, which conservatives will see as a mark of the beast, but which in fact signaled that some on the left thought the book insufficiently respectful to the great and wonderful Oz at 1600. (Obama’s foreign policy team are scalded in the book, and rightfully so, as a bunch of bumbling amateurs. HRC looks good by comparison to them, but not by comparison to any ordinary measure of competence. How Condi Rice must have laughed her way through the book.)
Get the book and read it with a highlighter. Listen to today’s and tomorrow’s interview with Allen. Hillary may be the inevitable Democatic nominee in 2016. She is far from the inevitable next president, and “HRC” lays out why.