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Book Review: HRC by Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes

HRC by Jonathan Allen & Amie Parnes, Crown Publishers, 2014.

Researched by respected political journalists Jonathan Allen (White House Bureau Chief for Politico) and Amie Parnes (White House correspondent for The Hill newspaper in Washington), HRC roughly covers the time period in Hillary Rodham Clinton's political life from her defeat in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary (to then Senator Barack Obama) through the attack on the Benghazi Embassy in September of 2012, and its contentious aftermath during her tenure as Secretary of State in the Obama administration.

HRC is a thick book, totaling in at 405 pages. A breezy behind the scenes cliff-hanger in places, and a backstory slog in others, HRC the book is much like the political arena it covers. Moving with rapid fire momentum, and employing an open, witty tone at times bordering on insider snark, HRC is primarily an anecdotal narrative compiled with noteworthy attention to timelines, facts, details, and citations. The authors state more than 200 sources were interviewed and freely granted anonymity to discuss their knowledge of Hillary Clinton and the events in this book.

I found HRC engaging, and in places surprising, and, oddly irritating. I felt the book frequently devolved into gossip when not strictly necessary (the events and the woman are fascinating enough). HRC falls off the fence frequently - balancing between a pro versus anti-Clintonism - not quite successfully hitting that sweet spot of observational neutrality. Allen and Parnes seem unable to leave out the easy dig. When the Clintons are funny, as they often are in their hubris and stealth politics, you can't really fault the authors. The Clintons - singularly always still a plural - all too frequently load themselves in the political clay pigeon launcher, with a proverbial "Pull!"

Anecdotes and instances of Hillary Clinton's intellect, tenacity, political paranoia, bull-dogged backbone, sagacity, and fierce dedication interweave throughout Allen and Parnes's political biography with moments of warm reserve, long memory, an endless loyalty, quiet protectiveness of her family, and personal courage. As Hillary Clinton moves forward in her 2016 Presidential campaign - the approximate point in time the book leaves off - the chronology of facts and detail provided by the authors in HRC fill in many of the "Who really is Hillary?" blanks held in the mind of the average voter.

Allen and Parnes predicted Hillary would run in 2016, and I suspect, believe she will be an exceptional, if flawed, contender in the campaign and if she wins the Presidency, the job. By the end of HRC, Hillary's campaign does indeed loom as a given, if not its outcome. To close in a quote taken from HRC:

"I never know what's going to happen next,"she [Hillary Clinton] said. "And I really never have lived my life thinking I knew what was going to happen next. I really try to - I mean it is very John Wesleyan, believe me. I really try to just do the best I can every day, because who know's what's going to happen next? I don't have any idea. So I'm one to just fell like every day I'm being true to my values and I'm contributing in some way, and maybe trying to do some good."

*I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.
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