Hillary Clinton smiles and signs (lots of) books
It's just a hunch, but were former First Lady and Secretary of State (and former U. S. Senator from New York) Hillary Clinton not the unofficial front runner for the Democratic Party's nomination as its presidential candidate, the long lines of people waiting to have her sign copies of her new book - "Hard Choices," a memoir of her time from 2009-13 as Secretary of State - might have been not as long Tuesday morning in front of the Northshire Bookstore's other location. The palpable level of excitement among those who wound up waiting several hours, in many cases, would surely have been less.
"I've admired her for years," said Janette Bierman of Saratoga, who was one of those waiting in line along Saratoga's Broadway, clutching a copy of Clinton's memoir. "She's been a big asset for our country."
And yes, she would definitely vote for her if she decided to run for president.
That decision, Clinton has been saying, is still a ways off. But given the profusion of people wearing stickers stating they were "Ready for Hillary," a decision against a run for the Oval Office in 2016 would come as a keen disappointment to many.
It's a long way to Election Day in November 2016, although for political consultants and those on the inside, the clock is already ticking.
But for the fortunate thousand or more people who had obtained tickets with the required acquisition of Clinton's new book, the future was now.
"I wouldn't say I'm a die hard fan, but I saw this event advertised in the newspaper and I figured this was my chance," said Alex Gordon of Colonie, N. Y. , who was waiting a little further up the line from Bierman.
He had seen her book displayed at bookstores in airports, but hadn't started reading it yet. Tomorrow he had a long train ride ahead, and expected to jump into it then, he said.
"I think I'd vote for her," he added.
Not everyone outside on the sidewalk were fans. A small group marched in front of the store, waving signs accusing Secretary Clinton of botching the security of the U. S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012, when the U. S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in a demonstration that turned violent.
"My issue with Hillary is that she aspires to be President, she was in charge as Secretary of State of all our U. S. embassies, and for months, leading up to the Benghazi tragedy, they had repeatedly asked for support," said Renee Mertens, from Ballston Spa, N. Y. "She wants to be commander-in-chief? She can't even protect an embassy."
Hers was decidedly the minority view, however, on this day and place at least. Several Clinton supporters were not amused.
The Northshire's Saratoga store, which opened in August, 2013, is a bit different from the one in Manchester. A four story structure adjacent to a hotel, it has clean, straight sight lines from front to back, with fewer of the little nooks and crannies of the Manchester store. The staircase leading up to the second floor, where Clinton's book signing was held, will prompt a recollection from those more familiar with the store here.
Security was present, but not stifling. Members of the press contingent, which numbered several TV crews along with reporters and photographers from every major and minor newspaper from the Capital District north and east were assembled on the sidewalk and led into the store in small groups. Bags were checked and left outside. We carried just what we needed; notepads, pens, recorders, cameras. Another security scan followed. Then, it was up the stairs and into the "pen," a sectioned off area directly in front of where Clinton would be seated at a table to sign the book copies. She would not be available for interviews, and she would not be giving any kind of talk or discussion about the book, or answer any questions.
Shortly before noon, she came out of a side room accompanied by several members of the store's staff along with owner Chris Morrow, and pleasantly posed for a barrage of photos, a ritual she has had much experience with. It was flawless, and after a minute of so, she took her place behind the table, grabbed a pen, and greeted her first customer. Each person seemed to get a few seconds for conversation, sometimes longer, before moving on.
The time between the event on Tuesday and the original proposal for having Clinton come to do a booksigning was only about seven weeks, according to Mary Allen, the Northshire's director of events and publicity. That's an unusually short period for a major event like this one, she said.
They worked closely with Simon and Schuster, Clinton's publisher, and with a strong track record of hosting high profile events, the proposal for an appearance was passed on to Clinton's office, which gave the ultimate go-ahead for the event, she said.
Security precautions were complex, requiring considerable coordination between the U.S. Secret Service, the Saratoga police department and Secretary Clinton's advance team.
"Up until midnight the night before the event we were in the store reviewing, refining and revamping in accordance with everyone's needs," she wrote in an e-mail response to submitted questions. "I guess the best way to describe it all would be Extreme Team Work."
As of Wednesday morning they were still compiling how many people passed through the store and acquired new books, but it was "on the healthy side of 1000" in both cases, she said.
Clinton's book has come in for mixed reviews, and after its initial burst of sales when it released in early June, the pace has tapered. As of Wednesday, it was holding down the ninth spot on the New York Times best seller list for nonfiction, having slipped three places from No. 6 the week before.
But you don't get to meet the next possible President everyday, and for the thousand or so came, saw and bought a book, there was a certain magic about that.
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