Morning Fix: Hillary Speaks!
The most fascinating and important relationship in the Obama cabinet -- between the president and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- also happens to be the one we know the least about.
Have these two former rivals for the presidency really made peace? How trusted an adviser is Clinton for the president? How has she adjusted, if at all, to the subordinate role?
The president says little about the nature of their relationship -- limiting it to the broad idea that he likes to be surrounded by the best and the brightest and Clinton fits that bill.
"I actually think that Hillary Clinton has been very much a team player," Obama told Post reporters and editors days before being sworn in as president -- pronouncing himself "extraordinarily happy" with her performance.
Clinton hadn't discussed her new job or her relationship with the president in any way -- until she sat down yesterday day for an interview with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC's "This Week."
Clinton, who never gives away much of her internal thinking to the media, was far from an open book in her sitdown with Stephanpoulos but did give some insight into why she took the job and what she thinks of the man she serves.
The former first lady recounted that when she first heard the secretary of state rumors she dismissed them as media hype, and, even when Obama first asked her about the possibility, she was reluctant to consider it.
What changed her mind?
"Ultimately it came down to my feeling that, number one, when your president asks you to do something for your country, you really need a good reason not to do it," Clinton explained. "Number two, if I had won and I had asked him to please help me serve our country, I would have hoped he would say yes." (We can't help but speculate: If Clinton had won the nomination is there any way she wouldn't have picked Obama for vice president?)
As for putting the nastiness of the campaign -- typified by the "3 a.m." ad that sought to raise questions about Obama's readiness to sit in the big chair -- Clinton insisted it is no longer relevant.
She said Obama would "absolutely" be ready to field a 3 a.m. call with an international emergency, adding: "the president in his public actions and demeanor, and certainly in private with me and with the national security team, has been strong, thoughtful, decisive."
While we tend to be slightly skeptical that everything is absolutely hunky dory between the two former rivals -- a campaign that personal that went on for that long is not so easily forgotten -- it seems clear that Clinton and Obama have found a way to work together without any of the sort of public back-biting that so many expected when the former New York senator was chosen for the Cabinet.
One senior Democratic aide familiar with the interactions between the two described the relationship as "surprisingly warm."
The strength of that relationship will be tested in the coming years as Obama and Clinton seek to find a way toward Middle East peace. Obama, so far, has struck a relatively hard line with the Israelis -- insisting that a two-state solution is the proper course forward.
One theory goes that Obama's willingness to play the "bad cop" (of sorts) is balanced out by Clinton's good cop; she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, are among the most stalwart supporters of Israel in the American government.
Can Clinton and Obama continue to make their relationship work to the mutual benefit of both sides? It's one of the central questions of the first four years of this presidency. So far, so good.
Monday Fix Picks: Watching Roger Federer play tennis is like reading a piece by David Maraniss.
1. Dan Balz on why New Jersey and Virginia governors races matter.
2. What Obama's trip meant.
3. Joe Sestak says only "act of God" will keep him out of Pennsylvania Senate race.
4. Pollster calls Marco Rubio's Senate bid in Florida a "waste of great political talent".
5. Wal-Mart endures.
McAuliffe Moves to Electability Argument: Less than 24 hours before polls open across Virginia, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe has changed his campaign message to focus on electability -- arguing that only he is positioned to beat former state attorney general Bob McDonnell (R) in the governor's race this fall. "Virginia's newspapers agree...Terry McAuliffe is the Democrat who can win in November," says the narrator in a new ad that went up Sunday night. The new ads are accompanied by a more aggressive approach by McAuliffe toward state Sen. Creigh Deeds who has made up considerable ground in recent weeks. Although Deeds is not mentioned in McAuliffe's ad, the former DNC chairman told the Richmond Times Dispatch that Deeds had already lost once to McDonnell -- the Republican edged Deeds by just 323 votes out of more than 1.9 million cast for attorney general in 2005 -- and that the state senator's positions on transportation taxes and gun rights would make him a flawed candidate. Appeals to electability have a very mixed record of success in primaries. Those who vote in these low-turnout affairs tend to be the most devoted of party activists, voters who believe in the principles of the party more than its personalities. As a result, those folks tend to vote with their hearts not their heads.
Davis Is In: Alabama Rep. Artur Davis (D) made his candidacy for governor official this weekend with an announcement in Birmingham. "You can do anything if it's the right thing," said Davis, who is seeking to become the first black governor of the Yellowhammer State. Davis has downplayed comparisons between himself and President Obama although given that the two were classmates at Harvard Law School and that Davis is casting himself as the outsider in the race, the similarities between the two men are patently obvious. Davis will face state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks in the Democratic primary, and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb is also mulling a run. The seat will be vacant in 2010 as Gov. Bob Riley (R) is is term limited. Davis's bid has already drawn national attention and will draw lots more before the race is over.
Click It!: If you missed NBC's fascinating and brilliantly produced look inside the White House, make sure to check it out online. Where else can you see White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel telling reporters he "hates" them and get up close shots of both deputy communications director Dan Pfeiffer AND deputy chief of staff Jim Messina?
Specter Signals Change on Labor Vote: With a rewritten Employee Free Choice Act likely to be introduced in Congress within the next month, Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter is signaling he is likely to back the legislation -- a major priority of the labor community. "I believe you'll be satisfied with my vote on this issue," Specter told a group of union activists in Pittsburgh over the weekend, according to a story on the Allentown Morning Call's blog. Specter essentially killed the first version of EFCA when, still a Republican, he announced his opposition to the bill -- switching his position from when it was last voted on by the Senate. Circumstances have changed mightily since then, however, with Specter's party switch, an unhappy labor movement and the very real prospect of a primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak (D) next year. To win that primary, Specter must -- we repeat, must -- find a way to vote for some version of EFCA. Otherwise, he hands Sestak an incredibly potent issue amid signs that Democratic primary voters remain undecided about how they feel about the newest member of their party.
Follow Me: Looking for a foreign policy fix in 140-characters of less? Here's three good foreign policy Twitter feeds to check out (courtesy of the Fix Twosse): German Marshall Fund, Foreign Policy magazine and AfPak Channel.
Say What?: "I think this is a kind of a sideshow." -- David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, on the controversy surrounding Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comments during an interview with CNN's John King.
June 8, 2009; 5:24 AM ET
Categories: Morning Fix
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