WASHINGTON: Over the next month, two of President Barack Obama’s closest first-term advisers will spill insider details on the administration’s handling of the early days of the Great Recession, the White House’s cautious response to the Syrian civil war and the genesis of clandestine talks with Iran.
The back-to-back memoirs from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and ex-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will be the latest installments in what has become an often awkward Washington ritual: one-time confidants signing big book contracts to examine an ongoing presidency and policy decisions that are still being implemented.
Clinton and Geithner’s books will be released just four months after former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ memoir landed like a punch in the West Wing. Gates gave political advisers in the White House virtually no warning – and no advance copy – of his headline-generating memoir, which included sharp criticisms of Obama’s decision-making.
But Obama aides don’t seem to be girding for a repeat of their experience with Gates’ book as they await those of Geithner and Clinton.
While Geithner has not provided the White House with advance copies of his book, “Stress Test,” the text has been reviewed by lawyers at Treasury and the Federal Reserve. And drafts of Clinton’s book, “Hard Choices,” have been circulating for months among a small number of officials in Obama’s National Security Council.
Clinton’s book will be combed for any sign of discord with Obama, the man who defeated her in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary campaign and whom she could run to replace in 2016. Clinton has said little about the book, due out June 10, though it is expected to center on the main foreign policy challenges she was involved in during her four-year tenure at the helm of the State Department, including Syria and the start of secret discussions with Iran that led to the current nuclear negotiations.
Geithner’s book comes out Monday and is expected to focus on the government’s decisions in response to the recession gripping the U.S. at the start of Obama’s presidency. Geithner was at the center of the negotiations over the administration’s huge economic stimulus package and a controversial financial regulation bill.
Clinton, Geithner and Gates occupied the three most powerful positions in Obama’s Cabinet through much of his first term, giving their accounts heightened importance in a literary landscape littered with books about the White House.
While former officials are not obligated to share their pending books with the White House, they do typically vet sensitive and potentially classified material with administration lawyers.