Last week, Hillary Clinton, former first lady, former presidential nominee and former secretary of state, after two major non-fiction books, “Living History” and “Hard Choices,” about her years in politics, published a novel: “State of Terror” (with Louise Penny).
Hillary seems to be following the steps of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who, after two major non-fiction books, “My Life” and “Back to Work,” also, about his life in politics, published, in 2018, a novel: “The President is Missing”, and, this year, “The President’s Daughter”.
“Beware of politicians who write about their real lives, because they might mostly write fiction, and beware of them when they write fictions, because they might write about real life,” commented a tweet on Hillary Clinton’s fiction book.
Two examples from recent history of politicians writing novels show the tweet might not be, itself, a fiction:
First, former Democratic Senator, Gary Hart, who, in 1987, left politics in disgrace, after a sexual scandal, wrote, in 2000, a novel titled “I, Che Guevara”, about a Cuban exile who returned to Cuba, and took power from Castro. And many critics wondered about what Hart had in his mind -- his real mind.
Second, Winston Churchill, former British prime minister, wrote a novel, “Savrola,” about an imaginary country leading a revolution against a dictator. But, because of Churchill’s real life’s victory against Germany’s Nazi Hitler, the real and the fictional might have overlapped.
Hillary Clinton’s novel, about terrorists trying to get their hands on a nuclear weapon, might not be strange to her role as a leader during 20 years of the U S-led Global War On Terrorism (GWOT), at least during her four years as secretary of state.
The novel summary: A new president is in the White House, after a tumultuous four years in which the previous president “screwed up everything it touched …” Ellen Adams, a former media mogul, was appointed secretary of state. Across the Atlantic Ocean, London and Paris were, meantime, struck by terrorist attacks. “Ellen” needed to find out what happened and who was responsible. But, according to the novel, the US government and its intelligence agencies were a network of ignorance and confusion about the "terrorists."
Clinton, aware of such questions, had an answer already: “All of our characters are fictional. I want to make that absolutely clear. But of course, some of their characteristics and behavior are inspired by real people.”
First, the former U.S. president, Eric Dunn was “known as Eric the Dumb.”
Second, Clinton wrote about “four years … (by) a president who was manipulated by foreign powers, who was indifferent to institutions and the rule of law.”
Third, there were real names of real people, who recently passed away: Clinton’s friend since grade school, Betsy Johnson Ebeling; Penny’s husband, Michael Whitehead; and Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state when Clinton was secretary of state.
“Although they are fictionalized versions of those people, it does to a degree make them immortal, which is an important thing for us,” Clinton, full of emotions, and almost in tears, said.
Understandable, but she sounded like she was playing politics with novels.
Enemies of Clinton, and there are many of them, have been repeating that she, for about 50 years in public life, has been playing politics with herself, her husband, the US and the world – for the sake of her own gratification.
Beside American characters, there were foreigners, particularly, “terrorists,” like Iranian nuclear scientist Nasrin Bukhari, who “loved her country. She would do whatever was necessary to protect it.” But … “Nasrin can be a patriot, but also be on the verge of doing something horrific.”
In an TV interview about the book, Clinton said something interesting: “Misguided militias, even evil as they are, have this ideology that they subscribe to that they’re somehow the true patriots. Their view of the United States is far from what I think, you know, most of us believe we are or should be.”
In other words, she volunteered, and hinted about two things during these two decades of the US-led GWOT:
First, a “terrorist” Muslim could, also, be a “patriot” for his own cause – something that she didn’t dare to say as a senator or secretary of state.
Second, this Muslim could be a “true patriot,” as compared to the Americans’ questionable “patriotism” – something that would have caused her enemies to call for her resignation had she said it then.
But she said it now – in a novel, lest anyone accused her for not being “patriotic.”
The novel’s leading villian was Bashir Shah, a Pakistani arms dealer “intent on creating a hell on earth.” Shah was secretly freed from prison with theblessing of the previous U.S. president.
And there were the Israelis: the fictitious British foreign secretary wanted the fictitious US secretary of state to kill Shah, with the help of the Mossad -- and they both agreed.
According to the novel, Shah, the world’s leading terrorist was loose again — and his next target is the US.
Another problem: Shah was a “patriot” when the US asked Pakistan to free him, but he soon became a “terrorist”.
When the fictional US secretary of state met the fictional Ayatollah of Iran, and asked for his help to stop the fellow Muslim Shah, the differences between “terrorism” and “patriotism” almost disappeared.
Was that fiction or real life?