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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

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


The Blessings of Liberty

We don’t have to go very far to hear and see vitriolic rhetoric from this presidential campaign.  On a recent research trip to Chappaqua, New York, where Hillary Clinton lives, there were competing signs near the turn just before her her home:  Stop Trump read one and Hillary for Prisonment read the other.  It makes me long for the snippy, “You’re Likable Enough, Hillary” from the 2008 campaign.  That was considered one of the most uncivil moments of the campaign.

What I propose is that we all cut that out and instead focus on the educational opportunities inherent in this election.  In a few weeks I’ll be headed to an educational program at the Democratic National Convention where I’ll have the honor of leading twenty college students through the convention program.  We will discuss how each candidate is framing their view of what it means to be an American.  I’m really excited about the opportunity to engage, in civil discourse, about what is happening in our country.  There will be an array of great speakers and of course, the backdrop of Philadelphia could not be more perfect.

The next time someone wants to engage with you in an uncivil manner about this election, I propose education.  Take a look at the online constitution2Q== that I’ll be using in my fall American Studies course.  Good stuff.  Here’s to domestic tranquility and the blessings of liberty for all.


Let’s Note the History and Raise the Rhetoric

Hillary Clinton is the first woman to capture the presidential nomination of one of the country’s major political parties. The bruising challenge from Bernie Sanders and the caustic nature of the campaign must not overshadow the historic nature of her achievement. Hillary Clinton’s political trajectory—from first lady, to senator, to secretary of state and now Democratic nominee, offers a case study in the rise of women–from Freud’s discredited but long held belief that “anatomy is destiny”—to full participation in society.

Before Hillary Clinton, no woman in American history had even come close to winning the nomination for president of the United States, and yet, their bids are instructive.  In 1964, Republican candidate Margaret Chase Smith refused to miss a vote in the senate or accept campaign donations. In 1972, New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ran for president, not because she could win, but instead to prove that she could be in the race. Her experience as a presidential candidate caused her to observe that Americans “are more sexist than racist.”  In 1988 Democratic Presidential candidate Pat Schroeder grew wary of the constant comment: “you don’t look like the President,” and in 1999 Elizabeth Dole’s courtly communication style that served her well as president of the American Red Cross and as the spouse of 1996 Republican nominee Bob Dole, was less effective for a person angling to be the leader of the free world.  Her competition—George W. Bush and Steve Forbes also had war chests few could rival.  In 2004, Carol Mosely Braun, a one term senator from Illinois, could not rise about negative press and could not muster enough support as the lone female presidential hopeful in 2004.

2008 is when history turned.   Hillary Rodham Clinton, who forty years earlier, in her Wellesley Commencement address, asserted that “the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible possible” almost did when she won 18 million votes –but not enough to capture the nomination.  She is now the presumptive nominee, however, the 2016 race for the White House has been especially vitriolic with attention more on the negative qualities of each nominee than on the issues that drive the policies for our country.

imagesBoth Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump came of age at a time of nonstop public upheaval—the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and a time of sit-ins, teach-ins, strikes, marches and protests.  So far, the rhetoric of this campaign has been a rhetoric of confrontation.  Now is the time for both campaigns to put the vitriol behind and begin an issue-driven general election campaign that elects the best leader for America.




Women and the 2016 Election

As the commencement speaker at Howard University, President Obama optimistically noted that, “If you had to choose a time to be, in the words of Lorraine Hansberry, ‘young, gifted and black’ in America, you would choose right now.” As the contentious primary contests draw to a close, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the likely Democratic and Republican nominees for president, and, as such, they have begun to shift to a general election rhetoric. Donald Trump has accentuated the gender of Hillary Clinton, asserting that it is an unfair advantage for her to play “the woman card.”  Women have figured prominently in the 2016 campaign, and as our president added at his speech at Howard, “To deny how far we’ve come would do a disservice to the cause of justice.”  A review of the many ways to play “the woman card”—if that’s what you want to call it–reveal that no longer are women relegated to “staying home and baking cookies” (though, that is a nice option, if one chooses), the women who are part of this election are proof that unlike the small sphere of influence not that long ago relegated to women in the political world, the role of women have expanded and the real possibility that we may elect a woman president is only one part of that expansion.

Megyn Kelly, Fox New anchor has sparred publicly with Donald Trump after challenging his characterizations of women as “fat pigs, slobs – and disgusting animals” in the first presidential debate.  Barbara Bush, former first lady and mother of former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, publicly wondered how women could vote for Trump and encouraged her son to interrupt more.

Melania Trump, business woman and former model, wife of Donald Trump, has encouraged her husband to act more “presidential” while his daughter,  Ivanka Trump, business woman and former model, who just gave birth to her third child, is one of the more articulate spokespeople for her father’s campaign, especially when juxtaposed with Sarah Palin, former governor and vice presidential candidate who commented that Paul Ryan may well be “Cantored ” for not supporting Donald Trump. Chelsea Clinton is a surrogate on the campaign trail for her mother while feminist icon Gloria Steinem and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have had their moments in the spotlight during this campaign. North Carolina Governor Nikki Haley endorsed Marco Rubio’s failed presidential effort  and Lena Dunham, who insists that “I am a female, millennial voter” … “And I’m not only voting for Hillary, but I really like Hillary.”

And of course, there is Hillary Clinton, the front runner in the Democratic party and the Rorschach test of what it means to be a woman in America—she is a former “Goldwater Girl”, first lady, senator, secretary of state, mother and grandmother. And the voters who are women!  What do they really think about a woman president?  Most of course love the idea, but they are not voting for Hillary because she is a woman.  They are, however, donating to her campaign, as the NY Times noted that close to half of Mrs. Clinton’s “bundlers” — the volunteer fund-raisers who solicit checks from friends and business associates — are women, compared with about a third of President Obama’s 2012 bundlers. As Gail Collins noted in her  five decades long review of the women’s movement, When Everything Changed no woman would want to turn back the clock to the “Man Men” or “Apollo 13” days when a woman needed to be thin, perfectly made up with floors that gleamed to be worth anything.    

So, yes, the woman card – play it on in lots of different ways.  It is definitely not your mother’s woman card and positive proof of progress.





Deal Me In: Hillary Clinton’s Rhetoric of Inclusion


At a Philadelphia victory rally after Hillary Clinton’s Pennsylvania’s primary win, the Democratic front-runner responded to GOP rival Donald Trump’s accusation that she is “trying to play the ‘woman card’ by saying “deal me in.”  Her full quote:  “if fighting for women’s healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in,” revealed her stance on issues she is passionate about defending as president. This may be her most effective use of a rhetorical strategy in this campaign so far because it is a rhetoric of inclusion and puts her metaphorically “at the table” which has been a barrier for previous candidates who are first of their race, gender or religion to be elected.

It reminded me a little of the way Corazon Aquino used the language of her opponent to fashion a response to Ferdinand Marco’s description of her as “only a housewife.”  Aquino responded that “As a housewife, I held his hand as the life drained out of him in a self-imposed fast of 40 days, to protest a fine legal point about the civilian jurisdiction of a military court.”  The phrase became a commonly repeated phrase in Aquino’s speeches throughout the years, something “deal me in” could very effectively be for Clinton.



May 2017
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