June 9 (Bloomberg) -- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. initially rejected releasing Taliban fighters in a prisoner exchange for Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
In a memoir to be released tomorrow, Clinton describes early negotiations that eventually led to Bergdahl’s release May 31 after nearly five years of captivity in a swap for five Taliban prisoners held by the U.S. at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. A copy of her book, “Hard Choices,” was purchased by Bloomberg News in Chicago.
“The Taliban’s top concern seemed to be the fate of its fighters being held in Guantanamo Bay and other prisons,” Clinton writes. “In every discussion about prisoners, we demanded the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.”
Clinton goes on to write that “there would not be any agreement with the Taliban about prisoners without the sergeant coming home.” The potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate also outlines skepticism in the administration about releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay.
“The Taliban still wanted their fighters released from Guantanamo, but that was not a step we were willing to take yet,” she writes about negotiations in 2011.
During a June 2 appearance, Clinton said she didn’t want to “second guess” President Barack Obama’s decision to execute the prisoner swap.
“We do have a tradition and I ascribe to it; it’s a tradition that I think is not only one embedded in our military, but in our country, and that is we try not to leave any of our soldiers on the field,” she said during a lecture in Broomfield, Colorado, outside of Denver.
The release of the prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl has upset some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including Democrats.
Clinton, 66, has said she’ll decide on a White House run by the end of this year or early next year. Polls of Democrats show she has a huge lead over the party’s other 2016 prospects.
“I also know that the most important questions anyone considering running must answer are not ’Do you want to be president’ or ’Can you win?’” she writes in the book. “They are ’What’s your vision for America?’ and ’Can you lead us there?’ The challenge is to lead in a way that unites us again and renews the American Dream. That’s the bar, and it’s a high one.”
Clinton also outlines how two fierce and sometimes spiteful rivals came together once the outcome of their 2008 battle for the Democratic presidential nomination was clear.
Along the way, there were periodic in-person conversations and others on mobile phones, often after one or the other had won some state’s primary or caucus vote.
“But more than a few calls were curt, just checking the box,” she writes. “Football coaches meet midfield after a game, but they don’t always hug.”
Clinton details a secret meeting on June 5, 2008, that she had with Obama at the Washington home of Senator Diane Feinstein of California. During a 90-minute “fireside chat” over Chardonnay, she outlined some of her grievances.
“The preposterous charge of racism against Bill was particularly painful,” she writes in a reference to husband, former President Bill Clinton. “Barack made clear that neither he nor his team believed that accusation.”
She also called out Obama on some of the sexism she detected during their primary fight.
“I knew that it arose from cultural and psychological attitudes about women’s roles in society, but that didn’t make it any easier for me and my supporters,” she writes.
Clinton said Obama “emphasized that he wanted Bill’s help as well” to try to win the White House.
The former first lady and U.S. senator from New York said the 2008 campaign toughened her up and made her less concerned about what others say about her.
“One silver lining of defeat was that I came out of the experience realizing I no longer cared so much about what the critics said about me,” she writes. “I no longer had much patience for walking on eggshells.”
While delaying a decision on a presidential bid, Clinton already has the backing of an experienced fundraising team, veteran voter-turnout specialists from Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and endorsements from some well-known Democrats.
Ready for Hillary, a super-political action committee based in a Virginia suburb outside Washington, has raised $5.7 million from about 55,000 donors since it was set up last year. The money has helped create what amounts to the most robust campaign infrastructure so far among any of the Democrats who might run in 2016.
She also makes a statement in the book that could be used against her in a potential 2016 race, should she complain about the process of running for president.
“As crazy as a national campaign can be, it is our democracy in action, warts and all,” she writes.
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