The right word choices in selling a book? Doesn’t seem to be so hard for Hillary.

Some news reports have it that sales of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s new book, “Hard Choices,” detailing her days as secretary of state, are not going well. Some called it a “bomb.”

Publisher Simon & Schuster begs to differ, telling Politico that the book has sold a not-too-shabby 100,000 copies since it went on sale June 10.

And Amazon lists it at No. 4 in the “all books” category, just behind the paperback “10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse: Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 10 Days!”

Clinton is out there on book tour getting great publicity and showing she apparently knows a thing or two about book marketing. The key is to mention the book and the title repeatedly in the course of your interviews. (Kind of like that old “Mr. Subliminal” character on “Saturday Night Live.”)

In a 60-minute CNN interview and question-and-answer session with Christiane Amanpour before an enthusiastic audience at the Newseum, she used the word “hard” nine times and “hard choices” eight times. Amanpour mentioned “hard choices” 11 times. Clinton also referred to “my book” or “the book” six times.

Folks who know how to move the merch know it’s especially important to get the brand name in at the end of the pitch. Clinton and Amanpour were phenomenal closers.

With Amanpour leading the way, they bantered in the last minute or so, talking about a “hard choice” or “choices” a stunning seven times.

That is not easy to do. In fact, it’s pretty hard.

The portrait of pleased

Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice studied her larger-than-life likeness for a few moments before turning to the intimate crowd with a wide smile and joining her former colleagues in applause.

Rice’s hair is coiffed and she’s wearing a sleek red jacket and white pearl necklace in her official State Department portrait. She appears to be holding the back of a chair, not to be confused with a walker. (Another former secretary of state was recently photographed for People magazine grasping a chair. Some suggested it looked like Hillary Rodham Clinton was leaning on a walker.)

The luncheon for Wednesday’s big reveal of Rice’s painting began an hour late because Secretary of State John F. Kerry was running behind. He told the crowd he was “later than I have been, I think, at any moment, and it is simply because today the world could care less about the secretary of state’s schedule.”

Guests included several notables from the George W. Bush administration, including Andrew H. Card, Bush’s chief of staff; John D. Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence and later deputy secretary of state; and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was U.S. trade representative and later director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Reporters were shuffled out of the room before guests feasted on mango-cucumber gazpacho, grilled wild salmon and caramelized Virginia peaches over vanilla ice cream.

Kerry and Rice exchanged pleasantries and spoke of the legacy of the job and the challenges to the United States and its role in the world. There was no direct reference to the escalating chaos in Iraq — though two former U.S. ambassadors to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad and Chris Hill, were in attendance.

The portraits are a perk of (sometimes thankless) Cabinet jobs. But Rice may have gotten hers in under the wire. Congress has decided the tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent per Cabinet officer painting constitute a waste of money. For Rice’s portrait, State set aside $52,450.

The fiscal 2014 omnibus spending bill prohibited all spending on portraits for the year, but the ban isn’t permanent. Five senators are sponsoring bipartisan legislation to cap spending after this year at $20,000 per portrait. If officials wanted a more expensive replica of themselves hanging at their former job, they could use private money.

Rice praised the presence of the portraits decorating the department walls as a reminder to current secretaries of the challenges faced by those who have followed since Thomas Jefferson.

“It’s not going to happen tomorrow, and indeed if you read today’s headlines you wonder if it’s ever going to happen,” Rice said, referring to long-fought conflicts abroad. “But let me just assure you that today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same. And one of the reasons that these portraits are so important is that they remind us of that.”

That line was the closest she, or Kerry, got to referring to today’s U.S. foreign policy woes.

Carney to CNN?

Is Jay Carney bound for punditry on CNN?

Carney gave his last briefing as President Obama’s spokesman Wednesday. So naturally, the big question in Washington is: Whither Carney?

There’s talk that some media outlets — you know, he once worked among us ink-stained wretches, covering the White House for Time before becoming the magazine’s Washington bureau chief — have expressed an interest. We heard CNN has made a fine offer.

Carney even mentioned a future CNN gig in September, the Wall Street Journal reported, when he challenged Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry to debate the economy.

“You and I, we’re going to do this on ‘Crossfire’ one day, I promise,” he said. “And let’s be clear that I’ll be on one side and you’ll be on the other.”

But word is that there’s nothing set and that Carney, 49, hasn’t signed on with anyone to do anything . . . yet. And there’s always a book possibility. Stay tuned.

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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