Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Done Deal?

The Guardian is reporting that Hillary Clinton has accepted the post of Secretary of State in the Obama administration.

Obama’s advisers have begun looking into Bill Clinton’s foundation, which distributes millions of dollars to Africa to help with development, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. But Democrats do not believe that the vetting is likely to be a problem.

Clinton would be well placed to become the country’s dominant voice in foreign affairs, replacing Condoleezza Rice. Since being elected senator for New York, she has specialised in foreign affairs and defence. Although she supported the war in Iraq, she and Obama basically agree on a withdrawal of American troops.

Clinton, who still harbours hopes of a future presidential run, had to weigh up whether she would be better placed by staying in the Senate, which offers a platform for life, or making the more uncertain career move to the secretary of state job.

If this is a done deal — and that’s a big “if” since The Guardian doesn’t cite any sources — then it’s a sign that Mr. Obama is willing to endure a lot of dust and chatter to get the team he wants in place in his administration. Senator Clinton brings more than a little baggage; she’s bringing an entire entourage of it, especially in the presence of her husband’s financial dealings for his foundation of global initiatives. Mr. Obama must feel that both he and Ms. Clinton can deal with it and get to work restoring America’s reputation around the world. Part of that might be the subtext of having the support of the former president, who is widely respected overseas for the work he’s done since leaving office.

But as Josh Marshall points out, it seems like an odd decision for Ms. Clinton. She has a good thing going in the Senate, and Secretaries of State are not usually long-term jobs: can you name the last one that served for longer than one presidential term? (It was Dean Rusk, 1961-1969.) So if Ms. Clinton is doing this, then it would seem to put an end to her presidential ambitions. A lot of people find that hard to believe. Could it be that she’s taking a slice from John McCain and putting country first?