Hillary for State?

Because it’s Hillary, and the State Department, I suppose I’m a bit obligated to weigh in with some sort of opinion on the possibility that Obama will nominate, or offer to nominate, Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State.

Would it work? Sure I think it woud work. Hillary has shown plenty of times that she can work with Obama, and that she can check her own ambitions when she really needs to for the Party and for the agenda, so I very much doubt there woud be any “drama” inherent in the administration for it. She differs slightly in her views from Obama, but not in terribly significant ways, and Obama seems to very much like having people of varying viewpoints around him, and that’s a very good thing. Moreover Hillary is very respected around the world, there are very few people of her stature in the world, and an Obama-Biden-Hillary “face of America” foreign policy would inspire a lot of confidence and goodwill around the world, I think.

But the reasons I don’t think it will happen have mostly to do with the fact that it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense for her. For starters, I’m incredibly bemused that so many seem to treat the Senate as an also-ran position. It’s really quite a choice job, especially if you happen to have the national profile of, say, Hillary Clinton. You can dabble in any issues you want, set your own agenda, and work in direct ways on legislation. As Secretary of State, she would basically have to take her cues, at the end of the day, from the President, and she’d presumably have to compete with Biden for Obama’s ear. She’d also have to give up partisan political involvement during her tenure, which would arguably erode a pretty formidable power base.

But at the end of the day I think it comes down to one major factor; healthcare. No issue has so defined Hillary Clinton for nearly 2 decades on the public scene like healthcare reform, so it seems incomprehensible to me that she would leave the Senate for a position totally removed from domestic politics just as the chamber is set to, potentially, take the lead on crafting a major healthcare reform package. Moreover, with Ted Kennedy’s health in question, someone else is probably going to have to take point on the package, and Hillary would seem to be the natural choice. I’ve thought for a while that healthcare would be her “consolation,” and if I had to guess, I would venture that healthcare was the dominant topic of conversation between Clinton and Obama, and I assume Obama was seeking some transition/early term advice as well.

So if we’re in full blown specuating mode, here’s mine; Obama will not make any cabinet offers to Hillary, he will instead leverage his influence into making her the Senate’s main player in the healthcare debate. She’ll author the bill that ultimately comes up, and Obama will sign the Clinton-Kennedy Healthcare Reform Actof 2009 sometime in the last 3 months of the year.