Hillary at State: Bad call, Barack

You know the thing we talked about earlier in the week, the thing that David Broder and Tom Friedman and I all said was a bad idea?

Well, apparently it’s happened:

WASHINGTON  —  Hillary Rodham Clinton
has decided to give up her Senate seat and accept the position of
secretary of state, making her the public face around the world for the
administration of the man who beat her for the Democratic presidential
nomination, two confidants said Friday….

That’s bad news for the simple fact that Barack Obama needs to be "the public face" of U.S. foreign policy, because he starts off with most of the world having such a great impression of him. Why squander that by putting Hillary Clinton between him and the world?

His secretary of state needs to be someone who is HIS agent and seen as no more than that, not a larger-than-life rival. The office of secretary of state is far too important to be anyone’s plum or concession prize.

This is Obama’s first significant mistake.

36 thoughts on “Hillary at State: Bad call, Barack

  1. beetrave

    Tho’ she might make your skin crawl, Hillary has shown herself to be a great negotiator in the Senate. Many of the Republicans in the Senate who used to hate her guts now have a very high opinion of her as a public servant and as a person. (There was a big ole article in The Atlantic about this maybe a year ago. The author seemed to think her aptitude at working in the Senate made her a poor candidate for prez.) Aside from your confusion between Hill and Lady Macbeth, what makes you think she can’t (or won’t) be good in the job?
    (& while I’m at it, before you go chiming in with syndicated “authorities,” maybe you should provide some support for your own argument?!)

  2. Brad Warthen

    I explained exactly what I think about it, in this post and the one before: It doesn’t have the slightest thing to do with whether she is QUALIFIED. Nor does it have anything to do with what I think of her (and nothing I’ve written would suggest she makes my “skin crawl”).
    It’s the wrong position. The person in that post should not compete with the president in terms of having her own power base, or being a big celeb. Attorney General would be fine. But the top diplomat should be able to efface himself (or herself) to the point of not competing with the president; it’s critically important for foreign leaders to know HE is in charge, especially since he starts out with a lot of capital with them.
    As for her strength as a senator, you make my case for me. I think she’s shown a lot of strength there, and could be the next Ted Kennedy (not Ted Kennedy the boogeyman of the right, but Ted Kennedy the senator who is highly respected by his colleagues of both parties), if she’ll just have the patience to attain the seniority.
    As always, I invite you to understand my point by reading what I say, rather than taking wild guesses at what I mean.

  3. Harry Harris

    I would prefer to have Hillary remain in the Senate as a legislative leader. Nonetheless, I am amazed at the speculation that choosing her is anything more than a bet that she is the person best equipped to accomplish the key job at hand. There is little doubt that she adds strength to the foreign policy team. She will serve the President, and will represent the foreign policy of the country which she will help to shape. She has long been too militaristic for my taste, but Obama likes a variety of views in his decision-making process. She will not be a “yes woman” in policy deliberations, but she will work to implement the decisions the FP team chooses.

  4. Randy E

    Brad, Friedman did NOT say it was a bad idea. He said “I don’t know.” His point was they will have to get along much better than would be expected in a team of rivals.
    As far as his being his first significant mistake, you haven’t even seen them in action. Such a strong evaluation is unjustified because you can only speculate. Clinton is a strong and intelligent person. As Obama works to clean up the elephant dung dropped on the international community these past 8 years, we need a strong person.
    Other analysts have pointed out that the SoS needs the gravitas to deal with leaders. Clinton has this, whether she’s SoS or not. She’s also more hawkish than him which provides balance.
    I’ll say this for Obama, he is not lacking self-confidence in this choice and bully for him.

  5. p.m.

    Perhaps this is the best way Obama could find to keep Bill Clinton from selling himself to the highest bidder anywhere and everywhere around the world.

  6. Lee Muller

    Obama outsmarted Hillary.
    Obama will botch Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, and South America, then blame Hillary Clinton and fire her after 2 years.
    Tom Friedman and Doris Kearns Goodwin don’t have a clue, and probably won’t figure it out until long after Hillary is canned.

  7. Hubert

    Hillary need to keep her butt in the Senate..
    If she takes the Sec. job..she could be out of a job in 4 years…
    Obama has hard job ahead of him.. It will take years to fix all of Bush’s mistakes.And some people will never be happy no matter what Obama does.
    Just like Bill Clinton. It took 8 years to fix Bush Sr. and Reagan’s mistakes. You can only start so many wars and borrow so much money.

  8. Rich

    I love the fact that Barack is appointing Hillary Clinton Sec. of State. This is not just a recognition of her talent, hard work, and political importance, but also his respect for those of us who voted for her before enthusiastically voting for him.
    The cabinet of rivals worked well for Lincoln; it might work equally well for Obama. I support all his appointments and would dearly love to see Bush resign and get out of the way before he f*cks things up even more than he already has!

  9. p.m.

    Hubert, I’m trying very hard to conceive of Bill Clinton fixing something.
    I’m focusing. I’m zeroing in.
    Sorry. The only thing I can imagine him fixing is an election.
    Clinton was the first man born to be a used car salesman who was elected president. The idea that he fixed mistakes made by GHW Bush and Ronald Reagan is ludicrous.

  10. Lee Muller

    The current economic problems are the Clinton legacy.
    Bill Clinton left a war and mess in the Balkans which still continues today.
    Clinton ran from Al Qaeda.
    Clinton started a war in Iraq in 1998, but did not pursue it.
    Clinton tax increases and tax law changes gave us a 2 stock market crashes and 2 recessions, including the one in 2000 as he left office. Unemployment today is still lower than it was at the worst under Clinton.
    Clinton and the Democrats gave us the mortgage crisis through their Community Reinvestment Act, which forced banks to write bad loans to 6,000,000 unqualified blacks and 5,000,000 illegal aliens.
    Bush’s contribution to the mess is his lack of will to reverse the economic programs of Bill Clinton.

  11. bud

    Brad, you soooooo overthink stuff sometimes. You acknowledge that’s she’s qualified, and attest to the fact that it doesn’t matter whether you like her or not. Then you trivialize the whole process with this esoteric peace of nonsense:
    That’s bad news for the simple fact that Barack Obama needs to be “the public face” of U.S. foreign policy, because he starts off with most of the world having such a great impression of him. Why squander that by putting Hillary Clinton between him and the world?
    Come on, give the man a break. He won the election and is seeking out the best folks for his cabinet. Hillary Clinton is well know and respected throughout the world. The folks in London, Moscow, Paris, Tehran and Bahgdad view this choice with the utmost respect for the American system. It shows Obama as a man of intellect and vision to select a formal rival with no fear that he will be upstaged. She brings White House experience to the process in a way no one other than Bill could. She is going to make a wonder SofS. I’m delighted she was chosen for this important post.

  12. wtf

    Way to stay on topic Lee. Wrong as always, but you know that on the days you take your meds.
    Honestly I think Hillary is looking to “retire” and go on the lecture tour in a few years since her biggest ambition has been trounced. She has at least four more years in the Senate, but taking Sec of State now, she can stay on for a few years and leave at her leisure versus having to serve out any elected term.
    Plus, it also gives her a good position (not that she needed one) to replace Biden in 2012 on the ticket as I seriously doubt Biden will do two terms as VP.

  13. slugger

    We are faced with the fact that Obama will be president and has announced that he is going to start a Franklin D. Roosevelt works program.
    He is appointing Hillary Clinton as Sec. Of State and she has told us many times that she is a student of Eleanor Roosevelt.
    Both choices of Obama president and Hillary Sec. Of State will do nothing but harm our way of life and turn the country into a nation of socialist/Marxist.
    In a way it reminds me of the present auto crisis. We are being told that the unions are raping the auto industry with the aid of Viagra being bought by the auto industry for the employees at the tune of $18 million a year just for the General Motors employees.
    Only in America could something like this take place

  14. Ralph Hightower

    I think that Hillary was the wrong choice as Secretary of State. She is too much a polarizing figure. But then, Barack probably wanted to keep close tabs on what she’s doing, which he couldn’t do as President while she was in the Senate.
    Tom Daschle was the wrong choice for any position in the Obama administration. When I think of Tom Daschle, I think of Tom Delay; both Tom(s) were loggerheads refusing to blink, refusing to acknowledge the other, refusing to compromise. Daschle/Delay are emblematic problems of Washington gridlock.
    Likewise, another person should have been chosen as Attorney General instead of Holder; Barack’s and Michele’s mentor at Harvard law school was mentioned as a possible candidate for AG. Holder did say afterwards that he hadn’t had the time to view the case file of Marc Rich, a tax fugitive, pardoned by Bill Clinton.

  15. jfx

    This was an extremely shrewd pick.
    The Clinton brand is strong around the world, and that sort of international respect is exactly what is needed in the State position.
    Hillary also made Barack a better candidate on the campaign trail, and will certainly make him a better President by her presence. I don’t think she will undermine his authority. I think he knows, probably better than anyone based on what he went through over the last 20 months or so, how large the Clinton footprint is. I think Obama wants to be challenged. He doesn’t mind the internal resistance and debate that may occur. He may actually be counting on it as a kind of creative friction.
    It’s an anti-cronyism pick.
    But the thing that makes this such a clever pick is that, with Hillary so deeply engaged in foreign policy, Obama’s other cabinet members can dive into a RAFT of domestic issues without having Hillary constantly poking her fingers into the domestic pie. She’s a polarizing figure with respect to DOMESTIC policy much more so than foreign policy. This is especially important with respect to health care. Obama just gave Daschle, et al. the space they need to make things happen on this front.
    Finally, people often talk about Bill Clinton nowadays as a net negative, a kind of red-nosed, rampant Bubba, but I think Obama greatly values a closer relationship to Bill Clinton the policy wonk, the hugely experienced and internationally popular ex-President. He’ll get to pick Bill’s brain whenever he wants.
    It’s a good pick. Hillary proved in the last few months, and especially at the Democratic convention, that she can pitch hardball for Team Obama, AND bring Bill to heel. Many here in America have this residual distortion, colored by the grueling primary campaign, that Team Obama and Team Clinton must be bitterly incompatible. But this isn’t the view outside the States, and it doesn’t appear to be the view inside the minds of the individuals concerned.
    Like I say, it’s a shrewd pick with deep interior logic.

  16. jfx

    Oh, and I have to give Barack a big virtual high five for NOT picking John Kerry.
    Now THAT would have been a significant mistake.

  17. Bart

    Theeeeerrrrr’rrrrrreeeeee Baaaaaaaacccccckkk!
    This is just too funny for words. Not so long ago, the very same people on ths blog calling for Bill and Hillary’s heads are the same ones now praising Obama for his intelligent choices for his cabinet and administration positions.
    Keep your friends close but your enemies closer indeed! This not some movie plot and Obama is not the Godfather. What he has done is insure we will have a Clinton Shadow Government for at least four years. No, he has not played Bill and Hillary, they played him like a cheap violin and did it masterfully.
    Is this the “change” promised. Looks like a continuation of the same old politics as usual. By the way, Hillary has always been able to pitch hardball for the Democrat Party. What ever made you think she wouldn’t do so this time? She proved a long time ago she can get past anything. If she stood by Bill when he was getting his jollies from Monica, standing by Obama was a no-brainer.
    Yep, the Clintons and their cronies are back in power once again.

  18. Phillip

    Brad, you really should phrase it, “I predict this will be his first significant mistake.” We have no way of knowing for sure.
    Most of the objections are based on old ways of thinking about power, about politics. It’s not necessarily the pick that conventional wisdom would predict, but Obama has flouted conventional wisdom time and again since he first came on the national scene four years ago.
    I have my concerns about Hillary, but overriding that is my trust that if Obama wanted her for this job, he must have very strong reasons. There have been very high-profile Secy’s of State before. Why not a triple threat of Obama, Biden, and Clinton?
    There’s a chance you could be right, Brad, but there’s also a chance that she could be one of the great Secretary’s of State of all time, too.

  19. Phillip

    I also have to add that this pick is about enhancing a perceived support for Israel within the Obama administration, to better position them to broker a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. I don’t think any of the other mentioned candidates have as much potential as this three-pronged team now to help bring this about.
    In so many of your posts and columns about the so-called “War on Terror,” Brad, you don’t even mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the Obama-Biden-Clinton team surely recognizes that that lies at the heart of any long-term resolution of Mideast strife and terrorist difficulties.
    The Clinton pick signals to me that they are going after this goal in a big way.

  20. jfx

    Bart, if it were the same old politics as usual, wouldn’t Hillary be ostracized, marginalized, demonized, spied upon, and perhaps have something sensitive and possibly life-endangering about her leaked to Bob Novak?
    Have you noticed that the Roves and Hannnitys and Limbaughs of the world, the champions of an idealized permanent arch-conservative super-majority, really hate…and I mean HATE…the Clintons? Ooooh, those dastardly Clintons, always wrecking the plan for permanent, Omnipotent right wing rule! Dang it!
    I don’t think it was enough for Hillary to come crashing to Earth in the primaries. Some people are so mean-spirited that they want to see the Clintons permanently sullied and thumped. Credit to Obama for having the balls to pick a Hillary Clinton instead of some spineless salute-and-march ideologue.

  21. Ralph Hightower

    Rush Limburgher has already labeled this recession, the “Obama Recession”. This jerk is grasping at straws! Obama has nothing to do with the current Wall Street “China Syndrome”.
    Technically, according to the NBER, a recession isn’t a recession until there are two consecutive quarters of declining GDPs. This past quarter was a decline.
    But with the Wall Street “China Syndrome”, it is a depression for those on Wall Street that lost their jobs via layoffs.
    What’s the difference between a recession and a depression?
    A recession is when your neighbor is layed off.
    A depression is when economists lose their jobs.

  22. Lee Muller

    We are not in a recession, yet. Unemployment just now matched the highs of 1996 under Clinton.
    But Obama’s threats to confiscate private retirement plans, double taxes on investment profits from risk capital, and raise all individual income tax rates, has caused a flight of capital from the markets which began the day he sewed up the nomination.
    Throw in the Democrat union contracts which are bankrupting our automakers, and the junk loan programs for minorities which caused this credit crisis, a $1.0 TRILLION deficit passed by Pelosi and Reid, and you have the making of a 2009 Democrat Recession.

  23. Bart

    I was not referring to the usual suspects on the right but the left wingers who have made some of the more horrific comments about the Clintons. It seemed to me that the HATE was so palpable coming from the left that at times I thought I was reading something from a far right wing site.
    Even some of the blogs here in SC who have progressive credentials were guilty of relentless trashing of Bill and Hillary.
    Personally at this point, I don’t give a damn one way or the other whether Obama chooses to staff his administration with Clinton retreads or not. He is the president and he should choose people he is comfortable working with and who he feels are capable of doint the best job. With that said, apparently Obama agreed in principle with the direction the Clinton administration tried to take the country.
    It failed one time. Will we see it again?
    As far as hate, I have seen just as much hate coming from the left as from the right. So, don’t get all holier than thou on me. You bitched about it for years and now the ball is in your court. Will you be what you and all liberals have always claimed to be? Understanding, forgiving, civil, all inclusive, willing to listen to both sides? So far, I haven’t witnessed it.
    You need to remember this. Eight years ago, the right was crowing about their mvictory. It was short lived and the voters don’t seem to be as forgiving as the once did. Liberals constitute approximately 21%, conservatives 34% and 45% identify as moderate/independent. It won’t take but one slip and come 2010, the pendulum will start a swing back to the right.
    I have been around long enough to know this too shall pass.

  24. Lee Muller

    I think your assessment about the majority being conservative or fence-sitters is correct. The fence sitters have no investment in any candidate, and will turn on Obama and Democrats in a skinny minute.
    So far, pressure on Obama from the extreme left side of his support, and rhetoric from Pelosi, Reid, Schumer and Clyburn seems oblivious to economic reality. The stock market and job slides will continue until investors and managers see them reverse the threat to tax them into oblivion.

  25. Bart

    Sorry about the typos, etc. Operating with one hand after surgery.
    Point to make about the high number of Clinton people in Obama’s admistration.
    Based on what I have observed so far, giving the fact that Obama is supposed to be an intelligent man, his choices seem to me to be those of a man who is very unsure of himself. Why go with the retreads from a bygone era and bring them back into prominence if you are one with a mind of your own or capable of evaluating the personnel available and coming up with a new team?
    Coming from her own party, many higher up in the party wanted her and Bill to go away for good because they were just as divisive as Bush has been portrayed. The name calling was unmerciful and relentless during the primaries and when Obama won the nomination, her defeat was celebrated far and wide by Democrats and liberals. A new day was dawning and hope on the horizon.
    Yet, as of today, the majority of Obama’s choices have been Clintonistas. As I have already stated, Obama has the right to make his own decisions without input or advise from you or me. I would have expected him to name some top notch people from the private sector but so far, without exception, evey pick has been someone who is still or were from inside the beltway.
    Again, before you continue your praises for the man who has “a pair?”, if he does have ’em, they sure aren’t on display yet. Or did Hillary let him have them back for a while? Right now, I would actually prefer Hillary because she has more on the ball than Bill or Obama.
    Change my a**!

  26. jfx

    Bart, maybe Obama is intelligent enough not to conflate the Clinton mythology that causes some people to have a brain hemorrhage whenever they see the name “Clinton” with the competent pragmatism of some individuals who served in that administration.
    Yes, it’s probably true that Obama thinks the Clinton administration, as a whole, was far more competent than the Bush administration with respect to actual governance and policy-making, and he probably doesn’t mind having a mix of the more seasoned “Clintonistas” serving under him. The various analyses I’ve read of his picks thus far seem to gauge the portfolio as centrist, or at least a nudge right of the core Democratic base.
    Meanwhile, let’s be sure we understand the nature of “cronyism”. If your last name is Bush, and your Presidential Governin’ Posse is made up mostly of your Daddy’s pals from his administration, AND your own personal pals from Texas, that’s cronyism.
    However, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Obama is consulting with the Clintons about which of their favorite “cronies” he should hire. You can bet the brain trust of Obama, Axelrod, and Emanuel are looking far more at career competency criteria than such Bushy qualifications as “Was he loyal to Daddy?” or “Was he loyal to me back home?”
    I do think the Obama team understands that, despite the ethical failings of Bill Clinton himself, most Americans associate that administration, as a whole, with greater economic prosperity and opportunity, and with more competent domestic and international engagement. A change in leadership style, tone and temperament doesn’t necessitate that you blindly chuck all the competent veterans out the window while hollering “Change!” Change is a state of mind.

  27. Lee Muller

    We knew that this Obama nobody had to be the hand puppet of some powerful political group.
    It turns out to be the Clintons.
    His campaign manager, David Axelrod, is Hillary’s “former” advisor. So were his other campaign team: Begala, Paneta, Ickes, etc.
    Now he appoints 41 former Clinton top appointees in his first 50.
    I didn’t expect any better. Obama had no connections, no pool of his own talent and friends, because he had done nothing in his whole life. He only worked with some local community activists.
    Did you hear him on TV, talking about the auto maker bailout? He could not even talk in complete sentences. His supporters down in the hood might think he is articulate, but he isn’t, because he has few thoughts to articulate.

  28. jfx

    That’s right! Hillary LET Barack beat her for the nomination ON PURPOSE so that she, Bill, and their Clintonista Shadow Army could wield uncheckable Shadow Power! She NEVER wanted to be the ACTUAL REAL PRESIDENT!
    Put on your tinfoil hats, folks!

  29. bud

    As I recall the Clinton’s appointed a fair number of ex-Carter people when they first came in. Bush Jr. did the same by hiring a good number of Bush Sr. folks. It’s good that the new president has a good cadre of experienced people to help him run the government.

  30. Lee Muller

    These Obama economic appointees have experience riding the Reagan Boom into the ground with tax increases under Clinton.
    If Hillary had won, she would have appointed a bunch of the same ones.
    Hillary cannot succeed as Secretary of State, because so many countries refuse to take a woman seriously. Madeline Albright was incompetent, but she was also handicapped by this prejudice. Condeleeza Rice was much more competent, but still shackled by this prejudice. Hillary is incompetent for the job. She will fail, and Obama will pin his failures on her, so she can’t run for anything again.

  31. 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)

Comments are closed.