Senate Democrats Happy To See Clinton Out Of Congress

While it now appears that people around Obama are happy with the choice of Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State, there were reservations over this at first. Huffington Post has an excerpt about the appointment from Renegade: The Making of a President.  While I had reservations about her being appointed to this position, I reluctantly supported the decision thinking that Clinton would do less harm in such a post than in the Senate, especially as this would keep her away from health care reform. It turns out that Senate Democrats were also happy to see her out of the Senate:

Obama was under no illusion about the legacy of the long primary season. During one transition meeting, Obama said he wanted to offer Clinton the diplomatic job. “I’m really interested in pursuing this, but I know she has some hard feelings coming out of this campaign.” Emanuel and John Podesta, the former Clinton official who ran the transition, assured Obama that she was over those hard feelings now. Obama smiled and said, “Believe me. She’s not over it yet.”

His decision to offer her the job of secretary of state came surprisingly early. Well before the end of the primaries, when his staff and friends still felt hostile to her, Obama decided that Clinton possessed the qualities to carry his diplomacy to the rest of the world. “We actually thought during the primary, when we were pretty sure we were going to win, that she could end up being a very effective secretary of state,” he told me later. “I felt that she was disciplined, that she was precise, that she was smart as a whip, and that she would present a really strong image to the world…I had that mapped out.”

Recruiting and managing a team of rivals would not be easy, and Clinton came with her own set of issues. Chief among them was her campaign debt, which she wanted eliminated before she took the job of secretary of state. Would the president-elect go out and help her to do so? “I’m not begging her to take this job,” Obama told his senior aides. “If she wants it, I could help. But I’m not willing to go out in these difficult economic times to do a flashy fundraiser in California.” As it happened, plenty of people in the Senate were begging Obama to offer Clinton the job. Obama’s aides believed that many Senate Democrats thought Clinton had extended her presidential campaign far beyond the point where she had lost the election. Her negative advertising wasted Democratic money, threatened to undermine the party’s nominee, and suggested that she was disloyal to the party. They were unwilling to offer the junior New York senator a position ahead of her lowly rank, and she stood little chance of becoming majority leader. “There was a lot of encouragement from inside the Senate to get her into this job,” said one senior Obama aide. “They wanted her out of there.” …

As for controlling the uncontrollable Bill Clinton, Obama’s aides drew up a series of checks on his fundraising for both Clinton Global Initiative and his work on HIV/AIDS across the world. But they really counted on Hillary to be the ultimate safeguard – against both her husband and her own ambition. “It’s in her interests to keep him in line,” warned one senior Obama aide. Others in Obama’s inner circle said the president-elect believed Clinton needed to demonstrate that she was a team player and to shape her own career and legacy. “There are plenty who don’t trust her and think she still harbors something,” said another senior adviser. “It’s still potentially problematic down the road. Barack’s thinking on this is that it’s not in her interests to mess with us. She can’t win that fight internally and she’s smart enough that she won’t want that fight publicly.”

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9 Comments

  1. 1
    Jan says:

    Too much spin in this. Yes, the Senate Democrats wanted her out of the Senate. Hell, I’m sure the Senate Republicans wanted her out too… She was a highly effective senator, particularly for someone so junior. They got a chance to see her talents shine — and let’s face it, the United States needed her. The world carries a lot of goodwill towards the Clintons, and Obama needs some of that, and the working relationships that the Clintons have already cultivated, to do what needs to get done.

    Plus, Clinton was truly being wasted in the Senate. Seniority rules there, and she’d never really have a chance at anything truly important there (save perhaps for majority leader). People with too much initiative and not enough outlets for that initiative, become troublemakers. Why not effectively channel it into something that Hillary will excel at?

    Hillary’s skills are worst at management, but she’s always been a loyal and hardworker. It was sheer political genius to tie her boat to Obama’s, on both of their parts.

  2. 2
    Fritz says:

    Obama has Clinton buried in Foggy Bottom.  And he has various “envoys” cutting off chunks of State Department responsibility and reporting directly to the White House.

    I’m actually quite surprised she didn’t stay in the Senate.   She had more power and independence.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    It is hard to say. From my perspective I prefer to see her buried at Foggy Bottom, but it is not as clear from Clinton’s perspective. She had more independence in the Senate but I’m not sure how much power she would have had if she remained in the Senate, especially after alienating so many Democrats by her conduct during the campaign. Working for Obama at least negates negative feelings about her opposition to Obama. It really comes down to whether she prefers a high profile spot such as Secretary of State. She does have access to Obama and the potential to recover more influence depending upon how her relationship with Obama goes.

  4. 4
    Jan says:

    Obama has Clinton buried in Foggy Bottom.  And he has various “envoys” cutting off chunks of State Department responsibility and reporting directly to the White House. –Fritz

    Got any citations for this?

  5. 5
    tessablue says:

    The focus of most Americans has moved way beyond the primaries, which is healthy and functional. Our current domestic problems along with serious foreign policy issues require our full attention and rehashing old conflicts serves no positive purpose.

    President Obama and Secretary Clinton appear to be directing their attention to thir jobs and addressing the current issues confronting the nation. Intelligent and forward-thinking people do not harbor ill-will that will diminish their energy and inhibit optimal functiong in the present.

    That’s the critical lesson to be learned from this bit of history.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    This is from a book on the primaries and election which makes looking at those conflicts relevant.

    We can walk and chew gum at the same time. Current policy issues, no matter no serious, do not prevent a look back at recent history.

  7. 7
    Fritz says:

    Jan, I was wrong.  From a superficial reading, I thought the envoys were reporting directly to the White House (like the various czars).  Rereading news articles, I now believe they are reporting through Clinton, although appointed by Obama.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    I have seen some stories regarding increased control of foreign policy in the White House as opposed to the State Department, but that situation has often varied with different presidents and Secretaries of State. It often comes down to how close a Secretary of State is to the president. It is too early to say for certain how Clinton will fall as most likely their relationship is still evolving.

  9. 9
    tessablue says:

    Ron,
    Of course we can look back. My point was: what messages do we want to emphasize and learn from within the context of history?

    Observing PO and SC, it is clear that they are not ensnared by their past political rivalry; therefore, they or anyone can move forward productively.

    Undoubtedly, we can do more than one thing at a time. But as I function in the present and look into the past, do I hope to benefit by the lessons learned? History can be a great teacher if one is focused on self-improvement.

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