Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama Report: Should Hillary Be Secretary of State?

Not all of my advice to Barack Obama has been bad. Back in 2004, I thought he should run for president this year, and thought that if he could get the nomination (a big "if" with a formidable opponent like Hillary Clinton with all the seeming name, money and organizational advantages) he would win the general election. I didn't think it would be a good idea to have Hillary Clinton as the vice presidential nominee. On the other hand, I didn't think it a good idea to have Joe Biden as the vice presidential nominee and that has worked out okay -- I guess. (Kind of. Well,at least Biden didn't cost him the election with his foot-in-mouth disease.)

Now, all the pundits are saying the idea of having Clinton as Secretary of State is a wonderful idea, inspired by the ancient saying attributed to the Chinese military sage,Sun Tzu, "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer." The Sunday morning bloviators are citing Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln's first cabinet, which included his competitors for the Republican nomination for presidency as precedent for Obama selecting Clinton. Even Henry Kissinger thinks it would be a wonderful idea.

I'm not so sure it's a good idea to select Hillary as Secretary of State. As I see it, there are two main requirements for the job. You want someone who is an innovative thinker, who has the ability to think outside the box in coming up with solutions to almost insoluble problems between nations, and you want someone who can manage a large bureaucracy of around 40,000 employees

Hillary Clinton has a certain kind of intelligence, she is not a dummy, along the lines of George W. Bush or Sarah Palin by any means. But neither is she a Henry Kissinger, although an evil genius in many ways, nevertheless a genius. Is there anyone besides Nixon and Kissinger who would have had the nerve to make the opening to China 35 years ago, and does anyone doubt that the world is a much better, safer place because they did take that step? Hillary is the good student, the one who studies hard and gets A's because she can regurgitate what the teacher told her. But she has never demonstrated the ability to innovate -- not as First Lady, not as Senator and certainly not as a presidential candidate. I will forgive her the vote to invade Iraq, other smart people besides her were misled by the Bush Administration's hyperbole about weapons of mass destruction. But she could never find it in herself to admit her mistake and to tell us what she learned from it.

Hillary's attempt to paint Obama's call for negotiations with our enemies as being dangerously naive is an example of her conventional thinking that shows her limited imagination. In fact, the idea that we dare not talk to our enemies is dangerous in my opinion. It shows weakness, not strength, to think that somehow we will become contaminated if we talk with those with whom we have disagreements and conflicts.

Nor has she shown any ability to manage a bureaucracy. After starting out 20 points ahead in the polls, with all the resources of Clinton loyalists from her husband's time as president, with a substantial war chest of money, how could she lose the nomination to a little-known first termer? She was out worked and out organized. Clinton's presidential campaign was a constant stream of turn-overs, with leaks and back biting. She was unable or unwilling to put an end to the fighting and get everybody working together to run her campaign. Things won't get any easier in the Department of State, with its byzantine rivalries.

So, should Hillary have no role in the Obama Administration? I have an excellent job for her, one for which she is well suited -- Supreme Court justice. There will certainly be several Supreme Court vacancies, probably early in the Obama administration. Hillary can do much more to influence the public policy direction of the country with a life time appointment to the Supreme Court than she could with four, or even eight years as Secretary of State. Writing Supreme Court opinions is the kind of wonkish detail at which she would excel. As a Senator, she would have an easy time getting confirmed by the Senate.

So, please, Barack. Listen to me this time. Don't appoint Hillary as the next Secretary of State. Get her to wait for the Supreme Court appointment.


rdl said...

I agree!! I hope Obama is listening.

forsythia said...

Dang, I think you're right.

movie buff said...

if Hillary becomes the Sec. State, hopefully she will not be excessively distracted by outside drama or personal career plans, etc.

PG said...

I've read your political comments leading up to the election. I am curious to know your take on Proposition 8 in California and the initiatives in Arizona and elsewhere that denied unmarried couples the right to adopt.

Lee and I were on the quad last Saturday protesting Prop 8 -- an event that took place across the country.

It was a great election. There's a lot of work yet to be done.