Friday, November 14, 2008
Recognizing that elections matter and whatnot, we could do a lot worse than Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge at Foggy Bottom. Whatever one thinks of Hillary, she is no dove by the standards of modern Democrats, and neither is she easy to intimidate or charm. There is no evidence that she is (among Democrats) particularly inclined to wish that America be popular, as opposed to successful. While she may not be "qualified" in the resume sense, she blows doors on John Kerry (another rumored short-lister), and if the alternative is a Supreme Court appointment, put me down for State.
Of course, your results may vary.
I think she could potentially be an outstanding Sec/State. Great experience, great intelligence and a well-known person around the globe. I doubt she gets it though, for two reasons: 1) she is too close to Israel, and even though Obama must already be scaring the beejeejus out of the Israelis by sending Malley on his little field trip last week (so he might be willing to through them a reassuring bone and nominate Hillary for State) Obama does want to tilt more towards Arabs in the middle east and she would probably either not do that or fill the role of Nixon-to-China with the Palestinians, and 2) the usual problem with the Clintons: they become an alternative pole of power in the government. Somehow, I think it's smoke and she's going to the Court, where she is dramatically less qualified but safely out of the way.
Hillary close to Israel? Only when running for President. How soon we forget. Wasn't it Hillary who sat through the tirade by Arafat's wife without objection? Wasn't it Hillary who was arguing for a Palestinian state when at the time that meant something close to Isreal returning to 1967 borders?
No, I think Hillary is fundamentally close to Obama on the Arab Israeli question.
I could be satisfied with her at State, just because I truly think she's channeling Lady Macbeth and would never let herself be rolled over by our enemies.
But I can't see her giving up her independent base in the Senate, which she'll need if she decides to make an insurgent run against Obama in 2012, just to become his creature.
And as for Bill, UN ambassador? And will they let him near the interns?
Let's not forget her enormous failure managing even a moderate-sized policy task force back in the 1990s. The State Department is much bigger.
On the diplomatic side, I find the prospect of Hillary far more reassuring than Madeleine Albright, or John Kerry, but less cheerful than, say, Richard Holbrooke.
On the management side of the State Department (and the State Department's bureaucracy is an instantiation of the term "dysfunctional"), it may be that she'll be a complete disaster, or that she can't possibly mess it up more than it already is. Take your pick.
"Wasn't it Hillary who was arguing for a Palestinian state when at the time that meant something close to Isreal returning to 1967 borders?"
Good point, but don't you think the Brezinsky/Brookings idea of a return to pre-1967 borders in return for implementation of resolution 242 (Arab agreement to peace and international commitments to a secure Israel etc.) are dead letters? Does anyone really think the Israelis can count on "international guarantees"? Hillary is smart enough to know these things, and that America has a huge opportunity in the middle east going forward: the Israelis were persuaded by Sharon that demographics are inexorable, so they want a real peace deal, Arab extremism has failed to move America, so Arabs know they have to make a deal, and America now has strong military positions in Iraq (if we don't stupidly "surrender" them!), so we'll have a say in the outcome of any regional war. I may be pessimistic on the economy, but Bush has left Obama in a better middle east position than any incoming President in modern times. Like TH, I think Hillary might just be shrewd and ruthless enough to figure out how to take advantage of that.
I don't know why HRC would take the SecState position. In the Senate she has an independent power base; as SecState she serves at Obama's pleasure. Plus if her assessment of Obama's foreign policy credentials during the primary is what she really thinks, she'd have to figure being SecState in an Obama administration would be a disaster. Plus I know politics is politics but some of the stuff Obama pulled against the HRC (and Bill) has got to be pretty tough to get over.
Having said that, HRC does appear to have some of the old-school "if that's what my President asks" approach so she may take it against her better judgment.
As for Supreme Court, I don't know. It would not put her in Obama's power but HRC seems to thrive on the cut and thrust of politics. I'm not sure she'd want to trade that for a smaller (in the publicity sense) stage.
I saw a little piece of a round table of former SecStates a while back and IIRC all of them agreed the new President absolutely, positively had to shut down Guantanamo post haste. If Obama is looking at reviving Albright or Powell *and* the stories that Guantanamo might not be that easy to shut down are true, that would make for an interesting situation.
And I ask everyone to reflect on the infamous 3 AM phone call story.
What an irony. Did Obama think about this when he approached her about the job?
If he chooses her as Secretary of State, then he essentially acknowledges the truth in that statement.
Where is the gain for HRC, and what are the risks? The current stock of Americas enemies is so untrustworthy as to make signing treaties an exercise in futility. Would she want her name and political capital tied to any of those? Perhaps bringing in Syria from the cold (like Libya), but unlikely that most Americans care much about that. Unless she manages to convert Saudi Arabia to Christianity the job doesn't have anything to offer for her.
I think 'Hillary at State' really means 'Bill at State while placating her partisans.'
Anyone remember when I was explaining why having Hillary as VP would be terrible for the Obama administration, and how foreign leaders would bypass him entirely to call up their old buddy Bill? Obama may have found a way to set up that mechanic on purpose to benefit from his diplomacy without suffering any embarrassment.
Brezynski lives! Welcome to the future, Israel.
This is depressing "change". Obama chooses to renew an old policy that failed to prevent numerous intifada and a couple of wars as his "new" approach to the Israeli/Arab dispute. Hardly new thinking. HRC, by the way, is a vocal supporter of an undivided Jerusalem so unless she's flip-flopped on this important issue that would probably make for a difficult relationship with her boss, were she to become SecSt.
Oh, and let's just not try to pressure Iran. Then, it won't be a threat!
We need a three monkey "See no evil" picture icon to use on posts, because it would perfectly capture the evolving Obama policy toward Iran.
My gut feeling is that they're floating this rumor as one runs up a flag: to see who salutes it.
There are far worse choices available, although there are probably a few better as well, even among those choices which are realistic.
I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2008/11/re-hrc-for-foggy-bottom-barack-obama.html
Commentary says that HRC will be "best" at making the case to the UN on war with Iran, if that's where we go. Since President Obama will be very busy starting up detention camps for entreprenuers and taking ex-bankers on road building excursions through America's heartland, I'm not so sure that the question of war with Iran will, you know, actually come up in cabinet meetings. At least, it won't come up before Tel Aviv is lying in nuclear rubble. Still, there is a positive spin we might put on HRC at Foggy Bottom.