Ghattas, a journalist born in Beirut to a Lebanese father and Dutch mother, skillfully weaves together highlights from her recent journalistic assignments with past experiences from her childhood in war-torn Lebanon. Ghattas left Beirut, which she calls “the city that made me a journalist,” for the BBC post in Washington in 2008. It wasn’t easy to leave, but Ghattas says she didn’t have doubts. “I felt it was time to step away from it all, but mostly I thought the job made total sense for me,” she explains. “Having lived on the receiving end of decisions made in Washington, I wanted to see the US foreign policy machine close up,” she says. She also wanted answers to questions that had nagged her for years about America’s role as a superpower and her own country’s long and bloody conflict.
After four years of often-grueling travel—plus more than a dozen formal interviews and myriad off-the-record dinners and drinks with the former secretary—the author forged a personal relationship with one of the most public politicians of our time. “She has a striking capacity to remain normal. When she talks to people, whether it’s a foreign leader, a female entrepreneur, or a student, she relates to them at a very personal level,” says Ghattas.
Through her book Ghattas hopes readers will gain more than just a fly-on-the-wall perspective of the US’s top diplomat (though insider accounts of Clinton’s tenure will surely keep copies flying off the shelves). The work, she hopes, shines a light on the critical importance of smart foreign policy.
Clinton, who is a favorite for the upcoming 2016 presidential election, has said that she will take time off to rest after recovering from a blood clot near her brain. Ghattas, however, is not slowing down. Although she didn’t come away from her job covering Clinton with “one tidy explanation for why we lived through war,” she did gain a deep understanding for just how challenging US foreign policy can be. She’s now covering recently appointed Secretary of State John Kerry. (“[His] tone and vision will likely be the same, but the style and issues will differ,” she predicts.) She is also pondering the topic of her next book. “I’ve learned to always look forward,” she says. “My travel routine is well-oiled and my suitcase is always ready.”