The Closet Moderate: Hillary to State?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hillary to State?

So, there's been a buzz that Hillary could be Secretary of State. I'm not in love with any of the candidates who've been floated for State.

Structurally, it's unclear how a Secretary of State under Obama/Biden is going to function. Joe Biden's knowledge of international affairs is pretty impressive, and he's already said that his decision to join the ticket was conditioned on Obama's promise that he would have a role in governing, shades-of-Cheney style. I suspect that may play out with Biden taking over a portion of what has traditionally been the SoS portfolio, since that's his strength and Obama's weakness.

Assuming we're looking at a situation like that, it sets up a potential turf war between Foggy Bottom and the White House. I could see Biden taking over some of the policy aspects of SoS while Hillary is the face of the administration. That said, one of the things that handicapped Powell as SoS was the perception that he didn't really have the President's ear. He was sort of a public-diplomat-in-chief, who made sales pitches to the world but wasn't necessarily effective at relaying their needs back to the Oval Office. Obama would have to manage the overlap very carefully, lest his loudmouth VP undermine his SoS.

Then there's the issue that Hillaryland seems to be a wilderness filled with type-a psychopaths. While the candidate acquits herself well in the linked article, there's the issue that she essentially allowed herself to be steamrolled by a bunch of lunatics. I don't have a good idea of how much capital those people still have with Hillary, but her unwillingness to have them fall on their swords is a concern in any high-level executive position.

Finally, I know everybody's high on the "Team of Rivals" idea, but I'm also a little worried that the three names floated thus far are all former candidates for the presidency. In Clinton's case it's a particular liability as she was a serious contender this cycle and her husband was the last Democratic president. I'm no Washington guy, but I think it's pretty clear that Washington is a place where there are established channels and then a whole lot of informal person-to-person politicking. So Obama would be appointing a SoS whose husband jumpstarted the careers of many of his most senior staff and cabinet members. That seems like it could be problematic, even if Bill has no formal role within the administration.


Fake Steve Hawking said...

Yeah, I wonder if the deal is that Obama will be able to point to this offer as his olive branch to the Clinton crowd, whether or not she accepts it, and then move on with taking the party in a new direction. It's also worth noting that Europe, for some reason, loves her.

Silent Cal said...

I think building an old-school cabinet would show that Obama has a lot of character, not just a lot of talk. In addition to uniting his party, it shows that he would like to have the advice of former rivals. Presidents all say they don't want yes-men, but they all end up with all yes-men.

I think Richardson would be better at being Secretary of State, but Clinton should be in the cabinet. Secretary of Defense, maybe?

Also, Biden doesn't know as much about anything as he thinks he does, including international affairs. He should embrace the traditional role of VP and disappear for four years.

Corey G. said...

I see Hillary as more of a policy wonk than a figure head. During the primary people always ridiculed her speaking style and interpersonal skills, but liked that she had concrete policy proposals.

I always thought Richardson was promised the job when he endorsed Obama early in the primary, but maybe not.

Silent Cal said...

She may be wonkish among politicians, but not among wonks. All political campaigns force a candidate to choose between expediency and truth, and wonks value truth above all (or, at least, truth as they perceive it). Politicians, instead, get elected.

Hill's last exercise in wonkism was the ill-fated Hillarycare disaster of '93. Since then, she's been a politician, and a successful one, but no mere dreamer of wonkish dreams.

CG said...

I should have been more explicit. Shes perceived as being more wonkish and out of touch by a lot of people. In the primary people said she was a horrible speaker, and thought she was less personable than Obama. Figure heads are all about public perception so I don't think she'd necessarily be an ideal figurehead.

You're right she is wonkish among politicians but she is not a policy wonk in the sens that she works for CATO or EPI.