Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices: Wanna run for US President? Write a book

David Ignatius of WaPo writes about Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices: This is a careful book, written tactically to burnish friendships and avoid making enemies. Perhaps that’s inevitable for an autobiographer who is considering running for president. So is publishing a book basically an inevitable act for Hillary as for somebody who is considering running for US President, is it really helpful in terms of the public perception? Read few comments.

Steffen SchmidtUniversity Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University

As you know, EVERY politician who wants to run for President writes a book ! It’s a “requirement” not in the US Constitution but in the book of political “must do!”

It’s partly to do book signings all over the USA which is very important. It gives free local media and visibility. It allows “Hillarystas”, her passionate supporters, to get motivated. It generates thousands of local stories in print, radio, and TV where she can spin her legend.

Of course it is also an excellent way to “clarify” or explain potential problem areas like her role in Benghazi attack as well as the prisoner swap that just took place where she apparently was NOT in favor! That is very important because it helps “clear the air” or “get out in front of the Republican attacks” on these issues. And in a book YOU the author control the circumstances under which all this happens as opposed to debates or Sunday morning talk shows or even news programs where Candy Crowley can brutally ask these questions!

Steven GreeneAssociate Professor of Political Science, North Carolina State University

Yes, it very much does seem to be an inevitable act of one running for president. From one I’ve seen, it typically does very little, if anything, to alter public perceptions. Just like all candidates for political office feel they need to have yard signs (despite no actual evidence for their efficacy), it almost seems that all candidates running for president feel they have to write a book. I think serious candidates feel this is a way to prove that they are, in fact, serious candidates.

Matthew Eshbaugh-SohaAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas

A few points. First, all presidential candidates publish a book. This is one among many ways that a candidate can get their version of their story out to the media. It also provides the basic narrative that candidates will trumpet early in the campaign, as a way to introduce themselves, tell their biography. Often, this bio narrative is found in early campaign ads, too.

Clinton is a bit different, nevertheless. We know who she is, as she has been in the national public spotlight for over 20 years. The purpose of this book is to show that she has made the tough decisions, that she is a qualified and successful public servant, and that this window into her decision-making, she hopes, will generate positive views of her–in the past and, potentially, going forward. So, yes, the public perception is big and I think she has done well in this regard. She also seemed to time this extraordinarily well. The attention has been focused on her and her book for several days now. This is exactly what you want as a potential candidate. It’s too early to announce intentions to run, but it’s not too early to generate positive views of yourself.

The fact that she has been fairly positive in the book means that she has taken the high ground, that potential Republican nominees have to criticize Clinton to scores points. Thus, when Marco Rubio (or any potential Rep nominee) has to tell Americans that Clinton is responsible for Benghazi, that we need investigations, and that Clinton needs to be held accountable, he might come across to some (maybe not Republicans, but other Americans) as being petty and critical in comparison with Clinton’s positive and pointed self-reflections.

Richard BenedettoAdjunct Professor of Journalism, School of Communication, American University

Most candidates considering a run for president, especially those who have a real chance of gaining their party’s nomination, write books explaining their policy positions. Barack Obama, George. W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Romney, John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Bob Dole all did it, to mention some recent ones.

In Hillary’s case, it is a bit different because she has been on the public scene for a long time and has a controversial record to promote and defend. Therefore, one of the major goals of this book is to get out ahead of her critics and spin her side of the story on such controversies as Benghazi, the “reset” with Russia and promote her accomplishments as secretary of state.

As she makes the rounds of TV interviews, she is trying to quell her critics by saying, “Elections are about the future, not the past,” which of course is only partially true. It sounds good, and some might agree. However, elections are always about the past as well – most notably the past failures and successes of the candidates running. What a candidate has done in the past is always relevant to the election. Hillary is trying to obliterate, if not erase, all that by saying, “Look, I discussed all that in my book. It’s time to move on and look ahead.”

It’s a good stratagem, and it might work if media allow her to get away with it. The interview with her today on NPR was a softball.

The book’s biggest aid to Hillary now is to keep her name and face in the news as she “considers” whether to run for president. It also is meant to inoculate her against critics who are sure to be out there in force, if she runs.

Nicholas EastonAssistant Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, Columbus State University

I think the important thing about this book and its release at this time is not even what’s in the book or how she’s using it to position herself on issues (though there are some important clues there as well), but rather the fact that she is releasing this book at this time seems like a strong indicator that she intends to run. The release of this book keeps her in the public consciousness. Since she doesn’t want to indicate yet that she is running and make herself an open target and yet she doesn’t want to be forgotten and lose momentum (there has been an active group called ‘Ready for Hillary” working on her behalf for over a year) this book release gives her a way to get into the news cycle at a good time and keep interest alive. Very shortly American political interest will be entirely focused on the Congressional elections and only after that will there be a real focus on the 2016 Presidential race, so this is her last real chance to get herself in the public focus this year and be ready to announce in early 2015. In terms of the content of the book there are some indications of how she wants to position herself on issues, most notably Benghazi. She has done a pretty neat trick there saying that the Benghazi experience has better prepared her to be President, thus never saying if it was a mistake or not, implying that if it was a mistake it was a learning experience. The bottom line is that this release is a very strong indication that she’s preparing to run and putting out now (in time to have them forgotten or fixed) issues that she thinks could be potential problems. When it comes to politics there are few better at strategy than the Clintons.

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