Hillary's Senate Career Goes Down the Memory Hole

Former First Lady Hillary Clinton has now seen fit to memorialize nearly every bit of her life and career … except for the eight years during which she served as a Senator from New York.

The fact that she was more or less an average Senator with no particularly special legacy might be behind the omission. In fact, her most significant vote may have been to authorize President Bush’s use of force in Iraq. Some suggest that’s a vote she’d just as soon forget.

Next week Hillary Clinton will release “Hard Choices,” a memoir of her years as secretary of state. The book is Clinton’s first since Living History, a memoir of her childhood, Ivy League education, marriage to Bill Clinton and time as first lady. 

So: Clinton’s first book covered the period from her birth in 1947 through 2001. Her second book covers 2009 through 2013. What about the eight years in between, from 2001 to 2009? That was the time Clinton served as a U.S. senator, and it is the only part of her life she has not seen fit to write a book about.

Certainly she showed up and did work on some specific issues. But traditionally, legislative careers are not the best platforms upon which to run for higher office, unlike a governorship. Whether her time in the Senate proves to be a plus or minus for any potential presidential run by Hillary remains to be seen.

Clinton approached her time in the Senate differently from other ambitious politicians. A Ted Cruz or a Marco Rubio comes to the Senate to make a name for himself, to step up to the national stage. Clinton had all the celebrity and name recognition in the world. She needed something to show that she was a statesman in her own right, and not just the president’s wife.

Once in the Senate, Clinton surprised many with her low-key approach. “In public gatherings on Capitol Hill, she is now often the last to speak, waiting her turn in deference to ranking members of the Senate,” the New York Times reported in April 2001. The paper noted that Clinton joined a prayer group led by Republican colleagues and assured Democrats she intended to be “a workhorse, not a show horse.”

It was a completely unremarkable record, not notably different from most of her 99 Senate colleagues. And then came the October 2002 vote to authorize war in Iraq. Sen. Clinton had proven herself a team player, but this time her team was divided. What to do?