Posted by MataHarley on 24 November, 2008 at 8:43 am. 16 comments already!


While on vacation… not only physically, but mentally, from politics in general… I have to admit this latest news of Hillary rumoured to accept a SOS position has me baffled. The expression, “oh to be a fly on the wall”, comes to mind. The burning question is why? What’s in it for Hillary and her future?

Why is it a smart cookie like Hillary would elect to “serve at the pleasure” of her former opponent, becoming an employee and envoy mouthpiece instead of a leader? The devil in the details must lie in the back room negotiations, of which only some we are privvy to via the media reports.

What we do know is that Hillary has played hardball in those negotiations, demanding ultimate authority in the choice of her State department underlings. This effectively results in a “purge”, dividing the Obama National Security administration appointees with the State Department along the Obama/Clinton party lines.

In negotiations with Mr Obama this week before agreeing to take the job, she demanded and received assurances that she alone should appoint staff to the State Department. She also got assurances that she will have direct access to the President and will not have to go through his foreign policy advisers on the National Security Council, which is where many of her critics in the Obama team are expected to end up.

As Dick Morris and wife, Eileen McGann point out in their weekend piece, Hillary Nomination Would Be An Obama-Nation, this is far from the “change” of the beltway and the power player insiders he promised. Tho today the Obama faithful spin his promise to abandon “business as usual politics”… labeling the adoption of the Clinton admin personnel as wise, demanding “experience” in his cabinet and admin advisors.

But then, as Morris rightly points out, there isn’t an iota of foreign policy experience between the Obama or Hillary.

Apart from the breathtaking cynicism of the appointment lies the total lack of foreign-policy experience in the new partnership. Neither Clinton nor Obama has spent five minutes conducting any aspect of foreign policy in the past. Neither has ever negotiated anything or dealt with diplomatic issues. It is the blonde leading the blind.

If Obama were seeking to “unite” the divided camps of the DNC, instead he may well have driven a wedge between the two departments (NSA and State Department) that must work hand in hand on a common cause… the security of the nation.

Morris… intimate to the Clinton’s inner sanctum and political strategy in the past… doesn’t echo my “huh??” on all of this in direct phrasing, but also doesn’t seem to grasp what Obama – or Clinton – has in mind here.

If Obama needed any warning about how Hillary will play the game, he need only look at how she handled her appointment. She forced Obama to see her by publicly complaining that she had not heard from him. When he raised the possibility of her appointment to State, she then leaked word that it was in the works. Even the announcement of her appointment was not made by Obama but leaked by Hillary’s “confidantes.”

Hillary will be a loose cannon as Secretary of State, vindicating her own agenda rather than that of the president and burnishing her own image at every turn. Not since Cordell Hull in the 30s have we had a Secretary so interested in running for president. Not since William Jennings Bryan in the 1910s have we had a defeated nominee named as Secretary. Obama will not be able to control Hillary nor will he be able to control his own administration with Emanuel as Chief of Staff. He will find that his appointees will march to the beat of their own drummer – if he is lucky – and Hillary’s if he is not.

Either Obama has chosen to put himself in this untenable situation because he is not wise in the ways of Washington or because he plans to be little more than a figurehead. Given his campaign, neither seems likely. But his promise of change has proven so bankrupt that maybe the rest of his candidacy is too.

The Obama faithful, while not exibiting flat out “buyers’ remorse” yet, are convinced of what they believe is Obama’s first “mistake”.

…But a little after lunch on Wednesday two Obama aides went to a local coffee shop to talk. Both were veterans of the campaign, hailed as the best organised and most disciplined in US history, which has made their boss the first black president.

Both had come to believe, in the crucible of the campaign, that Mr Obama’s judgment was superior to their own. But when they met on Wednesday they agreed on one thing: “He’s making a mistake.” As one of the participants told a friend later that night: “She’ll do a good job but she’ll do it for herself, not for Barack. I can’t bear the drama again.”


The Obama aides who went for coffee on Wednesday discussed how the initial tentative talks between Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton were leaked by the Clinton camp, then how every twist and turn of the financial vetting found its way into the media.

Those in Mrs Clinton’s camp who wanted her to take the job wanted the financial issue off the table believing Mr Obama would find any excuse not to give her the job.

“They can’t help themselves,” the Obama aide told his friend, a fellow Democrat strategist. “Every event is a potential ladder up or a bullet to be dodged. They’re positioning and spinning all the time. They lost. Now we seem to be handing them the farm.”


The Washington Post columnist and Clinton sceptic, David Ignatius, added: “The idea of subcontracting foreign policy to Clinton, a big, hungry, needy ego surrounded by a team that’s hungrier and needier still, strikes me as a mistake of potentially enormous proportions.” It is a view that many around the President-elect now share.


Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, the dean of Washington’s foreign policy writers, warned: “When it comes to appointing a secretary of state, you do not want a team of rivals. Foreign leaders can spot daylight between a president and a secretary of state from 1,000 miles away.”

Also in their coffee chit chat? The famous discipline that made the Obama campaign renowned
has apparently all but disappeared since coming to Washington. And with the Clinton ranks swamping the appointees, they worry about Obama’s campaign promises “to withdraw quickly from Iraq, to talk to leaders of rogue states and to get tough with Pakistan, all policies Mrs Clinton has spoken out against. “

The obvious media assumptions about Obama’s choice of Clinton was the “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” adage. Certainly removing her from the Senate… hang, from the country, along with hubby, Bill… certainly allows him to easily keep an eye on her, and perhaps minimize any 2012 competition for a second run at the WH.

Which brings me to the enigma… just why would Hillary sideline her ambitions for a high level mouthpiece job? Despite her choices for supporting State department cast and characters, she still remains nothing but an Obama subordinate, as senior advisor, David Axelrod, is quick to point out.

David Axelrod, one of the President-elect’s closest aides, Sunday offered that blunt declaration to critics who question the wisdom of tapping powerful ex-rival Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

“People need to understand one thing,” he said. “There’s one person who’s going to be in charge of American foreign policy, and there’s one person who’s going to be in charge of American economic policy. And that’s Barack Obama.”

“He’s going to set the direction, and he’s going to assemble a group of talented and brilliant people to help execute that vision,” Axelrod said. “And certainly Sen. Clinton, should she be selected, fits that category of brilliance and ability.”

Yes… Hillary seems to be bent on accepting a position of being the dummy to a ventriloquist Obama. A position that she holds only as long as it suits Obama’s whims. If Morris is right – that Hillary will pursue a very personal (and vindictive) agenda, how much will a President Obama tolerate before giving her the axe? For Hillary, certainly a strong and independent woman, this seems a baffling career choice, involving a serious leap of faith requiring Obama loyalty.

She ends her primary and presidential campaign still in debt to the tune of $7.6 million – not including the $13.2 million from her own pocket. As a federal employee, she has limitations on fundraising for payback of that debt under The Hatch Act, unable to assist in promotion and planning of fund raising events. A personal appearance is possible, but of a delicate nature as to not be construed as a conflict of interest.

And then, of course, there is the possibility that she requests the FEC to “forgive” her debt…

Campaign finance experts said if she joins the Obama cabinet, Clinton would almost certainly shutter her political action committee, HillPac, but could leave her Senate re-election committee for 2012 and presidential campaign committee dormant.

Another outside possibility is that Clinton could successfully petition the election commission to forgive her debts, citing the fund-raising restrictions facing her as secretary of state. The commission would have to evaluate whether Clinton had exhausted all reasonable means to pay down her debt.

But Kahl said he believed it was “highly unlikely” that the commission would grant such a request, considering federal rules would still allow her campaign committee to continue to raise money, albeit under some constraints.

“These debt settlements can go on for years,” Kahl said.

Needless to say, Hillary’s choice to relinquish her Senate seat, and accrued time to establish seniority, is a risky one. If Obama keeps her on for a year, her Senate seat is gone, and a new run at either the Senate or the Oval Office is one or two years away…. and many dollars of debt in between.

Then again, perhaps this is what Obama has in mind. He can effectively clip Hillary’s elected office wings by enticing her into the administration, then casting her aside after a politically correct length of time.

Yes… it’s a leap of faith Hillary is doing. Why does she feel so confident as to place her future career in the hands of Barack Obama? Just what gave her enough assurances that she will not be tossed out the door easily, and satiate her personal job security and thirst for power?

Oh to be a fly on the wall….

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