I first heard Hillary Clinton’s name mentioned as a possible Secretary of State when watching George Stephanopoulos on This Week last Sunday. This had me wondering if it was a case of either Stephanopoulos having inside information regarding Clinton, or if perhaps he was helping the Clintons launch a trial baloon. The story has taken off and become a major matter of speculation by the end of the week. While we do know that Obama and Clinton have talked about this, we do not really know if it is a serious offer.
It is possible that Obama is only talking with Clinton to avoid the appearance of ignoring her as when he did not vet her for the vice presidency. Obama might be considering Clinton as part of the Team of Rivals approach to government. There have been many comparisons between the Obama vs. McCain race and the Santos vs. Vinick campaign on final season of The West Wing. The show ended with Matt Santos offering the position of Secretary of State to Arnold Vinick. For Obama to offer this to Clinton would be an analogous example of bringing in a rival, but would be far more likely than for Obama to offer the position to John McCain.
This could also be a shrewd decision on Obama’s part to reduce the mischief that Clinton could cause. As Marc Ambinder suggested:
The CW in Washington is that Obama wants Clinton in his cabinet more than Clinton wants to be in the cabinet, the theory being that the moment she steps into the administration, she loses her power base, she loses her Senate seat forever, and she loses her voice on domestic policy. She concedes her political identity. Actually, on policy: uncuriously silent in all this is Sen. Joe Biden, who has strong foreign policy ideas of his own and a bigger platform to share them with Obama. Would Clinton become a glorified PR tool for Obama if she accepted the job? A Powell, rather than a Rice?
Andrew Sullivan considers this an inspired idea:
Obama has to offer something to Clinton. She’s his main threat now and rightly regards part of his victory her doing. The primaries helped him. Left to fester in the Senate, Clinton will plot against the president if he doesn’t actively seek her support and engagement and “spread the political wealth” of his mandate.
If Barack Obama receives a call at 3:00 a.m., will Hillary Clinton be one of the people called to the White House at 3:15? For the sake of the country I would prefer that Obama receive advice from a Secretary of State such as John Kerry, although he could also be consulted as the possible next Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Hillary Clinton has something in common with George Bush–both have been wrong on virtually every major decision they have every made in public life. I might welcome her becoming Secretary of State if this meant totally shutting her out of domestic policy, especially health care, but only if she did not really have a voice in foreign policy. From her position on the Iraq War to her opposition to the ban on cluster bombs, her judgement on foreign policy has been as flawed as her judgement on domestic policy. If this keeps Clinton under control it might be worthwhile, but is it really safe politically to have both Hillary and Bill running around the world?