Hillary Clinton at a book signing at Costco in Arlington, Virg. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Hillary Clinton at a book signing at Costco in Arlington, Va. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The rollout of Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, “Hard Choices,” hasn’t been exactly smooth. But let’s keep in mind that she’s flogging a book, not her hoped-for candidacy for the White House. Still, I did observe a positive and a negative that could help and hurt the former secretary of state if she decides to run for president in 2016.

Let’s get the negative out of the way first. Clinton’s answer to ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer’s question about Benghazi, Libya,was a mess.

When asked by Sawyer whether there was “anything you personally should have been doing to make it safer in Benghazi,” Clinton said: “I’m not equipped to sit and look at blueprints, to determine where the blast walls need to be or where the reinforcements need to be. That’s why we hire people who have that expertise.” And when pressed for a more personal response, Clinton was even more unsatisfying.

Well, I certainly would give anything on earth if this had not happened. And I certainly would wish that we had made some of the changes that came to our attention to make as a result of the investigation. But I also am clear in my own mind that we had a system and that system, of course, ended with me. I take responsibility, but I was not making security decisions.

Why couldn’t Clinton simply accept personal responsibility without the off-putting “I don’t do security” addendum? Her cagey Benghazi response took me back to her steadfast resistance to apologize for her 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war during her 2008 quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. The long-awaited apology finally comes in “Hard Choices.”

Perhaps Clinton is saving a better response for the show trial, I mean the Benghazi select committee, that is bound to compel her to testify sometime this year. She definitely has to have her Benghazi answer nailed down if she makes another run for the White House.

Now for the positive that could help Clinton in a presidential bid. I’ve already commented on her radio tussle over marriage equality with NPR’s Terry Gross. Pushing back against the insinuation that she always supported same-sex marriage but didn’t announce her support until it was politically safe was significant. In that exchange, I heard a less cautious Clinton. One who was willing to defend herself and do so firmly, which is a welcome change from the super risk-averse candidate whose ascension to Democratic nominee was deemed inevitable. Until it wasn’t.

Sure, Clinton has some work to do sharpening some aspects of her political skills for a 2016 run. But Clinton needs to show less caution and more heat when warranted. Tell folks to stuff it when they deserve it or need to hear it. Clinton has led an extraordinary life and career. If she makes another run for the White House, she can afford (in more ways than one) to be more carefree.

 

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.