Find a better job for Hillary


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{(ADVISORY FOR BRODER CLIENTS: David Broder has written a column for} Wednesday publication on the potential selection of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Expect the column by noon Eastern.)<
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Mr. Broder is reflecting the huge buzz inside the Beltway about appointing Sen. Hillary Clinton to State, which I think would be a mistake, for this reason:

Given the reaction his election has gained from around the world, Barack Obama’s best international ambassador is Barack Obama. His policies are more likely to gain acceptance among friends and foes because they are his policies. You put somebody as Bigger Than Life as his erstwhile opponent in the top job at State, and suddenly the State Department becomes the Hillary Department. Everyone, from the U.S. media to foreign potentates, would look at the actions of the State Department in terms of "What Hillary Clinton is doing," rather than what is being done in the name of Barack Obama.

I just can’t see her effacing herself enough not to get between Obama and the rest of the world — even if she wants to.

Sure, one doesn’t have to be a nonentity to be SecState — look at Colin Powell. But Gen. Powell was known as the Good Soldier, a man who serves something greater than himself. That’s not something I can see Hillary Clinton (or her husband; in that they are a matched pair) pulling off successfully.

Anyway, it doesn’t seem the right job for her. What would be the right job? You mean, aside from U.S. senator from New York, which is not too shabby in itself? Something special. Economy Czarina or some such. Something ad hoc, something geared specifically to her. Sure, she failed when she was given the health care thing, but that was a long time ago; I think her political skills have improved since then.

I don’t know; I just don’t see her as the right person for Secretary of State.

As for the other two who have stirred the most comment:

  • I don’t know whether Larry Summers is the best person to be SecTreas or not, but he certainly shouldn’t be given the job because of that Harvard nonsense. Whomever the president-elect chooses, he needs to make it clear he’s not kowtowing to the absurd prating of the sillier feminists. I don’t know whether boys are better than girls at math or not; I do know it’s offensive to this boy’s intelligence to say it just can’t be so, because I don’t want it to be so, which is what I heard from those who ran him out of Cambridge.
  • There seems to be a lot of bipartisan murmuring that Robert Gates should stay on at Defense. I don’t know whether he’s a great secretary of defense or just seems like one because he followed Rumsfeld, but I’ve always liked the guy. So it would be fine by me if he stayed. At the same time, the president needs to know he’s got his own person in that job, so I wouldn’t think it would be horrible if another highly qualified candidate were nominated. Gates sets the bar pretty high, though.

16 thoughts on “Find a better job for Hillary

  1. p.m.

    The real problem with Hillary becoming Secretary of State is the conflict of interest represented by her ex-president husband flitting around the world speaking for up to $300,000 a pop to both our allies, enemies and non sequiturs.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Well, now here’s a pair of coincidences for you. When the Broder piece moved, he essentially said the same things I did.
    AND he cited among his reasons exactly what p.m. did — that Bill Clinton’s overseas activities constitute a conflict of interest.
    The column, which is embargoed for Wednesday, will be on our op-ed page.

  3. bud

    Hillary will make a fine Sec of State. The Clinton’s are revered by people around the world and she will certainly help Obama achieve the good will he needs to succeed. Given the huge deficit in international goodwill the current president has left us with Obama will need all the help he can get.

  4. Brad Warthen

    I’m waiting for the punch line on what bud just said. It seems that as much as Obama might be LIKED by the world, the Clintons are "revered." OK…

    Anyway, Obama should keep looking for a SecState, as Broder suggests. bud’s standards in this regard are insufficiently exacting. He apparently believes anyone who is not George W. Bush is qualified.

    Kidding aside, Hillary is QUALIFIED. But she would get in the way. Obama’s the one who got elected. As much as he loves Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Lincoln’s Cabinet, Team of Rivals (it’s his all-time desert-island fave), he doesn’t need to start off with someone who was THIS much of a rival in THIS particular post.

  5. bud

    I’m not sure I follow your reasoning Brad. Hillary was a rival in the primary season all right. But she proved herself to be a team player during the election cycle. Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be surrouned by yes men and women. She will offer her opinions but in the end I think she’s proven that she can be loyal to the new president. If Obama is half the president I think he is he will be able to balance the utility of hearing contrary opinions with the need to make the final decision on important international matters.
    As an aside, I’d personally prefer Hillary as Attorney General. She would be well suited to dealing with legal matters given what she and Bill went through with the whole impeachment mess. But she’ll do fine as Sec of State.

  6. Phillip

    All the folks mentioned for State are pretty strong figures, Richardson, Kerry, so Hillary would not be anything different in that regard. I think it makes a great one-two punch for international relations to pair her with Obama. Then when you add Biden’s experience in the mix you really have a terrific trio. Gates staying at Defense would be good, I agree. But for Treasury secretary I’ve been intrigued hearing more about Sheila Bair.Head of the FDIC, she’s a Republican so that would bring the bipartisan thing into the Cabinet, but she’s more pro-regulatory than some recent GOP tendencies of recent years. She has just recently criticized the current Treasury Dept’s foreclosure-prevention plan, and unveiled her own more aggressive plan.

  7. Rich

    As someone who voted for Hillary in the S.C. Democratic primary, I am thrilled at the prospect of her becoming Sec. of State. I only started to support Obama when it became clear that Hillary could not win the nomination. Indeed, my choice for the White House was H. Clinton as pres. and Obama as Veep.
    Since then, I have become a fervent Obama supporter. We have, as Bill Maher puts it so eloquently, “a kick-ass, black warrior, Ninja President.” “The rest of the world,” he then added Friday night on Real Time, “can now go back to being jealous of America.”
    I agree, but I still have a place in my heart for Hillary as do the other 18 million people who voted for her. Not only is she competent, literate, and experienced in government, she has that support base from the primary season which, even though clearly loyal to Obama, would just love to have their initial choice in Hillary somehow vindicated.
    Hillary at SecState would definitely help solidify a large, if fractious, party. There are good domestic political considerations that point to Hillary as the next SecState, or perhaps Secretary of Health and Human Services.
    Some people have been saying that appointing Clinton people is not their idea of change. They need to realize that the change Obama is contemplating first and foremost is from what we have NOW, not what we had eight years ago before the Supreme Court stole the election for Bush II–with disastrous results for us and for the world.

  8. bud

    bud’s standards in this regard are insufficiently exacting. He apparently believes anyone who is not George W. Bush is qualified.
    It’s a good start. Thankfully we only have a few more days of Bush tyranny to deal with.

  9. Lee Muller

    Obama played up to Hillary’s swollen but bruised ego, and suckered into the job which ends her political career.
    She is gone forever from the Senate.
    Obama will run foreign policy, screw it up, blame Hillary, and fire her. She will be so tarred as a failure that she will be unable to run for President against her own administration and the boss who canned her.

  10. Brad Warthen

    Wow. The Clintons really, really want this job. They want it so badly that Bill is willing to allow a smidge of transparency and ethical standards to be applied to him and his affairs:

    WASHINGTON — Former president Bill Clinton has offered several concessions to help pave the way for his wife to be nominated as secretary of state, Democrats close to the negotiations with the Obama transition team confirmed Wednesday.

    Mr. Clinton has agreed to release the names of some major donors to his charitable foundation and said that he would subject future foundation activities and paid speeches to an ethics review, the Democrats said, speaking on grounds of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the selection process.

    He would also cede day-to-day responsibility for his foundation so long as his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, served, and would alert the State Department to his speaking plans and any new income sources….

    Who is this man, and what has he done with Bill Clinton? Only one force in the known ‘verse could conceivably make him act this way — Hillary. Apparently, Mamanem has let Bill know that this is what she wants, and must have.

  11. Brad Warthen

    And Rich, you may be one of the 18 million who voted for Hillary for pres, but most of the other 282 million people in the country really, really did NOT want her to be president.

    Which is another subject altogether. There are a lot of things I see as being a better fit for Mrs. Clinton than president; SecState just isn’t one of them. bud’s idea of attorney general sounds much, much better. A strong, independent voice at Justice is much more fitting than the same sort of voice at State.

    But don’t listen to me; listen to Broder, who’s been "a fan of the former first lady’s" for a long time:

    What, then, is the problem? Clinton is the wrong person for that
    job in this administration. It’s not the best use of her talents, and
    it’s certainly not the best fit for this new president.

    Obama wants and needs in the person running the State Department is a
    diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy. He does not need
    someone who will tell him how to approach the world or be his mentor in
    international relations. One of the principal reasons he was elected
    was that, relying on his own instincts, he came to the correct
    conclusion that war with Iraq was not in America’s interest. He was
    more right about that than most of us in Washington, including Hillary

    Of course, he will benefit from the counsel and the
    contacts that his secretary of state can offer. But remember, he
    provided another and probably more expert source of that wisdom when he
    picked Joe Biden, the veteran chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
    Committee, as his vice president. The last thing Obama needs is a
    secretary of state carving out an independently based foreign policy.
    He needs an agent, not an author.

    Exactly! An "agent," not an "author." Obama needs to be the author of his foreign policy, and the person heading that department needs to be his agent, not a chief rival demanding a plum. Which, let’s face it, is what’s going on here.

    Actually, I think Broder makes a good case that the job Hillary has now — a respected senator who is only growing in strength and influence — is probably the one to which she is best suited. That’s a role that’s long been filled by Ted Kennedy (who has long had the deep respect, as a senator, of rivals as well as allies), but sadly, his time is past. She is a natural heir to that not inconsiderable mantle.

  12. Brad Warthen

    On this subject, did anyone see Tom Friedman’s column today? He used the same words I did, borrowing from Doris Kearns Goodwin, that when it comes to the State Department, you don’t need a "team of rivals."

    He didn’t come out against the idea of Hillary in the job as clearly and directly as Broder did, but he certainly raised the red flag…

  13. Lee Muller

    Obama outsmarted Hillary.
    Tom Friedman and Doris Kearns Goodwin don’t have a clue, and probably won’t figure it out until long after Hillary is canned.

  14. Lee Muller

    Hillary appears to not even be eligible to hold any appointed office, under federal law.
    The Emoluments Clause provides that “[n]o Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time.” As I understand it, 5 U.S.C. § 5303 provides for an automatic annual increase in certain federal salaries, including the salary of the Secretary of State, unless the President certifies that an increase in salaries is inappropriate. The salary of the Secretary of State has increased during Senator Clinton’s current Senate term, which does not end until 2012. Therefore, under a straightforward application of the Emoluments Clause, Senator Clinton is ineligible for appointment as Secretary of State because the emoluments of that office “have been encreased” during Senator Clinton’s current Senate term, and this disability continues until the end of “the time for which [she] was elected, or until January 2013.
    See the law review article by John O’Connor, “The Emoluments Clause: An Anti-Federalist Intruder in a Federalist Constitution”, 24 Hofstra L. Rev. 89 (1995)

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