There are a lot of reasons why this could work. But for my money, the best reason for President-elect Obama is that it avoids the following nightmare scenario, as predicted by a group of hedge fund managers watching last week’s election returns in New York:
The host predicted that President Obama would have a miserable term and face a challenge from within his own party in 2012, likely from Hillary Clinton. “You watch,” he said. “In a year, the Clintons will orchestrate a campaign to declare this a failed Presidency.”
Another guest, a trader and market strategist who had voted for Ralph Nader, agreed about 2012, but according to a different logic. He expounded on a belief he held regarding the cycles of history and the markets. … According to pi-cycle theory, after a failed attempt at a rally between now and next spring, the market will not hit bottom until June, 2011, so Obama may be doomed to muddle through a deepening recession and the unpopularity that comes with it, and whoever succeeds him in 2012, should he lose, will then have the chance to ride the recovery—to be, in the public’s untrained eye, the transformative F.D.R. or Ronald Reagan that people dearly want Obama to be now.
I tend to agree that things are going to get worse before they get better. It’ll take Obama at least past the midterms in 2010 to start seeing some tangible economic results from everything he’ll be doing to dig us out of Bush’s hole.
What better way to defuse a potential threat from the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party than by making Hillary Clinton your main international spokesperson? As Secretary of State, neither she nor Bill Clinton would be able to even hint at discontent within the party. Much as Colin Powell didn’t go public with his concerns about the Iraq War until well after Bush broke everything in Pottery Barn, Hillary Clinton would also not deviate from her role as the good soldier. And for a sitting Secretary of State to mount a run against the incumbent president would be logistically impossible (she would have to resign first, and do it within the first two years to begin building the necessary support). Obama would essentially be neutralizing the greatest threat from within his own party until 2016.
Who else is going to challenge him in 2012? John Edwards? Dennis Kucinich? Mike Gravel?
UPDATE: Nico Pitney at HuffPo is reporting that Obama offered Clinton the Secretary of State position in Chicago yesterday. I had a feeling the fact that Obama’s interest in her was leaked at all meant the story was real. Politically, it’s a brilliant move, whether she accepts the offer or not. On the merits though, I’d rather have John Kerry or Bill Richardson running the State Department. All the arguments I made in the primary season against Clinton’s foreign policy credentials and managerial skills– or lack thereof– still stand.
But she’ll be at least adequate in the position, if not surprisingly better, and the value of so explicitly putting the Clinton brand back on American foreign policy can’t be overstated. There’s really no clearer way to say to the world, “The America you once knew and loved is indeed back in business.”
The most entertaining take on today’s news comes from Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics, who earlier today– before news of the offer was reported by HuffPo– strongly criticized what he called “an obsessive political press corps” for jumping on the Clinton rumors in a post titled “The Silly Season Continues.” Again, this was written today:
Just how desperate for news is an obsessive political press corps now trying to find its way after one of the biggest elections in history? Exhibit A is the mindless speculation that Hillary Clinton is being considered for Secretary of State, a story that’s now been picked up by just about everybody.
We don’t know where this nugget of information came from or whether it’s legitimate, but in today’s media environment – especially on matters such as cabinet appointments and the like – things like accuracy and solid sourcing are irrelevant. All we know for sure is that Hillary Clinton is in Chicago today.