It is a widely accepted rumor that Senator Hillary Clinton is being considered for Secretary of State. There have been follow on rumors that she is ready to accept the job. Meanwhile, there has been no shortage of analysis over whether this was the right move or not on the part of the President-elect. Some argue that their personal animosities from the primary days are unlikely to make her effective on the job. While this argument has its merits here are more than a few points why this is in fact a brilliant move on so many fronts.
President-elect Obama won the election on a promise of “change”. The Democratic party was torn between support for Senator Obama and backing Senator Hillary Clinton. Firstly, getting her on his cabinet goes a long way in uniting the Democratic party. By picking her over others (like John Kerry who apparently aspired for the job), President-elect Obama makes a definitive move to unite the Democratic party and appease those who were disappointed with Senator Clinton’s failed run for the candidacy. To govern effectively President-elect has to forge a unified Democratic party. This offer is a perfect first step in this direction.
Next, this move does indicate (to whatever extent possible) that President-elect Obama does not harbor any long-term animosity towards Senator Clinton. Further, offering her the coveted post of Secretary of State signals that he is willing to share the success of his victory by giving her a fairly independent platform to succeed in a more defining role on the world stage, next best perhaps to being the American President in this day and age. It is well known that VP elect Joe Biden is a foreign affairs wonk in his own right, and would have hoped to influence foreign policy in his role as VP. Letting Mrs. Clinton run foreign policy is a clear sign that President-elect Obama respects and trusts her ability to deliver and is willing to go the extra mile to accommodate her in his cabinet even at the expense of making other unhappy (Bill Richardson, Joe Biden and others).
Now, let us view this from Senator Clinton’s perspective. There is no question that she is an accomplished and capable woman who came “closest” to occupying one of the most powerful offices on the planet. She gave Senator Obama more than a tough fight for the Democratic nomination. With age not her side, the odds of her becoming President some day (while still not impossible) appear far-fetched at this point at best.
Sadly, despite her strengths she has spent her entire career in the shadows of her husband Bill Clinton. By taking on the role of Secretary of State, she has the opportunity to break free from her husband’s shadow and live up to her thus far seemingly untapped potential. This is easily a more effective and promising role than remaining in the US Senate. Having spent a life time supporting her husband accomplish his political aspirations (not to mention tolerating his numerous personal foibles), the role of Secretary State would be a terrific opportunity for her to make her mark especially at a time when America’s leadership around the world is questionable and there is no end to hatred towards America the world over.
The biggest foreign policy challenge for the last several decades has been the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Bill Clinton failed to achieve Middle East peace despite his valiant efforts towards the end of his tenure. By taking on the role of Secretary of State, Senator Clinton has the dual challenge of accomplishing what her husband strived for (but failed to achieve) as well as repairing the damage done by the Bush administration. Can it get any better from a challenge point of view for someone who aspired to be President and failed?
All in all, its a brilliant move on President-elect Obama’s part to offer her the job. For Senator Clinton, its an opportunity of a life-time over wallowing in the US Senate.