For those of us who are less than thrilled by the prospect that Hillary Clinton might get the nod as Obama’s Secretary of State (IMHO she represents the compromised politics of the ’90s… and the endorsement by Henry Kissinger certainly didn’t make her any more appealing), it appears that there might be more obstacles to the appointment than just the process of vetting Bill Clinton. The very public rumors about the appointment seem not just to be getting mixed reactions from the netroots but also rubbing Obama insiders the wrong way, as the New York Times reports today:

Both sides were engaged in a delicate public and private dance, maneuvering for position and reputation in case the deal falls through. Aides in each camp have grown increasingly sour toward the other in recent days as the matter played out publicly.

…Some in the Obama camp are bristling at what they see as strategic leaks by the Clintons aimed at boxing in the president-elect and forcing him to offer the post.

…The tension could foreshadow a complex relationship burdened by suspicion and enmity should Mrs. Clinton become secretary of state.

And Hillary, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, is already positioning herself to be able to back off gracefully, putting word out that she’s

deeply “torn” between the possibility of serving in Obama’s cabinet and remaining in the Senate to “help pass health care and work on a broad range of domestic issues.”

Other appointments are playing out with less controversy and less opportunity for media-generated drama (Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security, for instance, or Peter Orszag for OMB). Let’s hope that when all is said and done, this one winds up that way as well, and Hillary stays in the Senate. There are plenty of more qualified candidates to be America’s diplomatic face to the world.

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3 Responses to “No done deal for the State Department”
  1. phil from new york says:


    Thanks for the post. The news today is that Hillary has accepted the secretary of state job, according to The New York Times. So we’ll see what happens. I agree with your analysis in principle, but I told myself that if Obama got elected, I wouldn’t obsess about his cabinet picks or staff appointments. I’ve always thought Obama was an establishment Democrat and I expected his selections to reflect that. After eight years of the Cheney-Bush-Rove administration, I have matured a lot politically. Right now, I’m just happy to have a Democrat in the White House, someone who can walk and chew gum at the same time. We will have the adults in charge again even if we won’t always agree with them — and I’m sure there will be plenty of times when we will disagree with them.

    It may seem to many people that Obama is playing with a hand grenade by appointing Hillary, but if he wants her for state, so be it. If it blows up in his face, he will suffer mightily for it. But regardless of who is at the helm in Foggy Bottom, he still has to get out of Iraq, he still has to repair our relations with the rest of the world and he still has to tackle a whole host of other foreign-policy issues that the Republicans have either fucked up or ignored.

    With Hillary at state, I’m more troubled by the media circus that it will create than I am anything else. The media have been over the top the last week or so reporting on this. So far this process seems to say more about them than it does either Obama or Hillary.

    I guess all I’m saying is that right now, I’m willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he’s doing. We’ll find out sooner or later whether that’s true.

    (As I’m writing this, NBC News is reporting that Obama has named New York Fed Prez Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary. The markets are supposedly loving the appointment. You noted that Geithner has a “Keynesian sensibility.” Let’s hope so, because we’re gonna need it!)

  2. Hillary as special prosecutor? Yeah, that would certainly put the fear of god into more than a few corrupt neocons. 😉 Wouldn’t ever actually happen, though… it’s a big step down from Senator; in fact it’s actually appointed by the AG, not the president.

  3. I agree: the Kissinger endorsement of a proposed Hillary Clinton appointment to SecState smells more akin to a kiss of death. (Puns? Me?)

    I still think that Adam-Troy Castro’s proposal is the best I’ve seen suggested for the Senator’s future in an Obama Administration. Even if it never happens.

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