Sunday, November 16, 2008

Don't let the smooth taste fool you

About every other hour, I change my opinion about whether Hillary Clinton would serve President Obama well as Secretary of State.

I can see the merits of her inclusion in his cabinet. I can also see where she could prove to be a divisive force in such a high-profile role, especially since she seemed much more hawkish than Obama about the Middle East during the primaries.

Either way, I have no concerns that Obama will be a wilting flower should Clinton or her husband step out of line. He got this. And if you don't believe me, let Time's Joe Klein explain:

General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a
16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for "maximum flexibility" going forward.

Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views "under advisement." Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action — especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind.

... the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.

If we've learned anything about Obama over these past 20 months or so, it should be that he is nobody's punk. He seems confident enough in himself and his deep intellect to risk bringing in a formerly bitter political opponent like Clinton. At the risk of referring to an already exhausted cliche, Obama has eagerly embraced the idea of surrounding himself with a Team of Rivals. He's indicated that for quite sometime now, in fact.

And that's a significant departure from the previous administration. Or change I'm willing to believe in, if only for the moment.


maria said...

but why risk it? i want richardson in that post. he's got far more street cred than her. what qualifies her to be secretary of state? it looks purely like payback.

btw, you are mighty conflicted these days (your last 3 items).

blackink said...

Richardson might be the more credible pick but, you know, I'm thinking B.O. wants to be able to keep his thumb on HRC this way. Left to her own devices in the Senate, she could prove to be more of a headache to his administration. Not to mention, she served him well on the stump despite their sometimes ugly primary.

Certainly you agree that she is capable of handling the job?

Regarding my inner conflict: yeah, I'm seeing shades of gray these days. I'm down to only a few absolutes, I suppose.