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I was agnostic on the matter of Hillary Clinton’s possible appointment as secretary of state–until last night.

If Barack Obama, the president-elect, wanted to pull a Team of Rivals play, that had seemed fine to me. And placing Clinton in Foggy Bottom would remove her from the dicey business of passing health care reform. Would it unite the party? Well, judging from the election results, the party is pretty darn united already. Despite the griping of a few Hillaryites at the Democratic convention, her voters certainly swung behind Obama in the general election (see Pennsylvania), after HRC and WJC campaigned for BHO in the fall. Unless an explicit deal was made between Obama and Hillary Clinton, it did not seem that Obama, after bypassing her for veep, had to appoint her anything for the party’s sake. Still, if Obama and his savvy band of advisers thought that handing her one of the best jobs in the Cabinet would generate political benefits they could use to advance their agenda, I, as a non-fan of Hillary Clinton, was willing to say, okay–for what that was worth.

But then this happened: the presidential transition of no-drama Obama became infected by the never-ending soap opera of the Clintons. And it really is time to turn that program off. There are plenty of policy and political reasons for a progressive not to fancy Hillary. She served on the Wal-Mart board when the mega-firm was fighting unions; she screwed up health care reform for almost a generation; she voted wrong on the Iraq war and then refused to acknowledge she had erred. But, worst of all, as the cliché goes, with the Clintons, it always does seem to be about the Clintons.

So we’ve had a week of will-she-or-won’t-she and what-about-him. Couldn’t this have been handled with a little more grace? Maybe not, since it involves the Clintons.

I don’t know how the Obama camp approached the issue. But before Obama met last week with Hillary to talk about this, his team should have done a pre-vetting of Bill. And then Obama, at this meeting, ought to have said something like this to her:

    If you might be interested in the State position, there are a few issues that would come up concerning Bill. Let me run through a few. Would he be willing to release the names of his foundation’s donors, as well as those who contribute to his presidential library? Would he be willing to forego contributions and speaking fees from foreign governments, foreign heads of states, and major foreign companies that would have an interest in US foreign policy decisions? Would he be willing to discuss with my national security adviser his foreign travel plans and his foundation’s projects before they are announced and undertaken–and would he be willing to defer to us if we believe they are not appropriate or helpful at the time? I know that these are big things to ask. But given his global activity and standing, there’s not much choice. And if it’s a deal-breaker, I certainly would understand. But before you and I go down this road, we should make sure there are no major obstacles. Can you talk to him and get back to me in a day or two? And, to be helpful, Rahm has come up with a list….

Hillary’s answer would have to have been either (a) of course, or (b) thank you for considering me, but I don’t believe this would be a good fit. Two days would pass, and then the drama–or at least this part of it–could be over.

Today the news is that Bill will do what he can. AP is reporting:

    Former President Bill Clinton has offered several concessions to help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his wife, become secretary of state, people familiar with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition vetting process said Wednesday.
    Clinton has agreed to release the names of several major donors to his charitable foundation and will submit future foundation activities and paid speeches to a strict ethics review, said Democrats knowledgeable about the discussions.
    They also said that Clinton would step away from day-to-day responsibility for his foundation while his wife serves and would alert the State Department to his speaking schedule and any new sources of income.

Does that take care of it? Note the use of the word “several.” It’s hard not to see some sticking points arising about what is disclosed and when. The negotiations between the Obama camp and the Clinton team are supposedly proceeding smoothly. But why should there be negotiations? And could it end up with news reports saying Bill Clinton is willing to reveal X, but the Obama side wants him to release X plus Y? That is, more drama. According to AP, “One Clinton adviser noted that former President George H.W. Bush has given paid speeches and participated in international business ventures since his son, George W. Bush, has been president–without stirring public complaints or controversy about a possible conflict of interest.” This does raise the suspicion that the Clintonites might not agree to all the necessary limitations. And don’t they–or at least, this aide–understand there’s something of a difference between their case and that of the Bushes (though it was probably not appropriate for Daddy Bush to engage in that activity).

Bottom-line: if HRC came fuss-free, then maybe there’d be no reason to kick up a fuss about her appointment. Yet that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

But there’s another issue to consider, one that has been overshadowed by the drama: if she runs the State Department in a fashion similar to how she managed her campaign, then the country will be in trouble. Her spinners went beyond the boundaries of fair and reasonable spinning. Her team was a snake pit of competitive aides. She did not master the art of refereeing internal disputes. She signed off on strategic blunders. Hers was not a steady hand.

Perhaps that’s the better argument against her. Being secretary of state isn’t just about giving speeches and touring the world as a celebrity, it’s about managing (and now reviving) the creaky and beleaguered foreign policy apparatus of the United States. And Clinton’s résumé is not strong on that front.

Source: Mother Jones

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Famous for being famous! This election was amazing in that the things which were first said to hurt Obama – came back in the end to help defeat McCain – for example, Obama’s ability to attract large crowds – would go on to mean he would attract 200,000 plus in Germany – but rather than admit this was a great accomplishment (given Germany’s history) – Republicans chose to deride it – saying that Barack Obama was merely a celebrity – not to be taken seriously. Enter Sarah Palin, who for some really is a celebrity – who literally doesn’t know enough – to put together a concise argument on any number of critical issues – important to those seeking the highest office. Without substance Sarah Palin becomes famous for being famous – a celeb politician – who ‘ain’t in it for naught’.

She failed to save John McCain from presidential election doom, but Sarah Palin, the Republican senator’s controversial running mate, may yet emerge as the saviour of the American publishing industry. Literary agents are queueing up to sign her to a book deal that could earn her up to $7m.

With Barack Obama’s election victory certain to generate dozens of volumes from politicians, strategists and journalists – and with another shelfload of memoirs expected from members of President George W Bush’s administration – Palin’s personal account of her tumultuous introduction to national politics is widely regarded as the book most likely to repay a multi-million-dollar advance.

“She’s poised to make a ton of money,” said Howard Rubenstein, New York’s best-known public relations adviser.

“Every publisher and a lot of literary agents have been going after her,” added Jeff Klein of Folio Literary management.

Palin’s profile showed no sign of diminishing last week, despite McCain’s defeat and embittered Republicans seeking a scapegoat for the party’s collapse.

She now finds herself in a position similar to Obama’s in 2004, when the then mostly unknown Chicago politician delivered a mesmerising speech to the Democratic convention, was elected to the Senate and swiftly wrote a bestselling book – The Audacity of Hope. This proved to be the springboard for his presidential launch.

Like Obama, Palin has come from nowhere – in her case, Wasilla, Alaska. She is considered a likely candidate to move to Washington as Alaska’s senator if one of the state’s two seats falls vacant next year. Her book may reach a vast audience fascinated by her journey from the moose-hunting wastes of the Alaskan tundra to a historic battle for the White House.

Undaunted by her poll defeat, Palin was in fighting form last week, inviting cameras into her home, serving visiting interviewers home-cooked moose chilli and haddock and salmon casserole.

She scoffed at untrue reports that she initially thought Africa was a country and that she didn’t know members of the North American Free Trade Agreement. She said much of the criticism levelled at her came from “bloggers in their parents’ basements just talking garbage”.

At a sombre meeting of Republican governors later in the week, Palin’s megawatt celebrity far outshone her more experienced colleagues. Frank Luntz, a prominent Republican consultant, called her a “rock star”, but Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, warned that she would be only “one of the voices” leading the party forward.

Yet there are already signs that conservative Republicans, thrilled by Palin’s right-wing views, are manoeuvring to keep her in the public eye with a view to the 2012 elections and beyond. One group, called Our Country Deserves Better, last week collected tens of thousands of dollars to pay for television advertisements to run over the forthcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The adverts are to thank Palin for her efforts.

Despite polling evidence that Palin failed to make much impact on any of the groups that McCain strategists hoped she might deliver – women, independent voters and suburbanites – her supporters insisted that she should not be blamed for either McCain’s shortcomings or the legacy of the Bush administration’s failures. Palin herself noted that in view of the Bush record, “it’s amazing we did as well as we did”.

Although anonymous McCain aides had variously described her as a “diva” and a “whack job” and Maureen Dowd of The New York Times derided her last week as “Eliza Know-little”, she has earned plaudits from a surprising range of friends and former foes for keeping her cool under fire.

Camille Paglia, the radical feminist, declared that she had “heartily enjoyed [Palin’s] arrival on the national stage”. She had been subjected to “an atrocious and sometimes delusional level of defamation”, Paglia added. “I can see how smart she is and, quite frankly, I think the people who don’t see it are the stupid ones.”

Joanne Bamberger, the liberal author of the popular PunditMom blog, praised Palin for not “fading into the Alaskan woodwork”, and added: “She’s got some serious chutzpah . . . Palin has taken charge of this moment . . . and she’s making the most of the notoriety that was offered her”.

With publishers as nervous as everyone else about next year’s economic prospects, Palin’s popularity has become a boon. “Nobody is waiting for George W Bush’s memoirs,” one New York agent noted.

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November 2019
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