Might we have just witnessed the dawning of a new era of politics in America in the last 24 hours? I will admit that I was taken aback by speculation that President-elect Barack Obama was considering none other than his former rival-in-chief, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, for arguably the most important post in his upcoming administration, Secretary of State. The two candidates debated endlessly during the primary season on the finer points of their proposed foreign policy initiatives, and their disagreements on diplomacy made for some of the most potent points of contrast between the candidates.
President-elect Obama has made no secret of his affection for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s marvelous book "Team of Rivals," which chronicles how President Lincoln invited his vanquished political opponents into his administration in order to negotiate centrist, consensus solutions to the dire problems facing our nation during her darkest hour. If President Obama does indeed select Senator Clinton as his Secretary of State, he will be invoking Lincoln’s legacy in a profound way; and in the opinion of this Congressman, there could be no wiser choice for the post.
During his first year in office, President Obama will likely need to keep a laser’s focus on domestic issues as we try to climb out of the economic hole dug under eight years of President Bush’s financial policies. Therefore, it is absolutely vital to select someone with the experience, toughness, and depth of knowledge to handle increased authority in foreign policy and deliver on President Obama’s promise to the world; and who could be more qualified to manage the duties of the nation’s top diplomat than the internationally revered junior Senator from New York? She brings two decades worth of foreign policy experience, much of it on the front lines as First Lady during one of the most peaceful eras in U.S. history. Furthermore, she brings instant prestige and credibility to the position; no foreign leader would ever feel diminished sitting in the presence of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I have had the privilege to know the Clintons since their days in neighboring Arkansas, and I know of no one more intelligent and capable of tackling the enormous challenges we face abroad than Hillary Rodham Clinton. During the Bush Administration, the country watched with horror the consequences of rewarding campaign benefactors with important positions within the executive branch (see: Brown, Michael), and President-elect Obama’s selection of Senator Clinton would signify a remarkable step in the right (and opposite) direction by rewarding accomplishment, intelligence and talent rather than patronage.
I was an ardent supporter of Barack Obama during the heated primary season – in part because I agreed with his positions on the War in Iraq and on more aggressive diplomacy – but I whole-heartedly believe that Senator Clinton would make an exceptional Secretary of State. Senator Clinton’s vast knowledge, experience representing our country and her finely honed skills of negotiation would serve this country well, and her presence within an Obama Administration would have an immediate, positive impact.