The Battle to Define Clinton’s Legacy Heats Up

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) -

Hillary Rodham Clinton is rushing to finish a memoir of her time as secretary of state, something friends see as an urgent mission to frame a key part of her legacy as she readies for a possible presidential campaign.

But her Republican critics are racing to define Clinton’s record first — preparing a massive opposition-research effort designed to challenge her recounting of events and undermine the book’s credibility.

The war over Clinton’s tenure as the nation’s top diplomat will play out in coming months as a proxy skirmish for a potential 2016 campaign. For Clinton, the political imperative is clear: to lay claim to key accomplishments in foreign policy and short-circuit persistent attacks on her judgment from the right.

Republicans are stepping up criticism of her handling of the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on the heels of last week’s bipartisan Senate report that, while not blaming Clinton directly, said the assault was preventable. In addition, her successor, John Kerry, is winning plaudits for diplomatic breakthroughs on Iran and other issues that Clinton did not achieve.

Clinton sees her book — to be published by the summer — as a chance to showcase her leadership role in events including the Arab Spring, the overthrow of Muammar Gadhafi in Libya and the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to people familiar with the plans. A key question looming over the project is whether Clinton will detail areas of policy disagreement with President Barack Obama or other members of his administration.

The timing would allow her to mount a splashy book tour followed by a series of campaign events on behalf of Democratic candidates ahead of the midterm elections in November.

Concern is rising among Democrats in Clinton’s orbit that she is at risk of losing control of one of the most pivotal parts of her biography. Some worried that Republicans are already succeeding in muddying her record.