In Ready for Hillary? former British ambassador to the United States Robin Renwick provides readers with a clear portrait of the woman potentially poised to make history as the first female president of the US.
Renwick covers, briefly, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s upbringing, family background and experience as a student, before moving on to her relationship with Bill Clinton, marriage and early career. For those of us who have long admired her from afar, but who have not pursued the interest further through literary study, Renwick’s book provides a helpful introduction.
A critical view might accuse Renwick at times of racing through some key formative chapters in Clinton’s life: the 1996 presidential election, for example, is given just one paragraph; her views on climate change just four pages. But this is certainly not supposed to be a study of the life of her husband, nor a biography of recent American political history, so this can be forgiven. Indeed, while the book might dash through Clinton’s time as first lady, her controversial attempts to introduce healthcare reform and her battles with the media do give the reader the context of her position as a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination to be the next president. The book brings us right up to date, going into depth about the race against current president Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination eight years ago, and her time as secretary of state.
Renwick’s own specialism as a former diplomat is brought to the fore in the chapters which explore the myriad complexities of current Middle Eastern affairs, as well as exploring Clinton’s handling of the Arab spring, relations with Russia and China, and concern for the future of Africa. A helpful insight is provided into her views on the United Kingdom and the European Union. Indeed, foreign policy makes up a substantial amount of the book, perhaps demonstrating the likely issues that will dominate the first term of her presidency, should she be elected. A more lingering question is posed about the future standing of the US on the global stage, and hints are made about how a Clinton presidency foreign policy may alter from that of Obama in the White House.
Interestingly, little is made of her gender and the particular place she will hold in history, if indeed she is successful. When making reference to losing out to Obama, Renwick repeats the key lines from her speech about ‘18 million cracks made in the glass ceiling’, but does not go further in assessing the mood of the American people towards having a woman president, which would perhaps have been an interesting area for exploration.
A more appropriate title than ‘Ready for Hillary?’ – which implies there will be greater analysis within the book of her polling and standing with the American people – would perhaps have been ‘Is Hillary ready to be president?’ Although this is explored towards the end of the book, and other contenders for the Democratic nomination are named, this is primarily a reflective publication, assessing her successes and slip-ups in equal measure. This notwithstanding, this is a valuable book which demonstrates Clinton’s tenacity, ambition and competence. It proves an excellent starting point for those less acquainted with the subject matter, and will be a useful addition to the American political canon.
Helen Gibson is a member of Progress
Ready for Hillary? Portrait of a President in waiting
Biteback Publishing | 256pp | £17.99
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