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Three of the most politically interesting passages in Hillary Clinton’s new book

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Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

Hillary Clinton's new memoir Hard Choices is ostensibly a history of her time as Secretary of State, but it's really a political tract. That's totally fine, of course, but it means that the best way to read the book is to look for parts that tell us something interesting about American politics.

So here's three nuggets from Clinton's book on some of the most politically controversial foreign policy issues of past several years: Benghazi, Bowe Bergdahl, and Syria.

1. Republicans didn't show up to Benghazi hearings when they weren't televised

It's not 100 percent clear how many Republicans believe that the administration's handling of the attack on the US mission in Benghazi is a serious scandal, and how many are simply exploiting it for political gain. Clinton emphatically argues that many Republicans are more like the latter. Her best piece of evidence comes from previously closed-door Congressional hearings on the matter:

Some [Republicans] only showed up because of the cameras. They had skipped closed hearings when there wasn't a chance of being on TV.

She doesn't name the legislators in question, unfortunately. But if true, that's pretty clear evidence that at least some Republicans think Benghazi is more of a political opportunity than actual scandal.

2. The Taliban's "top concern" was freeing their Gitmo inmates

Here's a line that the Obama administration probably won't appreciate given the recent Bowe Bergdahl controversy. In secret peace negotiations with the Taliban in late 2010, Clinton says that freeing the Taliban inmates held at Guantanamo was the Taliban's "top concern:"

The Taliban's top concern seemed to be the fate of its fighters being held at Guantanamo Bay and other prisons. In every discussion about prisoners, we demanded the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been captured in June 2009.

The Republican critique of the Bergdahl deal is that Obama paid too high a price for Sgt. Bergdahl's freedom. Evidence that freeing inmates from Guantanamo was a huge Taliban priority for years certainly doesn't hurt their case.

3. Syria was Obama's call, and don't you forget it

It's well known that Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus presented a plan to arm moderate Syrian rebels in 2012. Clinton strongly defends the plan's viability, and takes great pains to say that Obama was personally responsible for its defeat:

The President's inclination was to stay the present course and not take the significant further step of arming rebels. No one likes to lose a debate, including me. But this was the President's call and I respected his deliberations and decision.

This passage suggests two interesting things. First, it sets up any Hillary 2016 campaign to blame the mess in Syria on the previous administration — despite Clinton's prominent role in crafting its foreign policy. Second, it looks like Clinton is planning to stick by her more interventionist tendencies, and position herself as more hawkish than Obama has.

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