Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Secretary of State Clinton? Really?

Well, it is now confirmed by multiple reporting sources, so it must be true: the Obama camp is seriously considering Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State:

Putting Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, in the position could help heal whatever lingering divisions remain in the Democratic Party after her bitter battle with Obama.

Lots of ways to interpret this, but I have to say I’m not an enormous fan of the idea. Here are the pros and cons as I see it:

Pro #1: By bringing Hillary Clinton into his cabinet, Obama is exerting his confidence and will over some tough former-rivals the way Lincoln did. This move would keep the Clintons in his sphere of influence and make it clear who is the boss. And it would unite the Democratic Party.

Con #1: Does bringing her in at such an important position suggest that Obama still feels that there is a need to unite the Democratic Party behind him more? And if so, why? He just won a decisive victory the likes of which the Democrats haven’t seen for 44 years. I can’t imagine an incoming President with more power than Obama will have.

Pro #2: Hillary is well-known around the world, well-liked around the world, and will bring instant credibility to Obama’s foreign policy efforts. There is something to this – the world does love the Clintons.

Con #2: But the world has now fallen in love with Obama even more. Does bringing in a Sec of State that the world knows was Obama’s former rival really make sense? The world is thrilled to deal with an Obama administration – doesn’t throwing a Clinton into the mix complicate matters? Does it allow the world to move on with the dawning of a new day when a familiar face shows up?

Pro #3: Hillary will bring a lot of power and influence to the State Department, helping her manage this enormous organization with her clout.

Con #3: Can anyone say they are totally confident about Clinton’s managerial skills? I’m not.

Pro #4: Hillary Clinton has traveled the world as First Lady and knows the landscape. She studies issues inside and out and knows the facts on the ground.

Con #4: Okay, yes, she’s well-versed…but more so than someone like John Kerry who’s been working on international issues for decades? Or Bill Richardson who has negotiated treaties? Is she really the pre-eminent expert on foreign affairs, and if not, shouldn’t Obama have the best? In addition, as we saw during the primaries – she has some decidedly different opinions on how to approach foreign affairs than Obama. She called his approach “naive.” Does she represent the paradigm shift that is needed?

Ultimately, all of this is speculation. We have no idea where this will end up. But the Obama team isn’t prone to leaks. Why, then, was this leaked all over the place? If she doesn’t end up with the gig, won’t that just piss off Clintonites even more? A trial balloon? I have to believe Obama wouldn’t pick her unless he truly believed she was the best possible person for the job.

Oh yeah, and what about Bill? Won’t his international travels and business dealings complicate matters?

I’ve long been a fan of the notion of John Kerry – a former party nominee and elder statesman who really knows his stuff – as Secretary of State. This Hillary thing doesn’t really make sense to me. What does make sense? Having her in the Senate be Obama’s lead point person on health care and other domestic issues.

But I’ve trusted Obama’s judgment thus far, the guy seems to know what he’s doing.


November 14, 2008 - Posted by | Obama cabinet | , ,


  1. I am not sure of her management skills. Remember she went broke several times during her campaign. That doesn’t say much really I don’t think. Not only that but as you point out, she didn’t think much of his plan on negotiations with other contries and did say he was naive. How would she do if he gave her instructions to go to Iran and deal with them? Would she refuse or would she follow orders thinking she knew more than him?? That is something that would really need to be explored. She is something of a demigod in her own mind. And something you didn’t point out in your cons that I saw, what about the senate seat?? The point of trying to get to 60 dems is huge, and by robbing her out of the senate that takes another seat out. What happens to that? I think Bill Richardson would be a much better choice or even Bill Clinton, however there again you have the chance of the I know more than you in the mix.

    Just my opinion anyway…some thoughts to add to yours.

    Comment by Annette, Missouri | November 14, 2008 | Reply

  2. The problem with Richardson is that he has a reputation as a gigolo and could become an embarassment to Obama. Hillary Clinton would be all business. I do think that he would need to put in his own non-Hillary people to manage the office. Secretaries are not managerial positions, they’re strategic posts. As long as he makes sure she’s well managed, it’s a good pick.

    Comment by Suzie Q (not the blogger) | November 14, 2008 | Reply

  3. Two things:

    1. I think we overemphasize the importance of the Cabinet because it’s “sexier”. Note that Obama so far has not been focused on the Cabinet, but rather on the WH staff. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s that big a deal who he picks.

    2. Whether or not it makes sense for Obama, I fail to see how it makes any sense for Hillary.

    BTW, in my mind the best argument for Secretary Kerry is that it raises the possibility of Sen. Barney Frank.

    Comment by gdh1 | November 14, 2008 | Reply

  4. By the way, I do think John Kerry should be chosen over Clinton.

    Comment by Suzie Q (not the blogger) | November 14, 2008 | Reply

  5. Your analysis seems a bit shallow and sophomoric.

    Not that I’m a fan of Republicans but one could argue that Reagan had much more power than Obama coming into the White House. Just look at the election map for Reagan, he won pretty much every state.

    Your other comments have very little tangible evidence to support them, they’re just empty conjectures.

    Comment by Me | November 14, 2008 | Reply

  6. I really don’t think this is to unite the Democratic Party. Why would Obama do that? Did he now win by a landslide?

    I agree, Obama aides aren’t in the leaking business, so this could turn out to be a reality. I wrote about that also here:

    Comment by Kevin | November 15, 2008 | Reply

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