April 18, 2014
Hillary Clinton's upcoming memoir, which is expected to look back at her time as secretary of State, now has a name: Hard Choices. Which is an okay title! She no doubt had to make some tough decisions while at State, and has at least one big decision to make coming up in the next year or so.
But the former Cabinet member and possible future presidential candidate may have been better served by a different title—like, say, Tough Decisions. Because Hard Choices has already been used. By another former secretary of State.
In 1983, Cyrus Vance, who served as secretary of State in the Carter administration from 1977 to 1980, released his memoir about his own years in office: Hard Choices: Critical Years in America's Foreign Policy. The book doesn't appear to be widely read now (if Amazon is any guide), but when it was published, it was praised by Foreign Affairs as a "highly rewarding" read "for the serious observer," and hailed as a "remarkable picture of the diverse problems and strains with which an American secretary of State must cope today." Which sounds, at least in part, like what Clinton is going for with her new book.
Hillary Clinton can be forgiven for the repeat. The basic nature of political-memoir titles is just to be as vague, unoffensive, and bland as possible. The golden rule, best explored in the third-season premiere of HBO's Veep, is to say absolutely nothing while suggesting absolutely everything. It is, in short, a perfectly ridiculous exercise.
So really there should be no surprise that Clinton's book has a very similar-sounding predecessor. The real shock will be if, 20 years from now, this doesn't just happen all the time. There are, after all, only so many cliches to go around.
April 18, 2014