Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State?!

The big political news this morning is the buzz surrounding speculation that Hillary Clinton could be tabbed as Secretary of State.

Politico’s Mike Allen:

Several Obama transition advisers are strongly advocating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for secretary of state, a move that would create the ultimate “Team of Rivals” Cabinet, according to officials involved in the discussions.

President-elect Obama has narrowed the possibilities for secretary of state, and Clinton is among those being strongly considered, the officials said. Some even call her the favorite.

It is not known what Obama himself thinks of the idea. But the fact that it is being entertained within his camp shows how much things have changed in the months since he defeated her for the Democratic nomination in a protracted primary marathon.

Al Kamen and Philip Rucker, WaPo:

There’s increasing chatter in political circles that the Obama camp is not overly happy with the usual suspects for secretary of state these days and that the field might be expanding somewhat beyond Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and maybe former Democratic senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.

There’s talk, indeed, that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) may now be under consideration for the post. Her office referred any questions to the Obama transition; Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment.

The pick of the former presidential contender and Senate Armed Services Committee member would go a long way toward healing any remaining divisions within the Democratic Party after the divisive primaries. Also, Clinton has long been known for her work on international women’s issues and human rights. The former first lady could also enhance Obama’s efforts to restore U.S. standing amongst allies worldwide.

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

Two Obama advisers have told NBC News that Hillary Clinton is under consideration to be secretary of state. Would she be interested? Those who know Clinton say possibly.  But her office says that any decisions about the transition are up to the president-elect and his team.

Clinton was seen taking a flight to Chicago today, but an adviser says it was on personal business.  It is unknown whether she had any meeting or conversation with Obama while there.

Other Democrats known to want the State Department post are Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Bill Richardson. A possible compromise choice would be former Sen. Tom Daschle.

Clinton is from the Chicago area, so I wouldn’t read much into the trip.

While a “Team of Rivals” concept is a good one, Clinton for State isn’t.  She’s simply not qualified.  Aside from some dog-and-pony show trips as First Lady and Senator, she’s got no foreign policy credentials whatsoever.  Her training, experience, and demonstrated interests are in domestic issues.

Nunn would be the most interesting of the above picks, followed by Richardson and Hagel.  Only Daschle makes less sense than Clinton.

In terms of a fence mending make-nice move, she’s too old for a Supreme Court appointment, which would otherwise be attractive.  I’m not sure there are any other Cabinet jobs that would be particularly attractive, given her stature and presumptive competitiveness for Majority Leader once Harry Reid steps down.

UPDATE: Slate’s Emily Yoffe has a brilliant and amusing observation:

I wonder if the Obama administration would waive the 63-item questionnaire all potential administration officials are required to fill out before naming Hillary secretary of state. There are so many questions that might be troublesome, from No. 6, concerning “whether you or your spouse” ever received money from any foreign entities (See Bill’s amazing Kazakhstan adventure), to No. 8, asking for a description of the “most controversial matters you have ever been involved in,” to No. 12, “Please identify all speeches you have given” to my favorite, No. 13, in which the candidate is asked to describe any electronic communication they have ever sent that might be “a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect.” There isn’t enough bandwith in the world for Hillary to attach all the documents that answer these questions.

Heh.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. ken says:

    While a “Team of Rivals” concept is a good one, Clinton for State isn’t. She’s simply not qualified.

    How can someone who is well qualified to be President not be qualified to be Sec of State?

    Clinton is probably the one person I would trust to be well qualified in any position in government, from President to Cabinet Officer to Supreme Court Justice.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Why should HRC be disqualified for the SCOTUS because of her age. I would think she’d be the leading contender when John Paul Stevens finally retires after Obama is inaugurated.

    The main reason for all this talk of her taking State is because many in the party don’t want Kerry to leave the Senate and let Russ Feingold take over the Foreign Relations Committee.

    I think Nunn is more likely to be named to Defense when Gates leaves.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Yeah, this one caught my eye, too, James.

    One quality you left out is temperament. I’ve seen nothing in Sen. Clinton’s history to suggest that she has the temperament to be a diplomat. Nor an administrator.

    The appointment will be telling in that it may give some hints about relative priorities within an Obama Administration.

    My preferences: Holbrooke, Richardson, Nunn

  4. Patrick says:

    I would think that this is just a trial balloon. Waiting to hear reaction from the masses. HRC is qualified to be SecState, but she basically has a lifetime lock on her Senate seat, so why would she give that up?

    John Kerry would be eh. I’d prefer someone other than those listed.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    HRC is qualified to be SecState

    How?

  6. rodney dill says:

    …and to be announced next, the positions for Larry, Curly, and Moe.

  7. Our Paul says:

    If you tap retired State Department Pro’s they will whisper Richard Lugar, which would be a good choice in my book, and protect an important Obama flank from the well known tendency of the Hard Right to engage in cheap shots rather then constructive criticism…

    Sec. Defense? Dave Schuller’s God Son…

  8. James Joyner says:

    How can someone who is well qualified to be President not be qualified to be Sec of State?

    The same way you can be qualified to be head coach but not to play running back. Or to run GM but not be a competent welder.

  9. SavageView says:

    Allegations of insufficient qualifications from someone who supported Bush and McCain. ‘Tis to laugh.

    It’s getting rough out there. Last night, a McCain volunteer was attacked by a black Obama supporter who carved her up!111!!!

  10. Bobbert says:

    James –

    Aside from some dog-and-pony show trips as First Lady and Senator, she’s got no foreign policy credentials whatsoever.

    There’s a ‘sniper fire in Bosnia’ joke in there somewhere.

  11. ken says:

    James, your analogy fails.

    A head coach who may not be at all qualified to play fullback may be well qualified to be offensive coach. A CEO who cannot weld a joint may be well qualified to be department head.

    Hilary Clinton, who is well qualified to be President, may not know how to make travel arrangements for a diplomatic delegation to Russia, but she is certainly qualified to head up that delegation.

  12. tom p says:

    I suspect this is just another of those rumors floating about that is grabbed by the media to fill the void that is the news coming out of Obama’s transition.

    I can’t imagine her going for it, or any other position in an Obama Admin. She has a lock on her NY senate seat, and will definitely move up within the Dem power structure in the Senate. She is only 61, so I can easily see her in the Senate for at least 2 more terms.

    I have heard a lot of talk about SecDef, SecState, HUD Sec, but none at all about AG, which could well be the most important decision Obama makes about his Cabinet. Any body have any thoughts?

  13. DC Loser says:

    Wasn’t Eric Holder one of the names floating around for an AG contender?

  14. Spoker says:

    Brilliant piece of political theater! Of course HRC is qualified to be Sec. of State. We’ve been told for how long that she is the smartest woman in politics today, so she must be qualified. But BHO needs to get her completely out of picture for future considerations. So get her to resign her elected office and dismantle her domestic power base while looking like you’re bringing all the ‘best’ together. After all Sec. of State has always been a key stepping stone to the presidency hasn’t it? Appoint her Sec. of State while BHO is busy dealing with domestic issues and it puts her under White House control while getting her out of the way. (There is nothing like a 10 day trip to Botswana to enhance your domestic US political standing.) Then in a final step when the time is right, find her wanting and replace her. No elected position soapbox or power base; can’t be a vocal critic; failed in the international arena; and no longer a rival or threat to his reelection. Brilliant political theater!

  15. Dave Schuler says:

    After all Sec. of State has always been a key stepping stone to the presidency hasn’t it?

    We haven’t elected someone who’s been Secretary of State to the Presidency since before the Civil War. The only former Secretaries of State elected to the Presidency who weren’t also Founding Fathers were John Quincy Adams and James Buchanan.

    It might be a shrewd move politically (if HRC were foolish enough to accept the job) but I don’t believe it would be prudent operationally.

  16. Floyd says:

    As I watch our government (D?)evolve, I pity the likes of the creators of “Monty Pythons Flying Circus” and the frustration they must feel when trying to lampoon government through ridiculous exaggeration.
    Difficult at best,likely impossible!
    Would anyone even doubt the existence of a “Bureau of Silly Walks” today, let alone find it humorous??

  17. tom p says:

    Wasn’t Eric Holder one of the names floating around for an AG contender?

    Thanx DC. According to Wiki, he is “favored”…. for whatever that is worth. Their bio of him is a little thin.

  18. Bithead says:

    Whatever else might be said about this, what we have here is yet another Clinton misadministration retread.

    This constitutes ‘change’?

  19. Jamie says:

    It begs the question–why is the Secretary of State not chosen from among longtime career Foreign Service officers?

  20. James, what are Hillary Clinton’s qualification for being nominated to the Supreme Court, other than an eminently predictable vote? She has never been a judge, and I’m not aware of any sterling legal work that anyone can point to. This just seems to be a very wierd suggestion.

    But kudos for the laughs in bringing out the folks who think that someone qualified to be president should be able to do any job, especially since there are only three actual qualifications for president, 1) that you are 35 years old, 2) that you are a natural born citizen, and 3) that you get a sufficient number of electoral votes in the election (or in the House if it gets thrown there).

  21. James Joyner says:

    James, what are Hillary Clinton’s qualification for being nominated to the Supreme Court, other than an eminently predictable vote?

    She wouldn’t be a stellar choice in my view but she’s a graduate of a top law school, seems to be highly intelligent, and has a command of the public policy debate. I’m not sure that judging experience is necessary, since it’s an appellate court, although I’d prefer someone with an intellectual paper trail.

  22. Dantheman says:

    “I’m not sure that judging experience is necessary”

    Historically, it hasn’t been viewed as necessary, as relatively few justices in the 18th or 19th century came from the lower courts. Even in the 20th, it was not really necessary, as Justices from William Rehnquist to Hugo Black to Earl Warren were active politically and not judicially before being appointed to the Supreme Court. It’s only in the last few decades (and especially among Republicans) that this has changed (IIRC, Clinton wanted to appoint Bruce Babbitt to the Supremes, but Orrin Hatch persuaded him that it would be difficult to get him through the Senate, so he appointed Breyer instead).

  23. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m not sure that judging experience is necessary, since it’s an appellate court, although I’d prefer someone with an intellectual paper trail.

    I think it’s more necessary now than ever. The overwhelming preponderance of the law is the common law and that’s a river you can’t step in twice. Or, to use a different literary analogy, you have to run twice as fast just to stay in the same place.

  24. Deanna says:

    ROTFLMAO Wait while I wipe the tears of giggling off my cheeks..LOL…Really? LOL YOU think YOU know more than the team Obama has put together as to who is qualified to be SOS? LOLOLOL Really? Think much of yourself? LOL You sit at a computer and blog…LOL Give us all a break and buy a clue! Oh wait No …keep at it! Your the best laugh of the day!

  25. G.A.Phillips says:

    Why in the GREAT GREEN/BLUE/PURPLE HELL would Obama need a Secretary of State?

  26. patrick says:

    Sam Nunn would be my choice. Hillary Clinton requires a spot light and a microphone. Time for a statesman – not a wannabe…

  27. movie fan says:

    if Hillary becomes the Sec. State, hopefully she will be able to concentrate on country-centric issues without being distracted by other drama or her career plans