Commentary Magazine


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Hawk in a Pantsuit?

Jennifer outlined her reasons why she thinks Hillary Clinton will accept the position of Secretary of State from President Elect Obama. She’s right, but there are more reasons why she ought to accept, why Obama would be right to offer it to her, and why it’s probably for the best.

First, Hillary is probably the closest thing to a “hawk” that Obama would be likely to tap. When one considers some of the other people he could name–John Kerry, Richard Holbrooke– Hillary comes out looking pretty good. She also has a general attitude and demeanor that could work wonders at State. Her history of “I take no crap from anyone who is not my husband” could be the sort of thing that could finally bring about the systemic change needed at Foggy Bottom. Oh, come on. Admit it. The mere thought of Hillary bouncing an ashtray off the head of Mahmoud Ahaminejad ought to bring a smile to almost anyone.

Then there’s the Hubert Humphrey factor. When asked why he chose Hubert Humphrey as his vice-president, Lyndon Johnson reportedly said it would be better “to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.” It’s a co-opting move, bringing her into the inner circle where she would be obligated to restrain her criticisms.

It also takes Bill Clinton off the table. He’s a notorious loose cannon, always willing to take swipes at Obama at the drop of a hat. By making Hillary a part of his administration, Obama would in essence “taking a hostage” to ensure Bill Clinton’s good behavior.

So it makes sense for Obama to offer her the job. But would she take it? As Jennifer said, it would get her out of the Senate and into a position of real power. Hillary could probably remain in the Senate for life if she chose, but is highly unlikely ever to amass the kind of power and influence she has sought. As Secretary of State, she wouldn’t be setting any kind of historical precedent (Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice have taken those trophies), but she would be in a position to actually achieve things. And over the course of her career, she has been far more interested in results than glory.

Also, there’s the fact that Hillary still has several million dollars in campaign debts. That could prove an embarrassment, but when she and Obama had their public reconciliation, he promised to help her retire that debt. It would suddenly be very much in his best interest to keep that promise.

And finally, there is one compelling reason why even the most Clinton-loathing individual ought to support: the sheer entertainment factor. The Department of State rendered utterly clawless Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Could it do the same to Hillary?

Maybe, maybe not. But stock up on the popcorn. It promises to be a hell of a show.