Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices (chapters 10-13) and Donald Trump’s Crippled America — recently re-named How To Make America Great Again (chapter 6)

The tone and tenor of the most recent autobiographies of our presidential nominees follow the same tone and tenor of their convention speeches.  But Donald J. Trump’s convention speech was painted a pessimistic view of America underscoring crime and violence in America.

In her  convention speech, Hillary Clinton  had the advantage of going second, which allowed her to respond to Trump’s depressing view of the country and underscoring her own view that the country has many great aspects, including the hard work of Americans who continue to make America great each day.

In this blog, I present chapter summaries from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s most recent autobiographies to help readers discern their view of America, their experience to be president and to get a sense of how they would lead.


PART 4: of Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices – Between Hope and History

Chapter 10: Europe: Ties That Bind

This is a  social chapter, where Hillary Clinton lists her many friends in Europe, attends many dinners and shakes many hands. When not discussing NATO or Turkey — two of the biggest challenges to watch in Europe during her tenure — she often looks back to how foreign policy has changed since she was first lady. She spends a significant amount of time discussing Serbia and Kosovo, and ends the chapter in Northern Ireland. She admired German Chancellor Angela Merkel, despite the austerity, and once called French leader Nicolas Sarkozy “her Prince Charming.” Not surprising, given Clinton’s recent emphasis on climate change, she singles out her U.S.-E.U. Energy Council proposal as one of her big focuses in Europe.
Chapter 11 – Russia: Reset and Regression

Much of the chapter works as a defense of the “reset” with Russia and gives Clinton the opportunity to look incredibly prescient on Russia in hindsight. The reset begins with a blunder, when American diplomats hand the Russian foreign minister a reset button that reads “overcharged” instead of “reset.” Clinton thought U.S.-Russian relations were going swimmingly with then-President Dmitry Medvedev but knew things would go downhill when Vladimir Putin returned. When Clinton left the State Department, she warned Obama to take a harder line with Russia.

Chapter 12/Latin America: Democrats and Demagogues

Clinton’s hard choices in Latin America include saying that the problem of drug cartels “is also an American problem” and that the United States has a responsibility to address it; working to keep Cuba out of the Organization of American States while also working to increase the United States’ soft-power influence on the isolated country; and helping Honduras after it suffered a coup.

She says not bringing back USAID contractor Alan Gross was one of her regrets as secretary and described the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as “a self-aggrandizing dictator who was more of an aggravation than a real threat, except to his own citizens.”

Chapter 13/Africa: Guns or Growth?

Clinton begins her chapter on Africa by posing the question that plagued the State Department during her time there: How to help the progress happening in so many countries while also stemming the “chaos and privation” that still dominate? Clinton’s priorities in the region included working to reward countries that were succeeding at democracy, helping stop violence against women, expanding PEPFAR — President George W. Bush’s program to fight HIV/AIDS in the region — and helping poor and hungry families. She discusses China’s growing economic influence in the region, South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela’s influence and that time a Kenyan councilman wanted to trade 40 goats and 20 cows for Chelsea Clinton’s hand in marriage.

Donald Trump’s Crippled America / Chapter 6  The Energy Debate:  A lot of hot air

In this chapter Donald Trump contends that climate change is a myth.  He argues that there is oil in America and natural gas and we should use that. It will last us until next century and by then we’ll all be dead anyway.  He also believes that the Keystone XL pipeline should be allowed to go ahead. We should drill everywhere oil is accessible.  He also argues that wind power is the worst because it ruins the view from golf courses.



Chapter 5 of Donald Trump’s Crippled America and Chapters 7/8/9 of Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices

Donald Trump – Crippled America, Chapter 5; Education:  A Failing Grade

Trump opens by saying that his father did not have a college degree but that he so valued a college education that he lent financial assistance to his brother John so that he could earn a master’s degree.  Donald Trump also shares his own education:  “I went to the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, which is, in my opinion, the best business school in America–and arguably the hardest there is to get into.”   He also says that his goal is to make America the best education for all of us.

It is significant that Trump begins his discussion of education by juxtaposing o a successful Ivy League graduate, himself, with a self-made man, his father. Implicit in this comparison is the belief that education isn’t essential to be successful. Like many things that Trump says, he makes a forceful assertion that is vague enough to be interpreted a variety of ways. Yes, education is important he says, but the measure of true accomplishment success in business.

Hillary Clinton Hard Choices PART 3: WAR AND PEACE

Chapter 7- Af Pak Surge

Three days before Thanksgiving 2009, Clinton recalls sitting in the White House situation room as Obama asked for advice about Afghanistan, which “was on its way to becoming the longest [war] in American history.” The summer had gone badly, with an increase in Taliban fighters and attacks on NATO forces, and an election marred by widespread fraud. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal asked for more troops. In the end, Obama decided on a “surge” of 30,000 troops, focused on security, human services and helping the government, with a deadline for withdrawal in 18 months. The military brass went away happy, but Vice President Biden was displeased and warned of a “bloody quagmire.” As for Clinton, she writes that she was “under no illusions about how difficult it would be to turn around this war. But all things considered I believed that the President had made the right choice and put us in the best position to succeed.”

 Chapter 8 Afghanistan: To End a War

Clinton writes about trying to conscript Pakistan into the effort to secure Afghanistan’s future. The United States held secret talks with a top aide to Mohammad Omar, head of the Taliban. Prisoner swaps, Clinton wrote, were discussed, including Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. “The Taliban’s top concern seemed to be the fate of its fighters being held at Guantanamo Bay and other prisons,” Clinton writes, adding that in every such discussion “we demanded the release” of Bergdahl.

Chapter 9 Pakistan: National Honor

The highlight of this chapter is easy: Clinton details the meetings that led up to the move on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and the tense moments as the raid took place. Officials held regular meetings in March and April leading up to the May 1, 2011, raid. Then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta and national security adviser Tom Donilon supported a raid; then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates didn’t. Biden also was skeptical.

On April 28, 2011, Obama convened the group for one last meeting in the situation room. He asked everyone at the table for their final recommendation. Clinton writes that since Obama and she were both lawyers,  she had learned to appeal to Obama’s analytical mind and laid out the case that the risks were outweighed by the benefits of success.


Out of the Keyboards of Presidential Candidates: Chapters 5&6 Clinton and Chapter 4 Trump Autobiographies

You’ve heard “out of the mouths of babes”–right?  How about “out of the keyboards of presidential hopefuls?”!  I love a good project and here it is:  reading the most recent autobiographies of Hillary Clinton–Hard Choices and Donald Trump–Crippled America. This is an assignment my students will do in fall, so I’m getting a running start on it and sharing it with you.  Read on and draw your own contrasts:

Chapter 5:  Beijing/The Dissident

In this chapter, Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner make their way to Beijing for a strategic and economic summit to negotiate the fate of  Chen Guangcheng, a blind dissident who advocated on behalf of fellow villagers against local authorities. He escaped house arrest, injured his foot and traveled to Beijing, where he sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy. Clinton negotiated over Chen’s fate playing out behind the scenes as she and Geithner publicly engaged in polite talks with Chinese leaders about larger strategic matters — each side desperate to avoid sparking a crisis. Despite the high-wire act, Clinton writes that her decision to send embassy officials out to retrieve Chen and offer him refuge “wasn’t a close call.”

Chapter 6/Burma: The Lady and the Generals

Clinton call Burma’s transformation one of the high points of her time as Secretary of State. She writes of inching diplomacy along as a new leader became president, the release of Nobel Prize-winning opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, and the halting of construction of a Chinese dam on the sacred Irrawaddy River. Finally, Obama speaks directly to Suu Kyi by phone — swapping “stories about their dogs” — and clears Clinton for the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state to Burma in more than 50 years. Highlights of that trip: Meeting Suu Kyi in person. Hearing that the speaker of the lower house of parliament was “trying to understand how to run a Parliament” by watching “The West Wing.” And taking off her shoes at an ancient Buddhist temple in Rangoon, where journalists took note of her “sexy siren red” toenail polish.

Chapter 4 Trump’s Crippled America

In Chapter 4, Foreign Policy:  Fighting for Peace, begins by stating:  “The career diplomats who got us into many foreign policy messes say I have no experience in foreign policy.”  He contends that it does not take years of experience or nuance to make a decision and that the state of the world is  a “terrible mess.”  He describes the diplomats as “pin striped bureaucrats and so-called experts.”   He writes that what he does know is what we are doing now is not working.  His advice:  “When you are digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole, stop digging.”  His approach is to “Operate from strength.”  He quotes the boxer, Mike Tyson:  “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”  He asserts that the best way to not have to use your military power is to make sure that the power is visible.  He writes that “It’s no wonder nobody respects us.  It’s no surprise that we never win.”   He believes that it is time that the world pay their fair share. He says that the biggest question people ask about foreign policy is “at what point do we put boots on the ground?”  He notes he is not afraid to criticize President Obama about Iran and that the deal the president negotiated with Iran was the “worst I have ever seen.”  He believes that today the world has to deal with two “sets” of China.  He writesimages that tipping your hand is the worst mistake.  He closes the chapter by saying that “we need to pay special attention to the Chinese.”  and that “The new dawn of America has just begun.”


Chapter 3 Trump and 3 and 4 Clinton Autobiographies

You can learn a lot about people by what they say and write about themselves, which is why I’m reading Trump’s autobiography “Crippled America” and Clinton’s “Hard Choices” and sharing their messages with you.  Here’s chapter 3 of each:

Trump’s Chapter Three is titled:  Immigration:  Good Walls Make Good Neighbors and  re recounts that when he announced he was running for president he spoke for almost an hour.  He complained about illegal immigrants and offered a solution to build a great wall and that because he has so much experience building things, the wall would be a great success.  He asserts that he “loves immigration” but “what I don’t love is the concept of illegal immigration.”  He writes that “some of those immigrants are a source of real crime.”  He writes “Walls work” and cites Israel’s walls as a great example.  He says that while the wall is great it would be just a start, and sums up by writing that his immigration policy is “pretty simple.”  He believes that:  “we need to make it easier for the people who can contribute to this country to come here legally while making it impossible to criminal elements and other people to get here legally.”

Clinton’s Chapter Three is titled:  Asia:  The Pivot

This chapter begins with a retelling of Secretary Clinton’s first road trip as SOS.  She tells the reader that she travelled nearly a million miles during her time and she describes the layout and staffing of her plane.  Her first trip, to Asia was, as are most of the trips as SOS to help create a good relationship with the country and to aid the country in shaping its future.  She discussed the rise of China and the threat of North Korea.  She had a Q and A at Ewha Women’s University and after she visited Japan she went to Jakarta, Indonesia where she was greeted by a group of young students from the school that Barack Obama attended.  She then discusses North Korea and discusses some of her husband’s experiences in the country and with the leaders.  She also discusses her visits to India, Vietnam, Laos and Mongolia.  Chief among her goals for the trip was political reform.  She offers the tidbit that during her extensive travel as SOS she learned to sleep just about anywhere.

Chapter 4:  Unchartered Waters  Recounting President Nixon’s 1972 historic trip to China, Hillary Clinton tells the story that she and Bill rented a TV to watch the news coverage of “the week that changed the world.”  In 1995 she traveled to China to give her speech on women’s rights and her speech was censored by Chinese television.  The US did not have a pavilion in the major international exhibition, so Hillary Clinton raised the money and got it built, which helped enormously with diplomacy to the country.  She left the country feeling more confident about the strategy in Asia.  She then turns to attention to her daughter Chelsea’s wedding and shares what a beautiful event it was for her family.  She recounted when Bill and Chelsea danced to “The Way You Look Tonight.”  She wrote:  “It was one of the happiest and proudest moments in my life.”



Chapter 2 of our nominees’ autobiographies

Hillary Clinton begins Chapter 2, “Foggy Bottom” of her most recent autobiography recounting the time she met her first secretary of state, Dean Acheson, the night before her student speech a Wellesley.  She then talks about the advice that she got as she took her post as Obama’s S.O.S.  “don’t try to do everything at once”  was one of the pieces of advice.  She notes all the people in the administration who reached out to her and supported her in her position, especially Joe Biden, whom she seems especially fond of.  She wrote: “Vice President-elect Joe Biden brought a wealth of international experience from his leadership pf the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  His warmth and humor would be very welcome during log hours in the White House Situation Room.   Every week, Joe and I tried to meet for breakfast.”  She then spends a good potion of the chapter describing the “list of challenges at a time of diminished expectations at home and abroad.”  She described recruiting Richard Holbrooke and Jim Steinberg and other key members of her staff.  She then describes walking into her office and sitting down at her desk for the first time.  She found a letter from her predecessor, Secretary Rice that read: “You have the most important qualification for this job–you love this country deeply.”

Donald Trump begin chapter 2, “Our “Unbiased” Political Media to berate the media by saying “It hasn’t taken me long to learn how truly dishonest the political media can be.”  He said that Megyn Kelly, the Fox journalist was “out to get me” during the first debate.  He says he has no problem telling it “like it is.”  He says that he is not bragging when he says he is a winner, he cites his business experience as proof that he is a winner and that he has been winning his entire life. He says he gets a lot of press because he is interesting and that most politicians are boring.  He writes:  “The cost of a full-page ad in The new York Times can be more than $100,000. But when they write a story about one of my deals it doesn’t cost me a cent.  He complained about a recent media interview he had with Hugh Hewitt who asked him who Hassan Nasrallah is and Zawahiri and al-Juliani and al-Baghdadi.  Trump said “What a ridiculous question.  I don’t think that knowing the names of each terrorist leader more than a year before the election is s test of whether someone is qualified.  We are not playing Trivial Pursuit.”


Preface and Chapter 1 Crippled America/Preface and Chapter 1 Hard Choices

This is the first in a series of blog posts on Donald Trump’s Autobiography, Crippled America, and Hillary Clinton’s autobiography, Hard Choices.  Look for weekly updates on each book in these months before the election.search-1

In Donald Trump’s 193 page book, which includes a 6 page ‘about the author’ section at the end, and no index, Crippled America, he opens the preface of the book with the headline “You Gotta Believe” and describes the reason he chose an angry book cover. He noted that there were “some beautiful pictures taken”  that his family wanted him to use instead, but he chose the angry faced photo because there is “nothing nice” about America right now, we are “crippled” and the cover photo should represent the state of the country.  search He wanted a photo that represented the “anger and unhappiness” he feels over the state of the country.  He went on to describe how people think he has self confidence and the the incompetence of the president and executive branch is “beyond belief.”   He went on to explain that when he started to speak out about running for president, he had “no idea” what the reaction would be.  The reaction is much greater than he though and he wants to turn America around from despair.  In chapter one, Donald Trump asserts that “America needs to start winning again.”  He begins by saying “Nobody likes a loser and nobody likes to be bullied.”  He writes that he became a candidate because “We don’t need more political rhetoric, we need more common sense” and that he has proven everybody who doubted his candidacy wrong, “EVERYBODY” he writes.  He sums up the first chapter with a continued series of short, declarative sentences:  “Winning matters.  Being the best matters….We need to ensure America starts winning once again.”

Hillary Clinton’s 634 page book, Hard Choices, (which includes an epilogue, acknowledgements and a comprehensive index), opens with an author’s note that is a brief biographical sketch explaining the titled for the book and how over the course of her entire life she has been faced with difficult choices — many of which involve the juggling the demands of work and family, such as caring for a sick child or an aging parent, figuring out how to pay for college, finding a good job, and what to do if you lose it.  She explains to the reader that in making her decisions she has listened to both her heart and her head.  She wrote:  “I followed my heart to Arkansas; it burst with love at the birth of our daughter, Chelsea;  and it ached with the losses of my father and mother.  My head urged me forward in my education and professional choices.”  She went on to explain that “My head urged me forward in my education and professional choices.”  She makes the connection that what is “true in our daily lives is also true at the highest levels of government.”  She concluded her author’s note with: “One thing that has never been a hard choice for me is serving our country.  It has been the greatest honor of my life.”  In the first chapter, titled “2008:  Team of Rivals,” Hillary Clinton recounts how close she came to winning the nomination in 2008 and how disappointed she felt because she “came up short.”  She described the first after campaign meeting with President Obama, held at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s home, over a glass of chardonnay and noted the similarities of she and Obama:  “both lawyers who got our start as grassroots activities for social justice.”  Their first meeting was awkward but “the candor of our conversation was reassuring and reinforced my resolve to support him.”  She reflected on the criticism she received as a candidate and said, “One silver lining of defeat was that I came out of the experience realizing I no longer cared so much about what the critics said about me. I learned to take criticism seriously but not personally, and the campaign certainly tested me on that.”  She also reflected on how difficult it was to accomplish the goals of her speech of concession at the Building Museum and how she composed her speech for the convention where she said, “Whether you voted for me, or you voted for Barack, the time is ow to unite as a single party with a single purpose.  We are on the same team, and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines.”  As she mulled over the decision of whether or not to accept President Obama’s invitation to become Secretary of State, she kept “returning to a simple idea:  When your President asks you to serve, you should say yes.” She noted upon reflection of her work at State, “The President fully lived up to his promises.  He gave me free rein to choose my team, relied on my advice as his chief foreign policy advisor on the major decisions on his desk, and insisted on meeting often so we could speak candidly.”  She concluded the chapter with “Our rivalry, once fierce, was now over.  We were partners.”





What do Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton write?

Political communication is nothing if it is not words–mostly spoken–and now, for sure, Tweeted as well.  But in addition to the spoken interviews and speeches by our candidates, we also have autobiographies, often a rich and utterly unique communication effort by our candidates to tell their life stories.  

As part of an American Studies course I’m very excited to be teaching in fall, I’m asking the students to read both current autobiographies of Donald Trump, Crippled America; and Hillary Clinton, Hard Choices.  Since I firmly believe that good teachers, supervisors and even parents should not ask their students, direct reports or children to do things that they would not do themselves, I am going to join in on the assignment this summer by reading the autobiographies in advance of the course and posted my assignment here.

The assignment is:  read a chapter (maybe two for Clinton–her book is thick –see photo), and share with the class (in the case of this blog–you the reader), how the author and presidential nominee (Trump and Clinton), view themselves as American and what their vision is for the country.

So, stay tuned to this blog and the posts that will follow to stay up to date.  I’ll feature a few paragraphs that sum up each chapter, featuring both Trump and Clinton in each blog post.

What it means to be an American and the vision of each nominee for president — in their own words!IMG_2023

October 2016
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