The Secretary, by BBC correspondent Kim Ghattas, is a remarkable book. Not only does it provide an insightful record of life on the road with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but also it treats public diplomacy seriously.
Hillary Clinton’s rigorous travel schedule has become the stuff of State Department legend: During her time as secretary of state, Clinton logged nearly a million miles traveling around the world. The BBC’s Kim Ghattas followed Clinton for 300,000 of those miles and has a book out this week about the experience: “The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power.”
Over four years starting in 2008, journalist Kim Ghattas logged 300,000 miles--without the sleep to match--as a member of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's traveling press corps with the BBC. She watched intimately Secretary Clinton navigate matters of foreign policy on the ground during some of the most tense periods of her tenure, but also some of her most human moments on the world's stage, both on the ground at town hall meetings, and at all-hours of the morning on an plane that badly needed an upgrade.
George Packer, in his piece in The New Yorker evaluating Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, cites Clinton’s many public events around the world and observes that she “knew she would have to be seen listening in order to help regain the world’s respect” for the United States. Packer also notes that Clinton’s approach was not always appreciated, that her town halls and other such sessions “were sometimes derided as soft and marginal to real foreign policy.”
When Hillary Clinton took office, much of the world had been alienated from the United States by the policies of the Bush administration. Expectations were high that President Obama's team would change the tone, and Clinton delivered. She put a glamorous, smart, politically astute face on American policy. Yet Clinton produced no diplomatic breakthroughs nor any new strategic doctrine. And when it comes to issues of war and peace -- in the Mideast, South Asia, and North Asia -- she leaves a minimal legacy.
In one of her last acts as America's top diplomat, Clinton launched the Open Book Project (OBP), which will make high-quality educational resources freely available online in the Arabic language.