Archive for December, 2008

Obama Taps Clinton for Secretary of State

December 1, 2008

Yesterday President-elect Obama nominated Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state.  His selection has potential upsides and downsides.  On one hand, Clinton is intelligent and seems capable of being a good adviser.  Picking her will also likely appease elements in the Democratic Party who supported her during the hotly contested presidential campaign.


However, Hillary has no significant managerial experience which makes it difficult to know how well she will manage a large bureaucracy like the State Department.  Also, there is a possibility that she will have her own political agenda and might not work well with Obama.  There have been many cases in the past of cabinet members clashing with presidents.  Clinton was a fierce opponent of Obama’s during the Democratic primaries and there may be lingering animosity between them.  After Obama was elected, some pundits (Doris Kearns Goodwin in particular) suggested that he should put past rivals like Hillary in his cabinet like Lincoln did when he became president, but I do not think that that concept is entirely sound; presidents need cabinet secretaries who are loyal to them rather than their own ambitions or policy preferences.


I am not saying that Clinton will necessarily clash with Obama or undermine him.  They may in fact work well together.  If Hillary wants to make another run for the presidency, it is in her interests to remain secretary of state as long as possible to enhance her foreign policy credentials, which means that she needs to make Obama feel like she is a helpful member of his team.   Selected her might turn out to be a very good decision on the president-elect’s part.


Ultimately, I anticipate that Clinton will be effective in her new position.  I support Obama’s appointment and I hope that it works out.