Monday, July 25, 2016

HRC - Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes

Title: HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton
Author: Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes
Publication Date: 2/11/14
Pages: 448
Genre: Biography / Political / Nonfiction
How I Found It: Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness wrote about it
Date Completed: 6/1/16

Summary: Allen and Parnes examine Clinton's life, career, and public image from the point of her loss to Obama in the 2008 primaries. 

What I Thought: This week, Hillary Clinton will officially receive the Democratic nomination for president. It's a huge deal. Regardless of your politics, this is a really big moment in American history. She's the first female nominee of a major political party. We can argue all day long about her as a person and her as a politician, but you simply cannot deny that this is a big moment, just as it was when Obama accepted the nomination back in 2008. 

If you've been following the blog for the past few years, you know I've taken to book-based research of Clinton. So much of what we see in the media is sound bites or rhetoric. Not that those things don't exist in books, but they tend to be buoyed by longer explanations and a chance to look at situations in a more complete context. 

This book, in particular, felt like a fairly balanced look at Clinton's modern persona. Allen and Parnes finished writing it just before Clinton officially declared her candidacy for president in 2015, so it would be interesting to read their thoughts on how things have gone since that point. Still, their deep investigation into Clinton's career and public image in the previous eight years is fascinating. They are gracious and likely Clinton supporters, but those qualities do not prevent them from revealing some of her weaknesses and failings. 

I found the book really interesting. Allen and Parnes talked to a lot of staffers, particularly when exploring how the Obama and Clinton camps had to learn to work together after the contentious primary battle. There were a lot of unnamed sources cited, for obvious reasons. I would have loved some more names included, but I definitely understand why many quotes were from people like 'a high-level aide in the Obama administration' or 'a long-time staffer at the State Department.' Makes total sense. People love to offer their opinions so long as they are not simultaneously committing social or career suicide. It's why anonymous Internet trolling is such a ridiculous problem.

Allen and Parnes look closely, too, at public opinion of Clinton. They observe that her tenure as Secretary of State made her intensely popular, in part because she was not seen as playing politics. Yet, when she does step into the political arena, popular opinion drops. Of course, this is true of any politician, but I think particularly so for Clinton. She makes a fascinating case study for the modern relationship between gender, politics, and the public psyche. 

There's no doubt Clinton is a polarizing figure. This election is already fascinating and memorable in so many ways. Throughout the primary, she failed to motivate the Democratic base in the face of Bernie Sanders' revolution. However, now she has the nomination and is faced with the task of taking down Donald Trump, a man about whom I don't need to read a bunch of books to know what I think. 

I know a lot of people in my social circles are on the fence about their vote. I really do understand that much of the Republican base cannot vote for her or Trump in good conscious. However, for me, this quote from the book makes a big difference: "In the case of Secretary Clinton, I think her personal standing, her legacy of tough but honest, diplomatic but not disingenuous, I think its important to her." Clinton cares about her legacy; that, at least, is saying something that, I believe, cannot be said of her opponent.

You really should go read Kim's post on this book. She did such a great job capturing both current public opinion of Clinton and the book's approach to it. Seriously, go read her post. She already said so much of what I would have.

As we race ever closer to this important election, I encourage you to research, read, and respond accordingly. This book could be a good starting point if you're looking to learn more about Clinton. And, don't forget, regardless of who you are voting for, there is never an excuse to personally attack other voters for their opinions. Learn to agree to disagree with grace. After all, you'd hope for the same from someone who disagrees with you. 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Unlikely
If You Liked This, Try: Hard Choices / Living History / Daring

A Reduced Review: A fresh look at Hillary Clinton's rebound after the 2008 election and her tenure as Secretary of State.

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