Hillary in Obama’s Cabinet

Would Senator Clinton be a good Secretary of State?  Maybe, but not for the Obama administration on her terms.  She’d have to be loyal and subordinate to Obama’s vision and work with a team including the VP and other Cabinet members and top level advisers.  This could be a problem.

During the primary, Clinton was critical of Obama’s foreign policy credentials, particularly his lack of experience and his “soft” approach to dealing with rogue nations – his diplomatic preference for talking with enemies “without preconditions” or at least that is how his position had been characterized.  In a foreign policy speech delivered in D.C. back in February, as reported by ABC News, here is what H. Clinton had to say about Obama:  he “wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve some of the world’s most intractable problems to advocating rash unilateral military action without cooperation among allies in the most sensitive region of the world.”

Another problem for Hillary could be her husband’s Foundation work, what some have referred to as entanglements.   On Meet the Press, Andrea Mitchell (who broke the story) said that as part of the vetting process, Bill Clinton might have to disclose details about  funding for the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Presidential Library, which could prove to be problematic, but not an insurmountable obstacle.  Also, Hillary Clinton’s appointment might reduce the size of the former President’s international stage and hinder future fund raising efforts for his Foundation work.

In my view, the biggest problem with the idea is that Clinton’s foreign policy approach is much more hawkish than Obama’s.  One of the reasons I voted for Obama in the primary and general election was his willingness to explore diplomatic solutions as opposed to setting hard line preconditions that could exacerbate the problem and escalate the danger.  We need a fresh approach, one of resolve that is dramatically different from the last 8 years; a determined approach to bring peace to a nuclear free Middle East and significant numbers of our troops home.  We need to restore our image abroad so that we can lead with our Allies and not alienate them.  Do you remember GW Bush’s use of the phrase Coalition of the Willing during the 2003 invasion of Iraq?  In addition to the U.S., there were only 4 countries willing to commit combat troops for the ill advised action:  Australia, the UK, Poland and Denmark.  As Senator John Kerry pointed out in the 2004 Presidential Debate:  “That’s not a grand coalition, we can do better.”    Oui, nous pouvons!

And how about Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State?  He has the credentials and the interest.  He endorsed Barack Obama during a critical moment in the Primary, so there’s no question about loyalty or a parallel agenda.  He speaks French fluently, but interestingly had to hide the fact during his run for the Presidency so as not to appear unpatriotic or disloyal.  Geoffrey Pullum posted an interesting comment in the Language Log entitled, No French please, people are watching alluding to the incident and speaking to the general state of foreign language learning in the U.S. 

I find it hard to believe that Obama actually may have already offered her the position of Secretary of State unless he were certain she would not accept.  That said, I do believe there is a place for Hillary in the Cabinet.  How about as Secretary of Education or Health and Human Services where she could champion causes close to her heart like health care reform and children’s issues?  Personally, I think her independence and intellect are best suited to the role of Supreme Court Justice. I’d like to see her stay on in the Senate until one of the aging Justices retires.  And that may be sooner than later:  5 of the Justices are 70 or older – the oldest 88.  Although U.S. Senator to Supreme Court is an unusual path, there is precedent.  President Lincoln appointed U.S. Senator David Davis from Illinois to the Supreme Court in 1862.  And get this:  Justice Davis is a distant cousin of W and HW Bush!