I have something to say on the subject of Hillary Clinton.
And it’s too bad that Dave’s in the “out of love” phase of his revolving-door romance with Facebook, and that Bill has steadily resisted its allure. Because they’d be able to confirm that what I say here is what I’ve said over the past two years, as the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton evolved.
Obama, as I’ve said, has had my support since he finished his speech at the convention in 2004. I’ve never wavered from that conviction.
Nonetheless, I was troubled by much of the venom spewed towards Hillary by my fellow Obama supporters during the primary—and indeed, during the campaign. First and foremost, because being pissed off and vituperative at the other guy’s antics has never been what Obama represents. But also because, though some of that spite was deserved—she ran a needlessly long and strident campaign—the resentment was exaggerated.
I felt, and said, that some of the acrimony was gender-based. Clinton was a jerk, but that’s SOP, especially in presidential primaries and campaigns—pure spite is a tradition as well-established in American political history as folksy rhetoric. For example, in one rather famous 19th-century presidential campaign, a candidate was described by his opponent as “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father”.
The camp that issued that statement? John Adams’—about Thomas Jefferson.
Barack Obama’s different from other politicians not because they're especially mean and nasty about him (though Palin, as I’ve said before, dug straight through the bottom of the barrel), but because he avoids being mean and nasty in return as much as is humanly possible.
So when Clinton gave her concession speech, I found it both admirable and well-phrased. And I said to Bill the next day, “He should choose her for VP.”
Bill was horrified, as were the fellow Obama supporters to whom I said the same thing at the law school. VP? After that campaign? She was horrible, damn near evil, and she’d slammed Obama too much for it to work even if he did it.
I maintained that they’d be a dream team, a team with the kind of potent brainpower and imposing, intimidating, overwhelming talent that blessed Augustus, Marc Antony, and Lepidus.
Obama chose Joe Biden—a choice I could happily back—and I told Bill the next day, over burgers at Steak n’ Shake, that Obama should choose Clinton as his Secretary of State.
Again, Bill was aghast. Did I remember some of the things she’d said?
I cut him off with three words: Team of Rivals.
For those unfamiliar with the phrase, it’s the title of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning chronicle of Lincoln’s Cabinet—a Cabinet composed of all his major rivals for the Republican nomination.
Lincoln, my worship of whom (yes, worship; ask Dave about the look on my face as we stood in the Lincoln Memorial on the 4th) would demand tens of essays to contain, was brilliant enough to realize that the people most qualified to advise him on national affairs were those who, like he, aspired to run the country.
And he was dedicated enough to his country’s health and success, and confident enough in his capacity to meet the challenges such appointments would bring, to act on that realization.
I’ve long said—only Bill, to my knowledge, has said it for longer—that Obama, in terms of the quality of his governance, truly has the ability to be the next Lincoln. And that holds true for Obama’s Cabinet appointments: he has the requisite brilliance, the strength of will and force of personality, to both realize the same thing Lincoln did and to put that realization to work.
Hillary Clinton would be a fantastic Secretary of State. Period. She’d be fantastic for the same reason that she’d be a formidable lieutenant in anything: when Hillary Clinton walks into a room, everyone in it sits up.
Secretaries of State are most often diplomats and, in fact if not in appearance, negotiators—and both on a global scale. Scalpel-sharp statecraft is their stock in trade. The people on the other side of the table from Clinton know she’s walked into the room to do business, and that behind the gracious smile and perfect composure are both a calculating intellect and every fact, figure and authority on the subject they’re there to discuss.
She’s a force to be reckoned with—one who’ll do everything that needs to be done to achieve the purpose for which she walked into the room—and everyone in the world knows it.
Obama is a man of both vision and logic. He has the wit to recognize that those with that kind of relentless faculty, that kind of powerful capability—even, and maybe especially, if they think differently than he does and have the spine to tell him so—are people who will serve he, his Cabinet, and his country best.
To quote: “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation…”
Barack Obama has always said that we need to work together, and has always behaved as he asks us to behave. Always.
And he’s always applied his mind to a problem, found the best possible solution, and held to it—even if others found it outrageous.
Why should this be any different?
11/16/2008 at 16:10
Clinton, Clearsightedness, and the Cabinet
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