Hillary Clinton’s New Book Title Has Already Been Used by a Former Secretary of State

Political-memoir names: so cliche that they’re bound to repeat.

National Journal
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Matt Berman
April 18, 2014, 6:10 a.m.

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s up­com­ing mem­oir, which is ex­pec­ted to look back at her time as sec­ret­ary of State, now has a name: Hard Choices. Which is an okay title! She no doubt had to make some tough de­cisions while at State, and has at least one big de­cision to make com­ing up in the next year or so.

But the former Cab­in­et mem­ber and pos­sible fu­ture pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate may have been bet­ter served by a dif­fer­ent title — like, say, Tough De­cisions. Be­cause Hard Choices has already been used. By an­oth­er former sec­ret­ary of State.

In 1983, Cyr­us Vance, who served as sec­ret­ary of State in the Carter ad­min­is­tra­tion from 1977 to 1980, re­leased his mem­oir about his own years in of­fice: Hard Choices: Crit­ic­al Years in Amer­ica’s For­eign Policy. The book doesn’t ap­pear to be widely read now (if Amazon is any guide), but when it was pub­lished, it was praised by For­eign Af­fairs as a “highly re­ward­ing” read “for the ser­i­ous ob­serv­er,” and hailed as a “re­mark­able pic­ture of the di­verse prob­lems and strains with which an Amer­ic­an sec­ret­ary of State must cope today.” Which sounds, at least in part, like what Clin­ton is go­ing for with her new book.

Hil­lary Clin­ton can be for­giv­en for the re­peat. The ba­sic nature of polit­ic­al-mem­oir titles is just to be as vague, un­of­fens­ive, and bland as pos­sible. The golden rule, best ex­plored in the third-sea­son premiere of HBO’s Veep, is to say ab­so­lutely noth­ing while sug­gest­ing ab­so­lutely everything. It is, in short, a per­fectly ri­dicu­lous ex­er­cise.

So really there should be no sur­prise that Clin­ton’s book has a very sim­il­ar-sound­ing pre­de­cessor. The real shock will be if, 20 years from now, this doesn’t just hap­pen all the time. There are, after all, only so many cliches to go around.