Hillary Clinton's 'Hard Choices': What the Critics Are Saying

4:05 PM PST 06/10/2014 by Justin Krajeski

Reviewers are calling "Hard Choices," which went on sale Tuesday, everything from a "newsless snore" to a "richly detailed and compelling chronicle."

Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices officially went on sale Tuesday, but it's been picked over by book critics since May 30, when Politico leaked the details of the chapter detailing the deadly attack on the American embassy in Benghazi.

The consensus? Diplomatic, but mainly boring -- though one critic wholly disagrees. Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times is describing it as a "richly detailed and compelling chronicle of Clinton's role in the foreign initiatives and crises that defined the first term of the Obama administration."

It's largely been dubbed by reviewers as a political campaign book, though Clinton writes "I don't know yet," about a presidential run in 2016.

Read what top critics are saying about Clinton's newest memoir:

The New York Times' Michiko Kakutani calls Hard Choices a "statesmanlike document" that "turns out to be a subtle, finely calibrated work that provides a portrait of the former secretary of state and former first lady as a heavy-duty policy wonk," before adding that "there is little news in the book" and the book is "very much the work of someone who is keeping all her political options open."

David Ignatius of The Washington Post writes that Clinton's memoir is a "careful book, written tactically to burnish friendship and avoid making enemies," one that makes the reader feel as though he is "being 'spun' rather than enlightened." Though he concedes that the book will serve Clinton well as a political document, "there's nothing here that seems likely to get her in trouble with anyone, which is doubtless good politics but a bad thing to say about a memoir."

At Time, Michael Scherer notes that "without the reality of a coming candidacy, the rest of the book just doesn't make any sense." He remains steadfast to this point, continuing to quip: "It's as if she left her home, walked down the street to her local bar, took a seat on the stool, handed the barkeep her credit card, and then told him, 'I haven't decided whether or not to order a drink.' " In its favor, Scherer notes that the book recounts "major events of the last five years in a useful, matter-of-fact voice that would be well-suited to a high school textbook," though he ends by saying that Clinton "limits her personal admissions to the expected."

Los Angeles Times' Abcarian praises the book, calling it a "richly detailed and compelling chronicle" that "leaves no room for doubt about how she might conduct foreign policy (pragmatically), how she will defend herself against charges that she mishandled the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya (robustly), and how much she regrets giving President George W. Bush carte blanche to wage war against Iraq (deeply and eternally)." She also notes that while "the prose of Hard Choices may not have the soaring quality of a transcendent political speech…it's also mercifully free of the bromides that mar most campaign biographies." 

John Dickerson of Slate asserts that this memoir is "not a book from someone who has nothing to lose," and compares it to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' recent book, Duty, which he claims had "lots of spice." Instead, "Clinton's account is the low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie offering with vanilla pudding as dessert. She goes at great length, but not great depth."

Politico's Mike Allen blasts the memoir in his Monday-morning newsletter, labeling it "a newsless snore, written so carefully not to offend that it will fuel the notion that politics infuses every part of her life."

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