How Do You Solve a Problem Like Hillary?
There’s nothing official yet, but at the time of this writing, Britain’s Guardian reports that “Hillary Clinton plans to accept the job of secretary of state offered by Barack Obama, who is reaching out to former rivals to build a broad coalition administration.”
Strap yourselves in, folks -- we’re in for a fun, fun ride.
That’s not to say Clinton wouldn’t make a fine SecState. She may not be well-liked, but she’s generally well-respected enough not to make a total disaster of the job. And, by choosing (yet another) Clintonite, Obama sends yet another reassuring message to the world: Change, but not too much change.
Obama also gains himself some cover by choosing Clinton. He originally promised to have the troops out of Iraq in 2009. Then he backed away from that pledge, to maybe sometime in 2010. By choosing an Iraq war supporter, even if she proved to be a fair-weather fan, Obama might be able to tell his furthest-left supporters that his own SecState has told him the troops ought to stay until at least 2011. Or twelvish.
Real Clear Politic's Tom Bevan wonders if perhaps Obama is “being overconfident and naive, giving Hillary a place on the stage and a power base, at the same time he's stocking his administration with former Clintonites.” I think he’s being shrewd.
With Ted Kennedy’s health problems, Clinton could rise up to take his place as the liberal “lion of the Senate.” To date, Clinton has modeled her Senate career more along the lines of “Pothole Al” D’Amato. In other words, she concentrated most of her efforts on doing nice things for her constituents, and less on the Big Picture items. But with Kennedy fading and a fellow Democrat in the White House, stepping up into a bigger role seemed like the next natural step in her progression.
But does Obama want a potential rival helping guide his legislation through the Senate? If Obama has a first term as disastrous as some people fear, there’s another way Clinton could prove to be the next Ted Kennedy -- by making a primary run against a sitting Democratic president, just like Teddy did to Jimmy Carter in 1980. It’s daring enough when a rival senator makes a run at a sitting president. It’s quite a bit more daring when a loyal, or at least seemingly loyal, cabinet member tries to do so.
The other good news for Obama is that, almost at will, he can send Clinton not just out of town, but out of the entire country. You can’t do that with an annoying sitting senator. The bad news is, Bill might go with her, hat in hand for the Clinton Global Initiative. Or is that such bad news? When you have a rival in your own party, nagging questions of impropriety could rob her of the outsize influence a secretary of state usually enjoys.
And purely as a consumer of news, I’m gladdened by the idea of Bill and Hill back in Washington together. Sure, there’s the ever-present threat/treat of new bimbo eruptions -- although I rather doubt it. But the gossip should be juicy nonetheless. Just today we’ve got MSNBC’s Chris “Tingle Me Leg” Matthews caught dishing on Clinton. Reportedly, he bellowed:
Why would he pick her? I thought we were done with the Clintons. She'll just use it to build her power base. It's Machiavellian. And then we'll have Bill Clinton, too. I thought Obama didn't want drama. He's already got [chief of staff Rahm] Emanuel and [transition team leader John] Podesta. He'll have even more drama with her.
And as a paid commenter on the news, I’m way past gladdened and well into excitement over the prospect of virtually guaranteed employment for the next four years.
It also seems certain that Obama has at least considered that SecStates tend to get “captured” by the bureaucracy at Foggy Bottom. A Colin Powell, a Condoleeza Rice, or even a George Schultz walks in to State ... and out walks a Warren Christopher, almost every time. State has a way of taking gray old men (or women), and turning them into even grayer, older men (or women). They each take the job hoping the make the world a better, safer place, and they all leave the job seemingly glad to still have whatever is left of their hides and their pride.
Which brings us to Quickie Trivia Time: Name the last former secretary of state to go on to even greater things. No Googling, please.
Bzzzt, time is up, thanks for playing. No Turtle Wax or Rice-A-Roni for you.
And other than an effective secretary of state, that’s got to be what Obama is hoping for.