Friday, November 14, 2008

Barack and Hillary: Team of Allies?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(A follow-up on my Hillary-to-State post from earlier today.)

Obama and Hillary met in Chicago yesterday and apparently discussed what role she might play in Obama's administration. Secretary of State remains at the top of the rumour mill, and, as I put it earlier today, although I would prefer Kerry for the job, strictly in terms of policy considerations, I am certainly intrigued by the idea of Hillary and Obama working together, if that is possible (and if she wouldn't overshadow him), to chart a new course for U.S. foreign policy.

Steve Clemons has been following this rumour for some time and now thinks it's a serious possibility. And he presents an interesting theory as to what Obama might be up to: "[T]his is EXACTLY what George W. Bush did to his most serious rival in 2000, Colin Powell. He gave Powell Secretary of State and then began to box him up. Barack Obama may be on the same track with Hillary Clinton who is and was his chief rival in the Democratic Party today."

That may very well be the case, but I think Obama is in a much stronger position than Bush was in back in 2000. He also seems to be incredibly confident and sure of himself and what he is doing -- more so now in victory than every before. I doubt he's all that worried about Hillary mounting some sort of challenge to him. True, it is wise to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but is Hillary really an enemy? And does Obama really think he needs to "box" her in?

Again, maybe. If Obama stumbles, she could indeed emerge as a formidable rival after the 2010 midterms. The case would be made, after all, that it should have been Hillary all along, that things would be different, and better, if only she had won the nomination. And, yes, Obama is certainly a shrewd political operator who knows how to prepare well for future political battles. (Consider that he is set to meet with McCain on Monday, a shrewd move not just to reach out to his recent opponent but to shore up possible support down the road.) But I simply do not think that the motivation for appointing Hillary to State are so entirely self-serving (and, to be fair, Steve may not think so either). Maybe I'm not being cynical enough today, but it could be that Obama thinks that Hillary would actually be a positive addition to his administration, that they actually could work well together, that she would be an excellent secretary of state at this extremely challenging time.

We tend to think of them, coming out of that long and at times bitter and nasty primary season, as rivals, and as the two of them as a possible "Team of Rivals," but what if, with the election over, they are actually, or could actually be, allies -- that is, a Team of Allies?

Possible, no?


UPDATE 1: Of course, it could all be a Clintonite-driven media "freak show." But I suspect there's a bit more to it than that.


UPDATE 2: CNN is reporting that Obama and Hillary did in fact discuss the secretary of state job. Apparently, Obama wanted "to gauge Clinton's interest in the post of Secretary of State, if she were offered it. Senator Clinton's response is unknown, although multiple sources agree that Hillary Clinton was left with the impression that if she were interested in the post, it would be hers."

Note, however, that the CNN piece relies on anonymous "Democratic sources." They could well be pro-Hillary sources.


UPDATE 3: ABC News has more on the meeting: "A source with knowledge of the transition process describes the meeting as not a hard offer. Obama is more cautious than that... Obama does not want to be seen as being rejected by her, but it is 'hers to turn down,' one source put it. They have an agreement to have another meeting or phone conversation about this very soon." Again, we're dealing with anonymous sources here.

Obama also met with Bill Richardson about the secretary of state job.


UPDATE 4: The WaPo is reporting that Hillary and Richardson are on the SoS short list. The source? Once again, anonymous "Democratic sources."


UPDATE 5: The NYT has more: "The prospect of Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state, perhaps the most prestigious cabinet position in any administration, sent people buzzing. But associates to both Democrats cautioned that their conversation included other cabinet possibilities and that no job was offered."

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  • Great comment. This just got interesting!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:07 PM  

  • it seems like, if Hillary becomes the Sec. State, then there will be some serious personality and agenda conflict between her and Obama

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:42 AM  

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