Love her or hate her, it looks like Hillary Clinton will be Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. Hillary isn't one of my favorite political figures and her campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination at times bordered on the ridiculous – recall, if you will, her exaggerated claims of coming under fire while on a trip to Bosnia or her campaign's ad suggesting that only Hillary would be capable of handling a troubling phone call at 3a.m.
Popular contrarian Christopher Hitchens and Salon.com's Joan Walsh recently engaged in a heated argument on Hardball with Chris Matthews over the prospect of Hillary at Secretary of State. It's an interesting discussion, watch it here:
Hitchens hates Obama's choice, calling it the opposite of Change, among other things, while Walsh talks about Democratic Party unity, among other things. While I alternately agree and disagree with both Hitchens and Walsh throughout their exchange, the question that I must ask myself, is, "Should my opinions of Hillary disqualify my opinions as to whether or not Obama's choice of Hillary was good or bad?" Whatever I might think of Hillary's conduct on the campaign trail, I am willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. In fact, Obama's choice of Hillary might be very shrewd on a number of levels. Consider the following:
1. Assuming Hillary remains at the post throughout Obama's first term, she would likely be neutralized as a potential challenger to Obama for the 2012 Democratic Presidential nomination, should Obama decide to run for re-election. Even Rush Limbaugh lauded Obama's selection of Clinton for this very reason. According to a piece at the Huffington Post, Limbaugh said, "You know the old phrase, 'You keep your friends close and your enemies closer?' How can she run for president in 2012? She'd have to run against the incumbent and be critical of him - the one who made her secretary of state."
2. Hillary, in her roles as first lady and as a Senator from New York, has met a number of foreign leaders and has an existing rapport with many world leaders.
3. The Clinton "brand" is still very popular on the global personality market. Many here in America might think Bill or Hillary or both of them one sort of scoundrel or another, but many around the world associate the Clintons with a kinder, gentler America than the one they have come to know under Bush – the kind of America that many hope a President Obama would restore.
4. Hillary is a tough bitch. I mean that in a good way. Secretary of State is not a gig for lightweights.
I must confess that I would have found it very interesting if Obama had asked Gen. Colin Powell to resume his old post. The Powell Doctrine has been sorely missed of late. Somehow, though, I think Powell is done with all of that. New Mexico Governor and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson might have been an interesting appointment too, particularly given his dealings with the North Koreans. But it looks like Richardson will be busy in his role as Commerce Secretary.
And so Obama builds his Lincolnesque "Team of Rivals."