Hillary Rising by James D. Boys

“Has she learned from this? Is she doing anything different? And if not, how does she expect to win?” Fellow James D. Boys raises interesting questions in his new book Hillary Rising

James D. Boys, author of Hillary Rising at the SSASA program on America’s Changing Role in the World

Discussion of the Clinton administration and its implications for the current world order was right at home at The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World. While attending the latest session by Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), Fellow James D. Boys gave some context on his new and timely book on Hillary Clinton.

The book, called Hillary Rising, is set to come out in January 2016 by Biteback Publishing and is part of a unique collection of books written by Boys on the Clintons. Hillary Rising covers Hillary Clinton’s path to the potential nomination of Democratic Party candidate for the 2016 presidential elections. The book offers a non-partisan look at her possible future as president of the United States and the choices she made along the way.

His earlier books, Clinton’s Grand Strategy and its follow up, Clinton’s War on Terror, help put 9/11 into context and provide synthesis and analysis of primary sources and interviews with key players from the administration and other associates.

Boys, Associate Professor at Richmond University, sat down with Salzburg Global Seminar to discuss his latest book.

SGS: Why did you decide to write and continue writing about the Clintons?

JDB: I worked on Capitol Hill in 1995 and was very fortunate — I got to meet the president at the height of his time in office. When I finished working on Wall Street in 2001, I returned back to Britain and decided to do a Ph.D. I’d always wanted to write about the Clinton presidency, which had just ended at that point. So, I began looking at Bill Clinton’s first term in office and his development of national security strategy…

It was something that was of interest to me not just because I met the president, but I saw a lot of people being drawn to academia who were being drawn to the Cold War and subsequently in the post 9/11 era, and…that left an eight-year gap during which Clinton was president which was not being examined. That, therefore, presented both an opportunity to develop an area of expertise, as well as a void that needed to be filled on the basis that if you don’t understand what’s happening under Clinton, then you can’t understand what comes afterwards. And I think there’s far too many people within academia and within the media who see 9/11 as the beginning of a process rather than part of a process, and it was a indeed a process that was under way when Bill Clinton was president…

SGS: How did you conduct the research for your books? Can you give us a little insight into the process?

JDB: For any research to be valid, I fundamentally believe that to justify a book, you’ve got to offer something new. There’s too many books in existence written by journalists and academics that singularly fail to do so. They merely regurgitate secondary sources and old news, so what’s the point? It was nothing I was interested in doing, so particularly for the Clinton’s Grand Strategy book, I made absolute sure it was based upon primary documents and primary sources.

I conducted elite interviews with senior members of the Clinton administration…Also, I wanted to interview people who had covered the election. What I was trying to do was get not only the perspective of the administration from inside, but also the perspective of key players at the time who were interacting with the administration…So this proved vital in terms of getting a sense of how the administration was acting was perceived as well…I also managed to get access to a whole host of previously classified material…and really made sure that they were data-mined as much as possible. No other work on Clinton has done any thing of this so far; all of the other work on Clinton has been very much based upon newspaper work and secondhand thoughts…

SGS: You mentioned a “Clinton dynasty” in your book. Do you think it’s realistic to call it that?

JDB: There is a chapter in the Hillary Rising book that talks about the concept of a “Clinton dynasty,” and what I tried to do in the book is to lay out exactly what a dynasty is, what an American dynasty looks like, and to question whether the Clintons are in fact a dynasty. My conclusions are basically that at this point, they are a very powerful family, they have come from a relatively poor background, that they don’t fit the classic pattern of an American dynasty. At the moment, the problem with calling them a dynasty is only one member of the family has held office at any one time. It’s often forgotten now that Hillary’s Clinton’s time in office doesn’t begin until after Bill Clinton has left office.

It has never become multi-generational, so we’re talking about one generation of the family which has held office so far. There’s no doubt, I think, that Chelsea Clinton is being prepared, to put it politely, for office…If that were to happen then you could start looking at concepts of dynasty, because it’s this idea of power being passed from one generation to another. At the moment, I think it’s too early to call them a dynasty, they are a very powerful and influential American political family who have dynastic ambition.

SGS: You said in Clinton’s Grand Strategy that Bill Clinton was elected at the only time where it was theoretically possible. Do you feel the same way of Hillary Clinton? Is this the time where it’s theoretically possible for her to be president?

JDB: I don’t think it’s the only time, I think it was more than theoretically possible that she could and should have been elected eight years ago. 2008 in many ways represented a better opportunity for Hillary to become president. She was running against the legacy of George W. Bush. It was generally perceived at that time that whoever got the democratic party nomination was going to become president. So all she had to do, really, was get the nomination. It was hers to lose, and lose it she did.

The story of 2008 is really not just about the rise of Barack Obama, but the collapse of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for office and a big section of what I’m looking at in Hillary Rising is what explains that. Because if you want to look at how she might do well in 2016 you need to look at what she did wrong in 2008 to make sure that she’s not repeating the old mistakes. The old adage of the definition of madness is to do the same thing over again and expect different results. So it’s important to understand where she went wrong in 2008 so that we can then say, ‘Well, has she learned from this? Is she doing anything different? And if not, how does she expect to win?’

SGS: You and other participants discussed whether Hillary Clinton’s potential presidency would be a continuation or departure from the presidency of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Could you give some commentary on that?

JBD: There’s no doubt that Hillary Clinton is attempting to position herself as an independent candidate and not merely as someone who would complete a third term for either her husband or for Barack Obama. She has to say that, but realistically, I think it’s important to note that there will be echoes of her husband’s administration, as well as Barack Obama’s, and this will be felt in personnel as much as anything else.

If you look at Hillary Clinton’s campaign team, what you see are basically three different power groups…people advising her who used to work for her husband directly, people who used to work for her in what’s known as Hillary Land — her inner core of mainly female advisors, it must be said — as well as people who have come to her campaign from Barack Obama’s team. She’s brought these three disparate groups together very much to try to present a united front and to tap into the energy and skills that they bring to American politics.

By doing so…you’ve got advisors who have come of age and know how to practice politics because of their time with either Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. Human nature would suggest that they will continue politics and policies that they believe to be valid under both Obama and Clinton under a Hillary Clinton…administration. She will be her own president, I think she is singularly-minded most of the time, but that you will see continuation as well as some change from both Bill Clinton’s as well as Barack Obama’s.

SGS: Could you give us some insight into your next book, Clinton’s War on Terror?

JBD: Clinton’s War on Terror will be the direct follow up to Clinton’s Grand Strategy and it will look at the eight years that Bill Clinton was president, and what his administration did to address acts of political violence and terrorism. It will also be two things in terms of context. It will place Clinton’s time in office addressing these issues in the wider context of American history by considering what previous administrations had done, going right back to the revolution, and it will also serve therefore to put 9/11 in context…and therefore hopefully to try and dispel some of these myths that: a) 9/11 was the beginning of something, which it was not, and b) that the Clinton administration had done nothing to try to address terrorism during its time in office, which is singularly not true.


James D. Boys was a participant at the Salzburg Global Program The Search for a New Global Balance: America’s Changing Role in the World, which was held by the Salzburg Global Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA). The 2015 session was hosted in partnership with the Roosevelt Study Centre. More information on the session can be found here: ssasa.SalzburgGlobal.org.