Earlier this year John McCain chose a woman to be his vice presidential running mate. That was a good thing.
The running mate was Sarah Pailin. That was not a good thing.
Barack Obama is considering naming a woman to be Secretary of State. That is a good thing.
The nominee is Hillary Clinton. That is a bad thing.
It is bad because it is a gamble. It is bad because Obama has promised a presidency of change and looking toward the future. Yet Hillary in one of the future presidentâ€™s most important cabinet posts (if not the most important) brings up the specter of both Bill and Hillary back in the spotlight with all their negatives. Hillary has recently displayed many of her shortcomings; Bill has resurrected a multitude of his own.
Writing in Slate, Christopher Hitchens, â€œbad boyâ€ though he is, asks: â€œWhat do you have to forget or overlook in order to desire that this dysfunctional clan once more occupies the White House and is again in a position to rent the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign donors and to employ the Oval Office as a massage parlor?â€ The only rational reason that Obama might have for offering the State Department prize to Hillary is to take seriously Don Vito Corleoneâ€™s dictum in â€œThe Godfatherâ€ to â€œkeep your friends close but your enemies closer.â€
But to focus on Mrs. Clinton, her selection by Obama is viewed as a high-stakes gamble not only in this country, but abroad as well. It is assumed that the debates being over, fences are mostly mended and that she will become a loyal team player within the White House. Despite her claims to the contrary, Hillary has never engaged in the power plays of international diplomacy.
Some of the most noxious name-calling of the campaign took place between Hillary and Barack Obama. Though things are said to be smoothed over by now, no one is certain that the relationship between the two is now tranquil. A secretary of state speaks with the authority of the president. Of those who made the short list for the position, none but Hillary can be described as a potential rival of Obama during the tenure of office.
But back to Bill. As a former president, Bill Clinton has negotiated and partied with many of the current heads of state and has remained informed on international issues. According to credible reports, he is still loved by many foreign audiences. Politicoâ€™s Ben Smith observes that â€œimagining how the former president could cause Obama problems has become a popular Beltway pastime. He could criticize administration choices that differ from his own. He could inconveniently rise to his wifeâ€™s defense again a foreign leader.â€
As head of a private foundation, Smith continues, he has courted and befriended dozens of foreign leaders and tycoons as head of a private foundation. And, whenever he decides to do so, he could summon legions of investigative reporters to hear his side of a particular international issue.
A number of world leaders are also baffled by Obamaâ€™s choice of Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state. They wonder how one person who was intensely opposed to the invasion of Iraq (Obama) can make peace with someone who voted to intervene in Iraq (Hillary). â€œAsk yourself,â€ Obama told a crowd in North Carolina earlier this year, â€œwho do you trust to end a war: someone who opposed the war from the beginning, or someone who started opposing it when they started preparing for a run for president?â€
Moreover, Hillary spent much of her campaign airtime trying to make the audience forget that she was fully in favor of the invasion. If it is true that the Obama team has recognized it â€œhas no time for a learning curve,â€ then why take the gamble of appointing Mrs. Clinton to his cabinet considering that she slimed Obama with TV messages implying that only she could handle a middle-of-the-night crisis (the â€œ3 a.m. phone callâ€ campaign ad).
Shortly after Hillaryâ€™s claim to have been fired on by snipers during a trip to Bosnia, actual footage of the event showed it never happened. Children were standing near the runway when the attack supposedly occurred, carrying flowers and waiting for her arrival. After the fictitious siege was exposed, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that six in 10 people surveyed felt that Mrs. Clinton was not honest and trustworthy. Bill Clinton, unable to contain himself at this point, defended his wifeâ€™s memory, saying she was â€œconfusedâ€ over the Bosnia event. The former president was summarily silenced when, as he put it, his wife told him â€œto stay out of it.â€
U.S. intelligent reports predict that Americaâ€™s economic, military, and political dominance will decline sharply over the next ten years. Presumably, for four of those ten years, Hillary Rodham Clinton will be secretary of state. Apparently Barack Obama plans to trust on-the-job-training to prepare Mrs. Clinton for the challenges from Russia, China, and India to U.S. influence and power. The reports warn that â€œa world with more power centers will be less stable than one with one or two superpowers, offering more potential for conflict.â€
There have been many references of late of Barack Obamaâ€™s fascination with Abraham Lincoln, particularly Lincolnâ€™s decision to abandon many of his friends who had helped him secure the nomination, and instead pick his rivals for the presidency – especially those who disliked him the most.
Britainâ€™s Guardian newspaper relates how Lincoln invited William Henry Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates, to the convention and ultimately to his cabinet. â€œWhat might this approach mean for Obama? For Seward, Chase and Bates, read Clinton, Biden, and Richardson,â€ asks the paper.
As news of Mrs. Clintonâ€™s pending appointment was leaked by the Obama camp, a former Clinton official, David Rothkopf, said Obamaâ€™s choices tell us something about his strategy: â€œThis is the violin model. Hold power with the left hand, and play the music with your right.â€
- CHASE HAMIL