Perhaps she got the Monica Lewinsky stuff out in Living History. (“I did, and I’m past it,” she’s said.) But it’s interesting to note how careful Hard Choices is with certain button-pushing figures. There are two perfunctory mentions of Sarah Palin, in which Clinton discusses how the Obama team wanted Clinton to slam her and she refused to do it. Huma Abedin is mentioned throughout, but there’s nothing on Anthony Weiner. Pop culture figures like Amy Poehler and Dan Savage appear in asides. The “Texts From Hillary” meme — embraced by the Ready for Hillary campaign’s mugs, for one — gets a brief mention, with the original, meme-inspiring photo in a small circle on the back cover.
In Rebecca Traister’s passionate, depressing book about the 2008 election, Big Girls Don’t Cry, the author goes deep into Clinton’s campaign, showing how Clinton’s “inevitability” pitch, blocking her feminist bona fides, backfired. The misstep allowed Palin to forge an identity as a “mamma grizzly” and run with it, beguiling the nation for a short period of time. The 2008 Clinton campaign only started to get real momentum in the press, to turn into a fight, when she revealed weaknesses, when she seemed human.
This time around, Clinton is prepared. Naturally, she is coy about whether she’s running or not, telling the likes of Diane Sawyer on ABC and Cynthia McFadden on NBC that she’s not declaring anything, but that she is looking forward to becoming a grandmother in the fall. Granted, it would be early to officially start campaigning, and you can only go downhill from being the presumed frontrunner, but Clinton is obviously having it all, promoting her book and beginning the arduous push to the presidency in 2016.
Chelsea’s pregnancy — and Clinton’s expression of enthusiasm over becoming a grandmother — is key. Chelsea is a frequent character in Hard Choices, and she’s in the background, reminding Clinton of why she does the hard work that she does. Whether it’s politically, by giving a speech in which she reminds the crowd about Hillary’s feminist statements, broadening them by tying them to the struggle for LGBT rights, or through lifestyle (see: her glamorous, heart-warming marriage), Chelsea’s competence and success are stellar advertisements for Clinton. There have been rumors that Chelsea will be running for office in the future; I don’t doubt it, and I suspect that she will be a strong advocate for her mother in the future campaign. Because we all know that Clinton is running.
While this “Hillary Week” may be the first shot in a campaign, perhaps it’s another thing as well: a remarkably controlled narrative that, this time, understands how to position Clinton as a presidential candidate. She makes tough decisions. She’s (ugh, why does this matter so much for women?) relatable. She’s a remarkable woman. In some ways, it’s like the quiet before the storm, before the 2016 presidential campaign descends into a cloud of toxicity. Enjoy it while you can.