NYT's Hillary As Secretary of State Piece Ignores Possible 2012 Run

The New York Times published a front page article Saturday addressing the whys and wherefores behind Barack Obama making Hillary Clinton his Secretary of State without addressing how a 2012 presidential run by the former first lady might enter into the equation.

Instead, the Times focused on how such an appointment could be unifying to the nation while helping Hillary get more influence than it appears will be accorded her if she stays in the Senate.

Yet, authors Jackie Calmes and Helene Cooper completely ignored what could be at the heart of Obama's calculus, and why Clinton might turn it down if offered: Isn't it likely given the state of the union, and, in particular, the economy, the Clintons are laying in the weeds waiting to see what things look like in 2011?

Consider the following possible scenario:

The recession deepens, unemployment explodes, and the Republicans take over one or both chambers of Congress in November 2010. During this point, Obama's favorability ratings plummet -- which, in reality, seems almost a metaphysical certitude because it's unlikely he could possibly live up to the current lofty expectations for him.

At that time, couldn't Hillary if she stayed in the Senate mount a campaign to win the Democrat presidential nomination in 2012? Isn't it plausible that this is exactly what the Clintons and their surrogates are thinking at this moment?

If so, wouldn't it be in Obama's best interest to take her out of the 2012 competition by making her part of his administration? And wouldn't it be in Hillary's interest to politely decline?

Oddly, the Times didn't address any of this on Saturday, and instead stuck with non-controversial trivialities:

[T]here are clear dangers for Mr. Obama as well, not least of them any lingering rivalry between the two of them after an often-contentious primary campaign. The drama-averse president-elect would also inevitably be sharing the stage with both Clintons, with all of the attention and baggage that accompany them wherever they go. And her appointment could undercut his argument that he is bringing true change to Washington.

It is not clear what room Mrs. Clinton’s presence as the nation’s top diplomat would leave for Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to be an influential player in his specialty of foreign policy. And now that his consideration of Mrs. Clinton has become so public, he faces another danger: the risk of reopening old wounds in the party and among Democratic women in particular if he does not appoint her to a top job.

For Mrs. Clinton, there are pros and cons to taking the job as well. Senior Senate Democratic officials say it has become increasingly clear to Mrs. Clinton and her advisers that there was no quick route to a position of influence in the Senate, potentially increasing her interest in a prominent role in the Obama administration.

She had approached the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, about becoming chairwoman of a special subcommittee to handle health care issues, but he squelched the idea, Senate officials said. Aides to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, made it clear that despite his illness, he intended to consider health overhaul before the full committee that he leads.

Mrs. Clinton was also discouraged from trying to mount a challenge to any junior members of the party’s Senate leadership, one official said. In a seniority-driven institution like the Senate, it could take years for Mrs. Clinton to accumulate real power despite her status as a national political celebrity and the appeal she demonstrated in the primary season.

Likely all true, but by no means as compelling as how such an appointment or non-acceptance could be tied to elections four years away as well as indicative of the current Democrat unity being just another media fabrication. 

Stay tuned.

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Noel Sheppard's picture

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