Yesterday, my colleague DJ had a fascinating article on Hillary Clinton, her history, and the possibility of her becoming President Obama’s Secretary of State. And it got me to thinking — and reconsidering.
Ever since the possibility was floated, I was tremendously skeptical of the possibility. I couldn’t imagine why on earth Hillary Clinton would accept — or even be offered — the office. After all, the primary fight between her and Obama was quite bruising, the post-election reconciliation shallow at best, and the snubbing of her for even consideration as vice-president left many of her supporters thoroughly incited. No, I thought she would continue to hold her Senate seat through 2012 and then decide if she wanted to stay in the Senate a bit longer, or quietly retire from public life.
But DJ’s article raised some interesting points, and got me thinking.
Hillary Clinton has always been interested in making history. She was the first First Lady to be elected to the Senate, and she was the first woman to make a credible stab at the presidential nomination. But becoming Secretary of State — that wouldn’t be so historical. Madeleine Albright was the first woman to hold the office (under Hillary’s husband), and Condoleezza Rice the first black woman. (And in between them was Colin Powell, the first black man.) Hillary’s accepting the role would be a footnote at best.
Further, she would have to give up her very secure Senate seat for the job, knowing that she would be hard-pressed to have that job for four years. Even if Obama were to win re-election, Secretaries of State have not been carried over into second terms of late. George Schultz (under Reagan) and Dean Rusk (under Kennedy and Johnson) were the last Secretaries to hold office through a presidential election.
But more than making history, Hillary has been interested in making a difference.
As First Lady, first in Arkansas and then in Washington, Hillary wanted to be a part of making policy. Yes, that was often disastrous, but her intentions were clear: she wanted to make changes, affect people’s lives.
And as Secretary of State, she could do far, far more than she can as Junior Senator from New York.
God help me, I think that she would be a good choice for Obama. Or, at least, the best we can hope for. She has a refreshingly undiplomatic temperament (and temper) that could give Foggy Bottom a hell of a well-needed shock. She’s already known to many world leaders. And it would put her directly in the presidential line of succession, behind Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and the president pro tem of the Senate. And the thought of her getting pissed off at our enemies — and being able to do something about it — is a delightful one. Who doesn’t revel in the image of her bouncing an ashtray off the head of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
In the end, I find myself resorting to my basest political instincts and boiling the matter down to one question: what is the potential entertainment value of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?
My answer: quite high.