This is coming from anonymous officials, but the Huffington Postis reporting that Senator Hillary Clinton was offered the Secretary of State job by President-Elect Barack Obama in a meeting Thursday in Chicago. Of course, I’m not too happy about the pick, seeing as Clinton did not make an appearance in my ideal Cabinet. Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons.
- 1. Clinton has relationships and credibility with foreign leaders that she’ll be working with, and she has bulked up on foreign policy experience in her time in the Senate as a member of the Armed Services Committee, so she will know what’s going on.
- 2. This pick appeases Clinton supporters who think that her experience was shortchanged in the campaign.
- 3. More importantly, tapping Clinton for the highest ranking Cabinet position would appease Clinton herself and would remove a potentially attention-seeking rival from the Senate.
- 4. Clinton would add some gender diversity to the cabinet. There has been talk of Obama’s potential picks leaning a bit too much toward old, white men. She would also probably focus on women’s issues at the State Department, building on her 1995 speech to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
- 5. She’s power- and influence-hungry, so she will probably try to get resources and responsibilities directed towards the State Department.
- 1. Clinton has no real experience running a diplomatic outfit or actually formulating foreign policy. Considering that the State Department is at a huge disadvantage compared to the Defense Department in terms of appropriations and mandates to act, it may be a bad idea to appoint someone who doesn’t know her way around Foggy Bottom.
- 2. Bringing back the 1990s. Although Republicans warmed to Clinton during the primary, there is still a lot of bitterness left over from the 90s. I doubt Obama wants a bruising confirmation fight where old GOP bugaboos like Whitewater are brought back to life.
- 3. Bill. Obama and former President Clinton don’t have the best relationship, and many doubt his ability not to try to hog the spotlight at every possible opportunity. Would Obama and Hillary be able to keep him under control? It’s unclear.
- 4. Hawkishness: Yes, my pick Richard Holbrooke is a liberal hawk, but he at least has considerable experience and diplomatic chops to back him up. Clinton, on the other hand, is a hawk without the experience. Considering that Obama was promising change from the 90s/early 2000s Republican-lite style of Democratic foreign policy, picking Clinton would certainly send mixed signals.
- 5. Iran. On the trail, Clinton said that if Iran were to attack Israel, she would “totally obliterate” them. Not that diplomats should be expected to kowtow to theocrats, but a tendency to use such intemperate, nay, undiplomatic language is not becoming of America’s chief diplomat.
- 6. Nuclear proliferation. During the primaries, Obama pledged to promote the goal of total nuclear abolition and, in the short term, to significantly reduce stockpiles. Clinton, although endorsing stockpile cuts, talked about nuclear retaliation and pointedly refused to sign on to abolition. As Secretary of State, she would be responsible for overseeing, implementing and even formulating non-proliferation programs. Obama probably wants someone who shares his views on the issue.
More than anything, this potential pick is a surprise. There had been a lot of speculation surrounding John Kerry and Bill Richardson, two Democratic foreign policy eminences that endorsed Obama in the primary. Of course, this speculation could all be for naught. The reports could be false or Clinton could decide that she wants to be a Senator-for-life from the Empire State. I guess we’ll see.