Hillary Clinton ‘to be U.S. foreign chief’: Obama poised to pick his former rival for powerful role on world stage
Hillary Clinton has emerged as a candidate for Barack Obama’s new U.S. secretary of state, according to reports in the U.S. today.
Sources close to Obama said he was ‘very serious’ about offering Clinton the crucial role.
Obama is also due to meet with former Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Monday.
Obama spokesman Stephanie Cutter said the pair will ‘discuss ways to work together’ to improve the quality of government and services to the people.
They will be joined by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a McCain confidant, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat whom Obama has chosen to be his White House chief of staff.
No other details were offered.
Condoleeza Rice, the current Secretary of State, will step down when the Democrat takes over from George Bush on January 20.
A senior aide to Clinton was asked yesterday if she would take the position if it was offered, according to ABC television news.
The aide reportedly replied: ‘I think so. What would you rather do – be senator or Secretary of State?’
Clinton flew to Chicago yesterday on ‘personal business’, on a day which Obama spent behind closed doors preparing for the transition to the presidency.
There was no confirmation from either camp about any meeting, but Clinton had no official engagements yesterday. Her spokesman said the story was ‘speculation’.
Putting Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, in the position could help heal whatever lingering divisions remain in the Democratic Party after her bitter battle with Obama.
Obama passed over Clinton as his vice presidential running mate in favour of Senator Joe Biden, a decision that angered her ardent supporters and widened a rift in the party that Obama and Clinton later worked hard to heal.
Making Clinton responsible for foreign affairs – including Iraq, Afghanistan, and the issue of peace in the Middle East – would make her one of the most powerful people in the Obama administration and place her centre stage on world affairs.
Her selection as top U.S. diplomat could also mean a more hawkish foreign policy than that advocated by Obama during his presidential campaign.
On the campaign trail, Clinton was more reluctant than Obama to commit to a firm timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
But both Obama and Clinton were adamant about improving the image of the United States abroad and correcting what they considered the ‘failed policies’ of the outgoing Bush administration.
NBC News and The Washington Post also reported that Clinton was under consideration for the top U.S. diplomatic position.
This would mean Obama was expanding his search beyond other candidates mentioned for the job, such as Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a Democrat who lost the 2004 presidential election to George W. Bush, and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican who backed Obama over Republican John McCain this year.
CNN reported that on Monday night, while walking into an awards ceremony in New York, Clinton was asked if she would consider taking a post in the Obama administration.
‘I am happy being a senator from New York, I love this state and this city. I am looking at the long list of things I have to catch up on and do. But I want to be a good partner and I want to do everything I can to make sure his agenda is going to be successful,’ Clinton said.
The former first lady had argued during the Democratic primary campaign that Obama was too inexperienced to be president. But they mended fences and during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, she declared that ‘Barack Obama is my candidate and he must be our president.’
Analyst Paul Light of New York University’s John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress said picking Clinton would mean Obama was serious about reaching across the party divide.
On the other hand, he said: ‘To put her in the competition with several others and pick somebody other than Hillary Clinton after you’ve floated her name is to have a repeat of the spring and summer division and raise questions about Obama’s seriousness about healing the division within the party.’
Clinton was at first considered the shoo-in to win the Democratic nomination only to watch the 47-year-old Illinois senator defeat her in a series of decisive battles.
Whether Clinton would want the position was immediately debated on cable television talk shows. After all, she wanted to be president, and why would she settle for anything less?
‘I think she has her sights set higher than that,’ said Stephen Hayes, a columnist for the Weekly Standard Magazine, on CNN.
On the other hand, Obama won the election over McCain decisively and if he is successful in his first term, he very well could win again in 2012, probably putting the presidency out of reach for Clinton, who is now 61.
As the First Lady during her husband’s presidency, Clinton devoted a great deal of time to the rights of women around the world, often traveling the globe with her daughter, Chelsea.
As a presidential candidate, she argued for putting greater U.S. emphasis on defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in ensuring nuclear weapons do not spread.