In the event you haven’t already, you still have time to wish President Clinton Happy Birthday!


Clinton Foundation

I like to go the extra mile for my friends. So when I saw President Clinton’s birthday looming out there on my calendar I couldn’t resist recording a special message for him. And since I’m in the midst of filming the next season of House of Cards, I decided it might be fun if Frank Underwood and my friend Hillary Clinton got involved. What do you think?

Of course, at his core, President Clinton embodies the generosity, compassion, and integrity that many claim my fictional counterpart completely lacks. I’ve often seen these great attributes at work in both President Clinton himself and in the work that you help make happen through your support of the Clinton Foundation.

Please do remember that while the video itself features a fictional character, President Clinton’s upcoming birthday is as real as the sentiment of gratitude and goodwill that we all feel for the work that he has helped accomplish. So after watching the video, I hope you’ll send your own message of appreciation to President Clinton for his birthday.

Thank you for all of your continued support for the Clinton Foundation.

Kevin Spacey


When I posted this in November 2009 at the tail end of Hillary’s busy tour of Asia that month,  everyone was surprised.  Security was so high that the visit was not announced until she was safely on the ground.

Breaking News…Hillary Wheels Down in Afghanistan

There was this 4-column spread photo on the front page of the New York Times.


In chapter 7 Hillary refers to a day at the White House that month when there were three important meetings the last of which, in the Situation Room,  yielded our military roadmap out of Afghanistan.

Sometimes during her State Department tenure, the public schedule would state that she had “No Public Appointments.”  Often I would clarify here that those words did not indicate that she was not working.  They meant that her work that day was not for publication.  She places these meetings three days before Thanksgiving, 2009. That puts it here, and we knew something big was up.

The Busy Monday Continues

We learn some of what went into her thinking as these deliberations proceeded.  Hillary is a Methodist, and very methodical, but she goes through something of a Catholic examination of conscience in this chapter seeking to discover what has worked and what lessons might be found in past miscalculations.

She revisits her past trips to Afghanistan as well as her Iraq War vote and the rationale behind that.  She flat out calls that vote a mistake.  I still think she provided very rigid parameters for the president in her remarks before casting that vote, but this is her call, not mine.  Here are those remarks,  and I believe she explained her position very clearly and did not provide the president an open playing field.

Time to Revisit Hillary Clinton’s Iraq War Vote

We also hear who the players in the Situation Room were and their positions and roles in the deliberations.  No one will be surprised that a great deal of the action centers around Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.  Once a surge had been agreed upon it was, according to her account, their calculation of the ‘Goldilocks’ number of troops necessary on which the effectiveness of the surge would rest.

As in real life, Richard Holbrooke looms large in this chapter and has enormous impact on policy in the Af-Pak region he accepted to oversee.  It is not only Hillary in Hard Choices who speaks of hostility from the White House staff toward Holbrooke.  Vali Nasr, a member of Holbrooke’s team, and now Dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies recounts White House offensives against Holbrooke in his 2013 book, The Dispensable Nation.  Hillary’s account is briefer with less detail, but it does lead to attempts by his adversaries to have Holbrooke fired.  Hillary defends him, and President Obama accepts the defense.


Also looming large in this chapter, of course, is Hamid Karzai with whom Hillary met on many occasions.   One of these that she singles out as particularly productive occurred during his May 2010 visit to the U.S.

At Dumbarton Oaks: Hillary Clinton & Hamid Karzai

All of this is background to her visit to Afghanistan in November 2009 where she smashed on the tarmac, with all the style, grace, and panache of Helen Mirren smashing on a red carpet,  and attended Karzai’s inauguration.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

The truth is that in the book she does not even talk about most of the following events..  She was there for the inauguration.  There simply was no way that I could look back on that visit without including these events and photos.

Photos of the Day: Secretary Clinton in Afghanistan

Secretary Clinton’s Press Conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul

Secretary Clinton’s Address to U.S. and International Troops in Afghanistan

Photo Gallery: Hillary with Our Troops in Afghanistan

This is the real Hillary!

Hillary at the Embassy and Foreign Ministry in Kabul

 The upshot of all of this was, of course, the Afghanistan surge.  She closes the chapter with a summary of Afghanistan’s progress since 2010 on crucial issues, a hat tip to much-maligned General Eric Shinseki for his (rejected) 2003 recommendations to the Bush administration, and her account of the trip from the White House to West Point where President Obama unrolled the blueprint for departure from Afghanistan before an auditorium packed with cadets who soon would inherit the fight.

Afghanistan Speech: Photos and Text

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction




Pretend Play is Important Work

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” Walt Disney

When young children dress up as superheroes or doctors, or imagine that a cardboard box is a spaceship landing on the moon, they are taking part in pretend play. By pretending, children build their social and emotional development, and learn vital life skills, all while having fun.

Children explore their feelings about new situations and interactions with people through pretend play. Researchers have found that imaginary play helps children learn how to control their emotions and impulses by allowing them to practice first how they will speak or act in any given situation. Much like adults might practice a speech in front of a mirror, children use pretend play to prepare how they will behave in real life. And when they engage in pretend play with other children or adults, they learn how other people react in different situations, too.

Pretend play also allows children to test out language skills that they may otherwise be unsure of, as they talk out loud about their actions and those of imaginary friends.

The best kind of pretend play doesn’t require special toys or equipment: simple, inexpensive items lying around the house work great. Parents can encourage pretend play in their young children by providing them with safe, household items like old clothing and recycled cardboard to prompt their imaginations—and by joining in the fun, too!


Resources for Sharing:

  • This article from PBS Parents suggests some ways that parents can encourage pretend play in young children.
  • Research on the importance of imaginative, open-ended play from NPR.
  • This article from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood explains the benefits of pretend play, and offers tips for parents.
  • These powerful quotes might inspire you to engage in imaginative role-play with your kids.


The city of Berkeley, California has started a playground where adventure and pretend play reign supreme for kids, starting from age 4. >>

Making Active Play Happen Every Day

When it comes to brain-building activities, nothing comes more naturally to babies and toddlers than play. Active play, or play that gets kids moving, is important for the healthy development of motor skills, muscles, and coordination. A baby is actively playing when she stretches her tiny arms to reach for an object or starts to crawl. For a toddler, it can be bouncing to the beat of a song you sing, running down the sidewalk, or climbing stairs.

Active play gives kids an opportunity to explore their surroundings, and is a fun way to get the exercise they need. As they grow, young children need plenty of time to stretch, run, jump, and play. In fact, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that toddlers get at least 90 minutes of active time a day, while preschoolers should get a full two hours. Getting that kind of exercise regularly will boost your children’s long-term health, and build healthy habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Active play can happen almost anywhere. Parents and caregivers can head outside with their children to take a walk, play tag at the playground, or toss a ball. When at the playground, ask your child what she’s doing – how high are you going to climb this time? How many times can you jump rope? Walking is a good opportunity to exercise and describe the world around you: what bugs do you see? What color are the leaves?

Families can bring active play inside by having dance parties, acting out stories, or better yet, inventing a new active game together!

Resources for Sharing:

  • These tips for active play offer ways to get moving indoors and outdoors.
  • Find great places to play near you with this map.
  • NAEYC recommends 10 ways to explore the outdoors with your children.


Dr. Pooja Tandon of Seattle Children’s Research Institute talks about the benefits of active play and has tips for busy families to get outside more often. >>

Hillary held a Hard Choices signing today at Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven.


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Hillary begins this chapter  by revisiting a speech she delivered in 2009 to the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) on Burma signaling her determination to pursue renewed relations with that long-spurned country based on reforms.

Video: Secretary Clinton’s Remarks on Engagement with Burma

Early on she clarifies that while the generals preferred the name Myanmar, she, in Hard Choices,  would refer to the country as Burma.  Except where State Department communiqués opted to use Myanmar, I have remained consistent with her choice – not a hard one – of Burma.

Those who contend that she never chose or pursued a signature issue or agenda as secretary of state (and then grudgingly admit that issues confronting women and girls was, OK, sort of a signature issue but a ‘soft’ one) would do well to remember this initiative very early in her tenure.  The Pacific was the region to which the administration had pivoted, and Hillary chose to seek engagement with a country she hoped would eventually be able to lead its neighbors by example.  Not a soft choice at all.  A hard one.  (But have it your way, chauvinistic burgher kings of foreign policy.)

A State Department memo warned traveling staff that three colors were to be avoided in Burma.  One was white. Hillary states that these cultural issues are often addressed in memos prior to travel.  She had a new white jacket that was exactly the right weight for the climate and hesitated, brought it along anyway, and upon landing the entire traveling party discovered that the memo had been inaccurate so she wore it when she first met Aung Sang Suu Kyi.  As it turned out they were dressed exactly alike.  Even the hair was the same.  This first meeting took place at the chief U.S. diplomat’s residence in Rangoon.

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I think this meeting warmed a lot of hearts.

This link has images from her visit to the new capital Nay Pyi Taw where President Thein Sein asked her for guidance in democratic governance and told her they had been watching The West Wing for background.   You can also see her visit to the beautiful Shwedagon Pagoda here.

Pics from Burma: Hillary Meets Aung Sang Suu Kyi … and more!

At this meeting and press availability on December 2, 2011 Hillary visited Suu Kyi’s home which had also been her prison.  She brought gifts – a stack of books and a toy for the doggie.  The woman who calls herself a ‘dog owner’ on Twitter is actually a doggie mom and knew how much the company of Suu Kyi’s dog’s must have meant to her during her long isolation.  It was adorably thoughtful.  Like Hillary and her staff, I, over the past weekend, watched the film The Lady.  There in the movie, sure enough, was a sweet, faithful little dog.

Hillary & Aung San Suu Kyi: Remarks and Pics Day 2


Suu Kyi, finally free to travel came to the U.S. in September 2012 and received the Congressional Gold Medal.

Hillary Clinton at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

That month, Hillary moved on to her final UNGA session as secretary of state and met twice there with President Thein Sein.

Hillary Clinton With Burmese President Thein Sein

Hillary Clinton With Burmese President Thein Sein

In November 2012, Hillary accompanied President Obama on a visit to Burma.

Secretary Clinton and President Obama in Myanmar



… and on the ‘OTR’ visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda!

Hillary ends this chapter with both Suu Kyi’s and her own cautions about being too optimistic too quickly.  That is excellent advice.  One must always remain vigilant.  She does not mention this, but I shall.  As she began, with Burma as a target on her ‘smart power’ agenda, so she ended.  Just a few weeks before leaving the State Department, she issued this.

Hillary Clinton: U.S. – Burma to Exchange Ambassadors

To me, this looks like a success that we should, as she warns, recognize with restraint, but a victory for her State Department nonetheless.  There are bumps in the road ahead, to be sure, but those who say she accomplished little to nothing would do well to assess her diplomatic waltz with Burma. A door has opened.  We have walked in thanks to Hillary and her hard-working staff.

Well done, Mme. Secretary!


Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction


The most crucial thing on Hillary’s agenda for May 2, 2012 was not reflected on her public schedule as released by the State Department. Nor was her first stop at the Wanhousi Temple.

Hillary Clinton


SECRETARY HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Public Schedule for May 2, 2012

A self-taught lawyer, activist, and hero of the people had, with her approval and instructions, been provided refuge at our Embassy Beijing, and blind and injured, stood to disrupt all negotiations at that year’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Having made his way to the embassy despite his disability and the physical injuries incurred on his journey to Beijing, Chen Guangcheng had captured media attention and a great deal of American sympathy and Chinese faith.  While Hillary believed and acted strongly from her heart that we needed to move on his behalf, his figure, in a few venues – our embassy and a Chinese hospital –  threatened to hang between two great nations that were still performing a middle school fox trot.

In this chapter, Hillary recounts how she first hears of Chen’s plight prior to leaving for the very important U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and made an executive decision to accept him at the embassy (and rescue him in order to do so).

There were a several bumps in that road.  Hillary managed to pave them.

Was there ever any doubt?

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dai Bingguo

Hillary Clinton’s Statement on Chen Guangcheng

May 2, 2012 by still4hill |

Secretary Clinton at Opening of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue **Video Added**

Hillary Clinton at EcoPartnerships Ceremony

Chen Guangcheng: State Department Update

Video: Hillary Clinton – Timothy Geithner Press Conference in Beijing

Video: Secretary Clinton on U.S.-China Relations in the 21st Century

Hillary ends this chapter with some comments that, on first reading, appear meant to explain China and its way of thinking to the American reader.  When I read it again, I thought it just as likely that she also embedded a message there for the Chinese by expressing that rather than wishing to contain China (the Chinese fear) the U.S. seeks cooperation with China for the common good.

As we know, Hard Choices has been effectively banned in China, but we hope that embedded message manages to get through the Great Firewall.

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Effectively Banned in China

In the Wake of the Chinese Ban Simon & Schuster Share a Hillary Clinton Excerpt on China

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

To his credit, Jeffrey Goldberg shares the entire transcript of his interview with Hillary in The Atlantic.  I urge readers to read the entire text, but if you have time to read only part, read the transcript rather than Goldberg’s out-of-context interpretation and summary.  I read the text in order and on some topics her words took on a very different meaning in the full interview than they appeared to mean in Goldberg’s opinion.

One statement I will make definitively and that is that Hillary has not in this interview made any of the judgmental statements about the current administration that are being attributed to her by the viral ‘spin-off’ articles this interview has spawned.  This epidemiology is nothing new and is so common that I simply have given up arguing with the people who write those shallow articles and who clearly have poor reading comprehension skills.

So here is the interview, preceded by Goldberg’s take on her words.


Hillary Clinton: ‘Failure’ to Help Syrian Rebels Led to the Rise of ISIS

The former secretary of state, and probable candidate for president, outlines her foreign-policy doctrine. She says this about President Obama’s: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

JG: You go out of your way in Hard Choices to praise Robert Ford, who recently quit as U.S. ambassador to Syria, as an excellent diplomat. Ford quit in protest and has recently written strongly about what he sees as the inadequacies of Obama administration policy. Do you agree with Ford that we are at fault for not doing enough to build up a credible Syrian opposition when we could have?

HRC: I have the highest regard for Robert. I’m the one who convinced the administration to send an ambassador to Syria. You know, this is why I called the chapter on Syria “A Wicked Problem.” I can’t sit here today and say that if we had done what I recommended, and what Robert Ford recommended, that we’d be in a demonstrably different place.

Read more>>>>

The exchange above demonstrates what I was talking about.  One thing you will never catch Hillary Clinton doing is second-guessing in the subjunctive.

Goldberg refers to this interview in his text.

Secretary Clinton’s Interview With Jeff Goldberg of The Atlantic



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