Monday, November 17, 2008

Hill's To Climb

The scuttlebutt over the weekend was that Hilalry Clinton has been offered and accepted the nomination for Secretary of State:

If President-elect Barack Obama selects Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, she will oversee many of the U.S. government's foreign aid programs, potentially turning the couple into an overwhelming force in global aid, say some leaders in the philanthropic community.

"It boosts her stature, it boosts the work of the Clinton Global Initiative, it boosts the whole concept of American partnerships making a real difference on the global level," said Steve Gunderson, president of the Council on Foundations and a former Republican congressman.

[...]The choice of Clinton would present other potential problems for Obama. He would be investing his fortunes not only with his former rival for the presidency but also in an outsize figure on the global scene who has been conducting a kind of privately financed foreign policy all his own since leaving office. Obama and the former president have also continued to share a somewhat strained relationship since the end of the Democratic nominating contest.

The vetting has apparently begun with a request for the Clintons' financial disclosure for the past five years.
It's an interesting strategy for reasons that the WaPo only began to scratch into. Yes, the Clinton name carries enormous weight overseas, possibly more weight than a President-elect or even first term President Obama could carry. And Bill Clinton, "Greatest. President. Ever." is a larger-than-life figure, especially in the wake of the small-minded petty tinplated dictator with delusions of grandeur currently occupying the Oval Office.
This is both a boon and a detriment to Obama's foreign policy, unless Obama has de facto decided that Clinton's course was the best of his choices, as spare as those choices must be. Indeed, that the other name bandied about seriously on the short list was Bill Richardson seems to indicate Obama's mindset is to turn the clock back nine years on foreign policy.
Amen, this blogger says. And it would shut Bill up for the next eight years, even tho he had been reluctant to criticize the Bush policies out of an old boy's network sense.
But there are political advantages to Obama's choice of Hillary. For one thing, should things go poorly in the first Obama administration, it would be a little hard for her to run in a challenge in 2012, a la Ted Kennedy in 1980, thus weakening an Obama re-election campaign before it ever got off the ground. She'd be part of the process that came to the decisions that Obama makes, thus negating her ability to challenge as an outsider.
Hillary's extensive bipartisan efforts in the Senate would also serve as a conduit for foreign policy initiatives that will be vital in an Obama administration, since this economic meltdown will undoubtedly require an international effort to solve, which means it will require diplomatic efforts to secure peace in order to implement it and that means the Senate will be involved.
There's a far larger, and admittedly, more disturbing political aspect to this suggestion: choosing Hillary would give Obama political cover to remain in Iraq for far longer than his sixteen month time frame. I'm not suggesting that he will do that, but merely pointing out that if the situation is more dire than he had suggested during the campaign (or if the current uneasy peace blows up in his face), having Hillary around as a "I told you so" outlet would give him a forecful and credible voice to hang a hat on. Obama would avoid some of the mud thrown at him for sticking it out.
Stick around, this could be an interesting winter.