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Why Clinton Can't Decide

Will New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton be the next secretary of State? (Photo by Melina Mara of the Washington Post)

UPDATED, 11:30 pm: A Clinton adviser emails with some other thoughts about the seeming indecision by the New York Senator about the Secretary of State position.

"I think she's in legacy planning mode and needs to figure out how to make a mark over the next five years since that is her window," said the adviser, granted anonymity to speak about private deliberations. "After that, the jockeying among Democrats for president in 2016 begins and she will fade (assuming she isn't one of the Democrats running in 2016)."

The plot thickens...


So the question facing her is whether she can make a mark as one of 100 and as a senator that lacks a specific jurisdiction over the issues she cares most about vs having a set turf (in the state dept) and platform from which she can command a spotlight.

Although plenty of other political stories are sure to come and go over the next few days, there is only one MAJOR story out there: Will New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton be secretary of State in President-elect Barack Obama's Administration?

Ever since it was revealed late last week that the one-time rivals had huddled in Chicago to discuss the possibility of Clinton heading up the State Department, cable news, radio shows, newspapers, and online news sources have been dominated by speculation about whether she will take the job or not and why. (Set aside for the moment the potential complications presented by former President Bill Clinton's work in foreign countries and the financial disclosure issues regarding his presidential library fundraising that might arise during the vetting process.)

There is a growing sentiment that Clinton should just make up her mind already -- either say "yes" or "no" to avoid dragging the process out any longer. (Politico's Glenn Thrush, a veteran of the New York political scene, wrote a piece last night suggesting that Clinton remains undecided about what to do.)

While that sentiment is not unexpected, it is unrealistic based on what we know of Clinton and her thoughts on her own political future.

Talk to anyone who was a member of the Clinton campaign -- inner or outer circle -- and they will tell you that the New York senator was single-mindedly committed to winning the Democratic nomination and the White House until the day she decided to end her campaign.

Time and time again during the campaign when it looked like she simply could not overcome Obama's pledged delegate edge, we would ask Clinton aides whether she ever talked privately about the prospect of not winning. To a person, they insisted she never spoke about the possibility.

So, when she ultimately did concede, Clinton had only just begun to grapple with the idea that she would not now -- and might not ever -- be the president of the United States.

And, don't forget, that Clinton's six years in the Senate before she began running for president were generally regarded -- even by her critics -- as surprisingly productive and bipartisan. She clearly relished her role in the chamber and was, by almost all accounts, enjoying herself.

For a moment put yourself in Clinton's shoes. Imagine if a longtime life aspiration had been foreclosed relatively suddenly; you probably would not begin immediately to plot your next move, but rather would, almost assuredly, take some time to figure out what your options were and what you really wanted to do with the rest of your life.

So it is with Clinton, according to those familiar with her thinking.

"She is definitely unsure of what to do," said one Clinton adviser granted anonymity to speak candidly about the New York senator's state of mind. "She was flattered by the offer and thinks Senator Obama and his team have been good to work with."

The source added that if Clinton ultimately decides against the job, it won't be because of the vetting process but rather because her interest in domestic policy issues -- particularly health care and energy policy -- ultimately trumps her desire to play a large role on the foreign stage. (Clinton was chosen by Sen. Ted Kennedy on Tuesday to head a task force on health insurance reform.)

While that line of reasoning makes sense to us -- especially when considering that Clinton may have never even thought of the possibility that she could be secretary of State until six days ago -- there is a line of thinking in the political world that nothing the Clintons do is without calculation.

If you ascribe to that idea, then this push by her advisers to paint Clinton as equivocating on her desire for the position could well be part of a power struggle between her and Obama; a public show of force to make clear that just because the president-elect has asked her for something doesn't mean she is in any rush to accede.

Given all that Clinton has been through since she announced her bid for president in January 2007, it seems entirely plausible that she legitimately hasn't made up her mind about what she should do with the rest of her political life and will take the rest of the week to decide whether she wants to continue in elected office or walk down a different path.

Regardless of her reasoning, the political world waits as she ponders the possibilities.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 19, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  White House  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: AK-Senate: Begich Wins
Next: 1,000 Words


What this reminds me most of is the end of the primary. Hillary had already lost, but she wanted to take some "time" to consider her options and wind down. According to some reports she was going to need a week or two to concede. Fortunately Clyburn stepped in and told her to get on with it. Who is going to administer that pill now? And how would this kind of public agonizing over decisions play from the State Department?

Posted by: Jenny6 | November 20, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

You are all missing a big piece of the story. This is not all merely political. It is personal.

I believe the one great struggle that has defined the Clinton's lives- both for their marriage and their careers- is the crossroads they came to when they finished at Yale. They either had to break up or one of them would have to give up everything else professionally in order to be with the other. That is a terribly painful situation to be in. Ultimately what she chose was to go to Arkansas to be with her husband- a decision with huge emotional consequences for someone of her generation. I don't think it was easy for her to make that decision or easy for her to live with it- and I don't think it has been easy for her husband to live with it, either. We have all seen the emotional fallout for both of them.

This decision is reminicient of that earlier choice. Will she love this job enough to give up her independence? That is undoubtedly not an easy question.

Posted by: stephanie2 | November 20, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I hope the decision is made soon, so that we can end this media sideshow. It's amazing how little of the coverage really bears on whether she'd be any good at this. As for the usual nonsense about "ambition", no one seems to mind if anyone else has ambitions, even if they're halfwits like our current President.

Posted by: thebuckguy | November 20, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Let her go to State. I don't think it's a good fit and worry about President Obama if she takes it, but speaking as a New Yorker, our state needs two senators. We're operating with just one, and have been for a long time. It's wearying, hearing her "Big Chill" ruminations over her career and future, always with the assumption that New Yorkers will keep her senate seat warm forever. A new Senate appointment would boost morale in NY a mile.

Posted by: Niverville | November 20, 2008 5:15 AM | Report abuse





This is shaping up to be the weakest cabinet since..... Lincoln - did anyone bother to tell Obama that Lincoln went from defeat to defeat for years - killing more and more people each time....

The war was a disaster for this country, there was no glory to it.

Did anyone tell Obama that Lincoln took years to settle on a General??

Did anyone tell Obama that Lincoln's administration was the worst in history, one which almost had several coups???

Keep Hillary out of the line of succession - that would be a good idea - I would not want to be in the line of succession between Hillary and the top - NO WAY.





Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 20, 2008 12:23 AM | Report abuse

I am a huge fan of Hillary, and if she needs more time, this is certainly understandable. Her decision will affect the rest of her life in a dramatic way. It's no easy decision, for sure. She'll be great whatever she decides.

I can't believe so many people fall for this "drama" bit...It isn't that the Clintons are so dramatic, it's that the press is "obsessive" about the Clintons, and this obsession leads to the exaggerations, distortions, tabloid headlines, ratings wars, aka "drama". Everybody just take a deep breath.

Hillary, Give 'Em Hell !!!

Posted by: karenmb | November 19, 2008 10:42 PM | Report abuse

"considering that Clinton may have never even thought of the possibility that she could be secretary of State until six days ago" ...

Oh BS. The possibility has been being kicked around by political junkies ever since it became obvious she wasn't getting the nomination. There is NO WAY she hasn't thought of it.

And yes, she should end the Agonizing Suspense and just decide. But I'm not counting on that any time soon; I'm sure she's enjoying reading all the speculation (even though at least 50% of it is hardly flattering to her) and enjoying being a teaser.

And once she decides (assuming she accepts), that will just be the BEGINNING of the drama.

Posted by: herzliebster | November 19, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

And what pray tell is "legacy planning mode?' Can anything ever happen with the Clintons that does not involve angst, drama, and calculation?

I was tired of them in 2000 but I fear they will never go away.

Posted by: jayham | November 19, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

I just wonder, if she does become Sec State, what will happen to the Ditto heads?
Can they survive the four to eight years of her being the voice of reason and diplomatic moderation? Will their heads explode? Will Rush relapse back into the hippy crack (if he ever quit)?
My guess is she'll take the job and three weeks later Michelle Malkin will be arrested outside Foggy Bottom, dressed as a Ninja, cradling a nine millimeter and babbling about how she has to "save America!"

Posted by: dijetlo | November 19, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Hard decision for Senator Clinton. She has status and influence where she is right now, beholden to nobody but her voters, and not even to them until the next Senatorial election... the position of Secretary of State provides a different sort or status and influence, more notorious, but less independent, since a really good Secretary of State must speak, faithfully, for the President, rather than for herself.

No matter whether you ascribe to her motives of base personal ambition, or the noblest hopes to accomplish something good and useful, the calculus is, at one time, both comparing apples to oranges, and comparing a bird in the hand with one in the bush. Not an easy call.

I'd never really been much of a Clinton fan, but she's got the charisma (pay no attention to those right wing-nuts gnawing the legs of the furniture in frustration), the skills and the experience, and might make a very good Secretary of State. From what I hear, the people of New York consider that she's a pretty good Senator, now. Like I said, tough call.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | November 19, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

with due deliberation: that is the very quality that won obama the presidency during that first week of the financial crisis when his opponent was leaping about so frantically.
we find it in hillary too. . .that careful deliberative quality. So we should respect it and give her the time she needs to MAKE UP HER MIND ALREADY.

Posted by: artetal | November 19, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I have waffled on HRC as SecState. First, I thought we needed a diplomat with administrative ability. Then I was convinced by others that the need to work the Congress for funding was the first priority at State. Then a friend suggested that a D Admin seeking support from a D Congress would not be difficult.

Thus I have come full circle and believe that BHO should appoint Chris Hill, who has been a lead negotiator for Bush 41, Clinton, and GWB. He currently is East Asia chief at State, I believe, and is the reason we saw that nuke cooling tower tumble in N. Korea. Let us have a tough negotiator with a strong background at State serving both parties as the first step to rebuilding a bipartisan FP - the only part of American politics that generally requires bipartisanship.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 19, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Hillary is the best, and that we can trust her. When I saw her courageously exiting that plane in Bosnia under gunfire, I knew this was someone we could trust.

Posted by: CuckooRaja | November 19, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Hillary is the best. She should have been President. We would be lucky indeed to have her as Secretary of State. But it's her decision, and she should take her time making it. Whatever she does, wherever she is, she will be working hard on behalf of us all. She has earned the right to choose her own future direction.

Posted by: realsister1 | November 19, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

I love our varying views. I would personally appreciate it if Hillary said yes for the job. I trust her. She's quite competent and able, even given her experience.

Compared to others, she would rank #1 on the list for consideration in my opinion.

I think Bill Richardson would be a great choice as well.

Posted by: Obama2008 | November 19, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

As long as Bill can be in charge of State Affairs I'm fine.

Posted by: leapin | November 19, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Obama will press himself and his people to their limits, and that is why Hillary Clinton will take the job.

Posted by: thewolf1 | November 19, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Chris, this is a good article. However, let's not bow to pressure from your fellow misogynist frat-boys' tactics to malign further Sen. Hillary Clinton's historic role in the campaign and her phenomenal example for millions of young girls aspiring to the presidency one day.

Let's not further diminish this competent, caring and dedicated to public service woman.

Senator Kennedy back in l970 was in the car in which Mary Jo Kopechne (his brother Bobby's campaign worker) was drowned inexplicably. Ted avoided the police like the plague so as not to tarnish the Kennedy legacy. Twenty five years later he protected (against logic) his playboy nephew's despicable rape of an innocent woman who dared lay charges against a "Kennedy name".

It is ironic that Kennedy has managed to vindictively hold onto the Senate Health Committee. It is cruel that he has not allowed Sen. HIllary Clinton, by far the more experienced and caring of the rest of the senators--all lackeys in this lacklustre senate and government not-by-the-people--to take charge of the Sub Committee on Health!

Ah, Teddy boy, when will you learn that you have to give us your claim to fame and let others who truly care about health reform take over.

To selfishly and vindictively refuse to give Hillary Clinton the Sub Committee and Obama throwing the crumbs to the woman who received more of a popular vote than he, by deputizing her with this mickey-mouse Insurance Reform kindergarten shabby politics as usual. And misogynist at its deepest level. Shame on Teddy and Barack!

Posted by: MSakel | November 19, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Dagnabbit. Ambition and ego aren't bad things. Would you really want a person to run for President that didn't have ambition or a certain sense of self?

Even though my personal preference would be for Obama to name Hilliary to the Supreme Court after Ruth Bader Ginsberg steps down (even though admittedly she doesn't have any judicial experience), I think Hilliary should take the job at State. She would restore a sense of foreign policy as a top priority, unlike Condi Rice who was relegated to the "B Team" by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Posted by: owiz | November 19, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

jbritt3 - interesting take. I'm inclined to agree.

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 19, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if this thought will mean anything to journalists, like Chris Cillizza, who cover campaign politics for a living. In that world, Hillary Clinton has been a colossus for years.

I suggest looking at her from a different angle. Looking through the books written on the last eight years -- Tom Ricks', Gellman's, Suskind's and others -- Hillary Clinton hardly comes up. In fairness, she has that in common with many other members of Congress, in an age when the legislative branch has chosen to surrender many of its prerogatives in important policy areas. The point is that when "sources," well placed or not, describe Clinton's career as unusually bipartisan and productive, the observation is not generally accompanied by discussion of anything she's accomplished. And there hasn't been much -- which one would expect from a junior Senator of the minority party preoccupied with her own Presidential campaign for much of her tenure.

Personally, I don't think the legacy Hillary Clinton leaves is of any concern to anyone but her. It's certainly not something I care about. I do care about American foreign policy, and of the importance to that subject of having an experienced, creative professional running the State Department. That isn't Hillary Clinton. If Obama actually has offered her the job, what her reported indecision may do is give him an opportunity to reconsider an absolutely terrible idea.

Posted by: jbritt3 | November 19, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton is a highly talented politician (a word I am not using in a derogatory sense), and appointing her SoS would be a natural outcome of the political process that has been unfolding over the past year. However, let's also recognize that foreign policy has not been the focus of her career (she is a domestic-policy wonk), and as SoS her job would be to carry out the foreign policies of President Obama and the rest of his national security team. So, in order to be succesful, she would have to be a subordinate in the whole policy making/executing process--that despite all the political clout, personal renown, and symbolism that she would bring to the job.

And then there is Bill. For this to succeed, Bill would have to swear a mighty oath to keep himself, his philanthropy, and his army of foreign financial supporters out of any business that has any connection with U.S. foreign policy. This, I believe, would have to be done publicly, not sotto voce to Obama in some dark back room, and it would have to be accompanied by full public disclosure of all his financial and political dealings since leaving the White House. Bill would in addition be well advised to reorient his very busy and public life toward purely domestic matters; it would also be good if he would forswear raising one more dollar for his presidential library as long as Hillary is SoS. And it might be a good idea for Bill (along with making full public disclosure of all his financial affairs) to take over Hillary's Senate seat.

If the Clintons can't bring themselves to making such compromises, then Hillary should stay in the Senate and help Ted Kennedy get healthcare reform and green legislation through Congress and onto Obama's desk for signing. With Kennedy soon to leave the scene, the way would indeed be clear for her to take over his (highly honorable) role of Great Liberal in the Senate--and that would by no means close off her option of running for president in 2016.

The worst scenario would be for Hillary to become SoS without full clarification of Bill's past and future role, and without ironclad limits on his influence over foreign policy.

I am sure that Obama is aware of all this. I hope that Hillary's fervent backers will also recognize the amount of damage that would befall everyone--including the Clintons--should she be given State without putting Bill into irons.

Posted by: jm917 | November 19, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Divergent Views vs. Divergent Agenda

Building management staff consisting of divergent views is smart. But to select one who brings divergent agenda tied to those views is not smart at all. When you're the boss, the worst thing that can happen in your administration is to discover that a staff member is placing his or her agenda above yours, especially when that staff member carries a strong support base. Any good manager avoids this situation at all costs. If Barrack Obama places Hillary Clinton in the position of Secretary of State he will show us that he's not the wise man that we thought he was.

Posted by: kcooper35 | November 19, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Hillary is not the best choice for State, but would be acceptable. However, there is not another serious woman candidate for one of the big three cabinet secretaries. Shelia Bair at Treasury is the next most likely one, but she is a very long shot. Obama had no choice, I think, than to select Hillary for either State or Defense (and keeping Gates on for awhile makes too much sense). Women would hold it against Obama if, after their support, a woman is not among the big three secretaries. Should Hillary stay in the Senate, at least he offered it, and that should help him.

Posted by: Byron5 | November 19, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"ddawd: The Rice interview:

For future reference, go to On the left (downscreen) there is a link for Sunday Magazine. The above link is from that page.

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 19, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse "

Oh, ok. Thanks. I had actually come across this interview. I thought it was people who worked for Rice. I guess just the individual answers that are ascribed to other people aren't hers but all the other ones are.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 19, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Clinton can't decide because the cameras are on and she will milk whatever media coverage she gets for everything it is worth. Clinton relishes in drama.

Posted by: fletc3her | November 19, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

With all indications pointing to Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health, Sen. Clinton's options are rapidly closing down. If he takes that position, Daschle will be a powerful and effective force for health care reform and will make that his top priority. So Hillary will not be able to make that her signature program.

Her best bet would be to take the Sec of State offer and make a lasting contribution to bringing peace to the Middle East. If she can make a difference in that arena her place in history will be set. Otherwise she returns to the Senate and remains a rather junior member of the club until her retirement.

Posted by: dee5 | November 19, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton can not change her own nature. Nobody can. But she also does not want to, or it is the essential part of her own nature, which makes her especially stubborn and especially narrow-minded. These qualities are fully unacceptable in any secretary _of_state. She would embarrass the country and president Obama, and he would fire her, which would finish her legacy even much worse than Powell legacy was finished by his presentation in UN before the start of Iraqi war. All, what I have written above, is obvious, and, everybody, who paid attention to USA politics, knows it. If I were in her shoes, I would prefer to sit quietly than to try to attract any attention, but I have the completely different nature. However, her technique and her abilities ‘to turn tables’, etc. are not going to work FOR HER now. And she can not do anything differently.

Posted by: aepelbaum | November 19, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

she won't go for it because she doesn't trust obama, one difference in opinion and if she is let go, she is out of washington, payback for the primary...
this is the first test of trust for obama and he will fail...

Posted by: DwightCollins | November 19, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Do the Clinton's ever do anything without it becoming a soap opera? She (they) still don't get it: in the end, it's not about them or their place in History. They are temporary players in a history that will go on with or without them.

Posted by: ljines1 | November 19, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton will make Americans especially women in American and around the world proud in this Secretary of State position.

Hillary is our Joan of Arc!!!!!!!!

Posted by: HillaryClintonSupporter | November 19, 2008 10:48 AM |

Does our current Secretary of State make you proud? How about the previous secretary of State, the first black SOS in history? How about the one prior to that, the first female SOS in history? I'm glad the thought of Hillary as SOS makes you proud, but how about the previous 3 trailblazers in that post?

Posted by: NMModerate1 | November 19, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I am not a Hillary fan. I believe she is a capable and qualified candidate; however, her dog with a bone style is not to my liking and I find it contradicts the style of diplomacy I would expect from the Obama administration. That being said, she also proved for many years to be capable of performing well in an orchestrated role. I somehow doubt that is the legacy she has planned for herself.

Posted by: lindaj4 | November 19, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

She should go for it.

Posted by: MUPPET | November 19, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Please excuse the potty humor, but if all you say is true, then Hillary needs to 's*** or get off the pot.'

The last thing we need at this moment is indecisiveness, especially when it stems from a self-centered need to do "legacy planning."

From a straight-forward policy standpoint, I frankly think Richardson is much better suited to fulfilling Obama's foreign policy promises than Hillary, who chastised Obama during the campaign about sitting down with Iran, Cuba and the rest. (For his part, Richardson wholly backed such an approach.)

Moreover, Hillary's big persona -- and big baggage -- make this a choice full of pratfalls. For all there is to admire about the woman, and there's plenty, playing the dutiful second fiddle just isn't her strong point.

Posted by: armar | November 19, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

ddawd: The Rice interview:

For future reference, go to On the left (downscreen) there is a link for Sunday Magazine. The above link is from that page.

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 19, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I think it is really funny to read all of this DC intrigue and musings. I think you all should go do some studying on Hawaiian Culture--not the kind you get from visiting Waikiki or Lahaina, but the kind that comes from living there, understanding Ohana and understanding your place in it. I hope that President Obama goes back to Hawaii at least once a year to keep his aloha--DC has a way of sapping that right out of people.

Posted by: Pepper88 | November 19, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I am not a Clinton fan, but that said I think she is an inspired pick. I think he is thinking long-term with her.

If she decided to play nice with Obama and help make his administration a success, she could be very well position to carry on as the standard bearer in 2016 (Biden will probably be too old, but a woman at 68 is like a man at 63 in terms of lifespan). I think Obama realizes the combination of a successful 8 years plus Clinton's base would make her a very formidable candidate in 2016, one who could carry the Democrats to the third term they have not seen since the days of FDR/Truman (and beat off the Huns coming down from Alaska or somewhere else).

Posted by: MShake | November 19, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

ravitchn, ALL politicians have ambition. They ALL want power. They are ALL - to use your term - "conceited" enough to think that they should ask hundreds or thousands or millions of people to vote for them.

They are ALL willing to stick their necks out to face both the praise and the criticisms of those hundreds or thousands or millions of people - running the gamut of being called a "traitor" to the "savior".

Would you be willing to do that?

If Obama didn't have ambition, he wouldn't have been elected president.

When did ambition become a bad thing?

Posted by: dognabbit | November 19, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

No, 'ascribe' is NOT a synonym for 'subscribe.'

It is a synonym for 'attribute' or 'assign.'

Posted by: mikeinmidland | November 19, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Hillary is just trying to figure out what would be best for her ambitions. She is a woman of extraordinary ambition and conceit and sometimes it is hard to have a plan when the last plan unexpectedly, thanks to Obama, failed to work.

Posted by: ravitchn | November 19, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

"If you ascribe to that idea,...."

Ascribe? Ascribe???

Chris, fer cryin out loud, start using a dictionary...often.

Posted by: wpost4112 | November 19, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I love everyone saying Hillary married to Bill when she is SOS is a bad thing because he took moneys to go to a charity

Bill Clinton brings almost as much respect as Obama does around the world...he's a brainiac wonk...ego and sexual ethics challenges and all.

He may be a gorilla in the room... but like Yukon Cornelius said about the scary bumbles..."look at what he can do"

as he put the star on the tree.

Rudolph still saved christmas... even with the giant in the room...

Obama is a good manager...he has p[roven how good for 2 years.

whatever drama Bill's to the side...and two degrees of separation...

it definitely doesn't outweigh (even close) the positives he brings ...and more importantly Hillary brings to that positions ability to get Obaam's teams agenda done.

Posted by: klondike2 | November 19, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I hope she takes the job. I remember her excellent speech at the United Nations' World Conference on Women in Beijing in September, 1995.

But I suspect she really likes her role as Senator and her life in DC, and will ultimately turn down the offer.

I hope not, but why else the long delay?

The sooner this is decided, the better.

Posted by: wpost4112 | November 19, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Broder was totally wrong actually..

this isn't Jr. high as much as "office" or "company town" gossip like to make these leaders otu to be...

he iognores Obama's ability to do one thing he has shown all along differently than anyone we have seen in office in a long time...

manage a modern...good CEO.

What obama needs numero uno in the role of SOS is the person who brings the most weight to the table...carrying his and his team's agenda.

Hillary would be part of that team

a team that is either going to succeed and all of them make out...

or they fail...and at this point with the tidal wave of destruction that would come...

none of their future careers will matter if they don't.

Posted by: klondike2 | November 19, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I think Hillary would be a great Sec of State.

I supported Obama since he announced in '07, but Hillary has always shown an impressive graps of the issues and the complexities of the world in 2008. Bill would have some baggage, but he would also bring an enormous wealth of experience to bear.

I think it'd be great for America.

Posted by: AdrickHenry | November 19, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Gator-ron, I'm sorry that swatkins1 attributed my quote to you.

swatkins, I expressed an opinion and you expressed an opinion. You said, "Enough!" You think Hillary is nothing but a mind game artist. Fine, that's your opinion.

But I'm not "thoughtlessly screaming invective." I'm responding to the negativity toward Hillary and toward Chris' thoughts.

I don't hate you for your opinion. Express yourself. I'm just telling you my reaction to it.

Posted by: dognabbit | November 19, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

I suspect she is equivocating because becoming SoS would not be good for her, and would not be good for the country. Her instincts are in conflict with her ego. For starters, SoS's rarely serve more than 4 years; so what does she do after that gig? There is no clear path to a presidential nomination this way. She basically retires at 65. Compare this to the alternative of staying in the Senate and becoming its most powerful and influential member in the next 6 to 8 years. Ted's having just bequeathed the health care mantel must make that alternative seem all the more attractive. Maybe this time she can, working with Obama, finally fix healthcare - a rare chance at a do-over and to make up for having blown it 14 years ago. There is other symbolism at work her: Ted may also be bequeathing her the 'liberal lion' mantel, something he won after his own failed presidential bid.
I don't think this works that well for Obama either. While she is certainly very capable and could do the job, she is not really a diplomat or foreign policy expert (Richard Holbrooke would be an excellent choice). And I just don't see her as someone who, if she disagreed with the boss, would concede without a fight. Then there is the Bill problem and the Clinton Global Initiative. I like Bill and his initiative - but it becomes a semi-official thing and a potential morass if Hillary becomes SoS. Today's WaPo referred to it as a headache. That's an understatement.
Bottom line is that Obama has spent too much time with Doris Kearns Goodwin's book. David Broder and the WaPo editorial staff have it right. Obama should look to someone else, and Hillary should see that her future is brighter in the Senate.

Posted by: wmw4 | November 19, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton will make Americans especially women in American and around the world proud in this Secretary of State position.

Hillary is our Joan of Arc!!!!!!!!

Posted by: HillaryClintonSupporter | November 19, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Gator-ron | November 19, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse
I can't stand all the Hillary bashers on this site!
What's wrong with you people? Cynics! Critics! Haters!
Hillary Clinton would be a well-respected and effective Secretary of State.
Really, move on.

Sorry you don't care for opposing points of view. I personally dislike people like you thoughtlessly screaming your invective, as though you were our mommy. Your candidate lost the vote. Deal with it.

Seriously. Lighten Up.

Posted by: swatkins1 | November 19, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Luckily for President Lincoln, Seward proved to be a loyal and highly productive cabinet member. He was also not married to Bill Clinton and had no discalimers to make. I would find it difficult to find many similarities between Hillary and Seward. She is highly competitive, so much so that her election campaign even used the race card against Obama, more than once. Furthermore, wherever the Clintons go they bring an element of needleass melo-drama and hidden sleeze. For the sake of a nation that desperately needs to heal itself, let's hope that Obama brings in other political opponents more capable of doing what is best for the nation rather than fulfilling their own egos.

Posted by: rgn1 | November 19, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

anyone who thinks this isn't going to happen...

isn't as smart as Obama or Clinton

and does not see the tidal wave we are facing...

the A team is needed and they all know that...

it's fun to spin it otherwise but go look at Hillary's friend Steenburgen's speaks a 1000 times more to what reality is than a bunch of nondisclosed "advisors" who like to seem important to their press contacts.

Posted by: klondike2 | November 19, 2008 10:42 AM | Report abuse

and may I add...that i was not a Hillaary fan as you know from the primary...but her as SOS Obama as pres and Biden as VP

nothing could be better for the US right now.

smart people...respected by the world leading behind closed doors...

who have a lot more personal and "real" communication and interaction than the pundits that cover them.

Posted by: klondike2 | November 19, 2008 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Hillary Clinton Mind Games are not what we need. Thi sis not Hillary Clinton's Administration. Screw her pettiness. I suggest steering as far away from her as possible. You can be assured that if Hillary gains access to the new Administration, she will turn it into her own little head games play. Enough! Kick her out and put her back in the Senate.

Posted by: swatkins1 | November 19, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Neither one of them are serious. HRC wanted to be asked, but doesn't want to serve. BO doesn't want her to serve, but owes her for her work during the general election campaign. When this does not work out, they will come up with a face saving reason for both of them. Probably something to do with her long standing desire to get health care legislation passed.

Posted by: bigskells | November 19, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse


you are buying into the gossip of pundits.

Look at the interview with Steenburgen this morning.

The statements and motions from Bill releasing his records.
Her body language their meeting.

She decided.
and so has Obama.

It makes for good gossip in washington circles...but gossip based on the game telephone and not the reality of what we see happening in front of us...and their real interaction...not what happened between advisors and a gossip hungry press.

This is a good move for both of them...two very intelligent people with similar philosophies (no matter the tactics and spin from the primaries...they see the world...almost identically) and who obviously , if you look closely have a good business rapport and an entertaining respect for each other (I work in film and tv...and they are not that good of actors...they aren't)...

so don't buy into the spin...

the release of records and how that is rolled out from Bill is the only thing left to decide.

Posted by: klondike2 | November 19, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

March 2008 memo from Greg Craig, recently named Obama W.H. Counsel, on Sen. Clinton's "credentials" on international matters:

"In this campaign, Senator Clinton has argued – remarkably – that she wasn't actually voting for war, she was voting for diplomacy. That claim is no more credible than her other claims of foreign policy experience. The real tragedy is that we are still living with the terrible consequences of her misjudgment. The Bush Administration continues to cite that resolution as its authorization – like a blank check – to fight on with no end in sight."

Posted by: rfpiktor | November 19, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Obama talks a good game but talk is cheap.
Posted by: sque1
Speculation is cheap. No one really knows Obama's thinking on "considering" HRC for SOS, but it will be interesting to see how the outcome live up or down to all the speculation.

Posted by: joyful45 | November 19, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Obama's offer to Sen Clinton for SoS was made for reasons of governance rather than for his own political future. The choice of Biden was made for the same reason. Obama does not make long term decisions based on his political situation although short term decisions are made with that in mind.

Gov Richardson will not be the SoS. He simply lacks the stature for that position. As much as I hate to admit ir Mrs Clinton is the ideal choice for that job. I can understand her hesitancy to take the job and frankly from the standpoint of her personal career, it would be a set back. From the standpoint of service to the country SoS is the way to best serve the country.

As one who has felt that Mrs Clinton is overly concerned about what is good for Hillary, I would view her as a potential candidate for presidential candidate. In the 2008 primary I felt that it should be anyone but Clinton.

This is the time to put service to country first Mrs Clinton. Make the decision to do things differently than in the past, that is, less calculated, the results in the future may also turn out differently. I certainly hope it would.

Posted by: Gator-ron | November 19, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I can't stand all the Hillary bashers on this site!

What's wrong with you people? Cynics! Critics! Haters!

You haven't been paying attention. Hillary actually cares about doing the right thing for all Americans. You included!

Hillary Clinton would be a well-respected and effective Secretary of State.

Chris put forth a thoughtful piece on the state of mind of HRC -- and Chris is a closer observer of politics than any of you are. But you're all so narrow-minded that you may never be swayed from your belief in old stereotypes.

Really, move on.

Posted by: dognabbit | November 19, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

She's a classic 'pooper-scooper' -- somebody at her best when there's a big stinky mess to clean up. You've seen her in action: gathering the best minds, sorting through conflicting opinions, making very cogent recommendations in very specific terms. Unfortunately, that's the job at State. That's more of a negotiator- cum-figurehead position.

So despite State's prestige, it isn't the place to really showcase her obvious talents.

I'm guessing she stays in the Senate and eventually runs for Leader.

Plus then Bill can go on earning those fabulous fees.

Posted by: Samson151 | November 19, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The election is over. Mature people recognize the heat of campaigning and let go after the final vote is counted. Barack Obama has been the mature focal point of post-election sanity. ..............

Posted by: glclark4750 | November 19, 2008 10:24 AM | Report abuse


Isn't it also plausible that Obama knew from the start that Bill's "entangling alliances" would preclude Hillary's accepting an offer contingent upon a full vetting of the former president's foundation donors?

By floating the SoS possibility, Obama has enhanced Hillary's stature, and arguably, her power. That works to the advantage of both Obama and the Clintons.

Now Hillary can gracefully remove her name from contention, her political capital enhanced, by deciding to continue her important work in the Senate.

And maybe there's a ticket to the Supreme Court in a couple years thrown into the deal for good measure.



Posted by: scrivener50 | November 19, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

"Hillary has to decide" -- more arrogance -- has she been offered the appointment? Not to my knowledge. If she does not get the apppointment, she wants it to look like she refused it rather than she was not offered it.

Posted by: evelynadele | November 19, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Hillary as Secretary of State would be another "two-for-one" deal with Bill. They are both liars and opportunists. I think she would still have her eye on the presidency -- in 2012 -- and together the Clintons could undermine Obama. Do not know how she could pass the vetting. I think Bill cost her the nomination, and will cost her the Secretary's job. Bill has to release all the information on his finances and a list of the contributions made by foreigners if she has a chance.

Posted by: evelynadele | November 19, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

For me it would be a no brainer. I would and I think Hillary should stay in the Senate. She has eight years seniority and is most visible Senator in the body. I expect the Democrats to dominate this body over the next twenty years and she can shape this nation as much as Obama can during this period.

Posted by: bradcpa | November 19, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

If Clinton takes the job, New York Gov. Paterson will get to appoint her replacement.

My suggestion? Caroline Kennedy. She endorsed Obama early, and would be an exciting choice to pick up the mantle of her fading uncle in the Senate.

By the way, here's a link for the Rice interview in the NYT Magazine:

Posted by: Bondosan | November 19, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I am amazed people still think Clinton will try making a run at the primaries in 2012. That ship has passed folks. I think even Hillary knows her chance has passed her by.

I still believe she will ultimately want to become one of the major leaders in the Senate - just as Kennedy did.

Posted by: lightgrw | November 19, 2008 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Obama should make Clinton Sec of HHS and Richardson SOS. The only diplomatic experience worth of SOS for Clinton is having greeted foreign dignitaries in the White House receiving line. Clinton's health care faisco as First Lady should have taught her how to do it right next time.

Posted by: lorddunsmore | November 19, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

It may be that President-elect Barack Obama just asked Senator Hillary Clinton to consider becoming Secretary of State. Unnamed sources have been known to get the facts confused with what they hope will happen, and it isn't clear that the initial reporting reinterpreted anything.

Obvious to most people is the fact that Hillary Clinton is well-known around the world and has the brilliance to be the top U.S. diplomat. Her foreign policy credentials are not as impresssive as those of Governor Bill Richardson to be sure, but no one will deny that she would be formidable in behind-the-scenes negotiations. Senator Clinton's nomination would be easily win Senate approval.

However, it is difficult to imagine that Senator Clinton would be happy in the Cabinet serving the interests of the Obama-Biden administration. And I don't think she would decide to do something that would hinder or handicap her husband's international work. Based on the history of second chances for presidential bids, it would be difficult to win the White House in four years against an incumbent president.

Posted by: LiveFree | November 19, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

The right place is Senate Majority leader,but how can this happen with the low seniority Clinton has? Is there a chance Harry Reid would step down or someone else would challenge Reid for the position? Any ideas how this might go?

Posted by: rdklingus | November 19, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

By offing HRC the SoS position, and if she accepts, Obama has deftly dodged a primary challenge in 2012.

Posted by: RobertNathan | November 19, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I think this media banter is all a bunch or horsesh!t. Obama will probably choose someone else. He doesn't need 4-8 years of Clinton drama.

The only thing this story has accomplished is getting Sarah PALIN out of the news.

Posted by: EuroTrash60 | November 19, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

This is a game of psychology to an extent on a whole bunch of levels. Obama needs the already established credit of someone in the global arena. That would be the Clintons. He has to reverse what has been undermined over eight years ... re-establish confidence in the US and its integrity with other countries as part of true global diplomacy to ward off terrorist tactics (I guess) BUT more importantly begin the process of stabilizing world confidence in our markets as a way of garnering strength in the domestic markets. It is the game of, "I will invest in you ... because I believe that you will come through for me --." We have been functioning on fear ... fear that is pretty much often very destabilizing for the stock market. Clinton may not have had the 'commander and chief' hat, but no one would disagree that she is eminently qualified to diplomatically negotiate with heads of states! AND to do so in a manner honoring those states as important - and not as this present administration has managed to telegraph - not merely of utility. We have made a mess on some levels and Hillary Clinton also comes with a rather astutue legal mind, and we are going to need it. Can team Obama work with diad Clinton? ... It is up to them - is the country important? I am transfixed by the interest in Bill Clinton's activities that seems to have drained this story of life. Yesteray, a Texas grand Jury moved to indict Cheney for apparently profiting from US JAILS at the cost of human rights and lives ... and it doesn't seem to be making the rounds. And yet, the implication about Bill Clinton's activities without a bit of detail DOES. Do we have our priorities straight?

Posted by: amrit46 | November 19, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

It's all about 2012 and 2016. HRC's mulling over the post of Secretary of State, if indeed it has been offered, is the dilemma it poses for her ambitions to be President. Does she accept and become a stakeholder in Obama's success, as well as his failure? Does this allow her to separate from Obama to make a run in 2012 if Obama flops? Can she contribute to his failure without tarnishing herself among fellow democrats? But what if Obama succeeds? Ambition to be President is stronger than logic, me thinks. She will decline...

Posted by: Jrlobo | November 19, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

"After reading the Condoleeza Rice interview in NY Times Magazine, I was taken aback by the truly complex nature of that position. One would almost have to have been completely immersed in foreign policy to do a good job."

Think you can link to this? I want to read it, but I can't find it.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 19, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Hillary is not qualified to be Secretary of State, she couldn't even run a campagin. She would never be approved for the Supreme Court because her background is to shady, she lies a lot. She should stay in the senate but if she doesn't take the job it won't because she is undecided it will because there is something in her or Bill's background that would be a huge problem. Why is Obama getting himself so mixed up with the Clinton people. The only reason has to be that he is really insecure and doesn't really know what to do once in office. Obama talks a good game but talk is cheap.

Posted by: sque1 | November 19, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Isn't it just like Hillary to make it all about her. Typical pain in the a_ss woman. Make up your f'ing mind already so Obama can get on with the business of saving the republic.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | November 19, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Another story without merit. There are not any quotes that are owned anymore. Desperate to make stories reporters now make up quotes. According to sources at the Post, reporters are under pressure to produce "headline stories", especially at times when not much is going on.

" Advertisers pay for circulation, and we will give it to them." is the message from editors according to a source at the Post.

So we won't really know anything till ink dries on an agreement between Obama and Clinton.

Most likley what Hillary is really weighing is what 2012 may look like. A quest does not die just because it is not achieved the first time around.

Posted by: 5280sail | November 19, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Obamas choice or offer of the Secretary of State to HRC in my opinion is a hugh mistake. I also read the same book that our President elect read about Lincolns cabinet. Hillary is too ambitious.Where Lincolns rival Seward embraced and was extremely loyal to Lincoln as his Secretary of State, Hillary would be the Salmon Chase of Lincolns cabinet. He has Biden with years of foreign policy experience as his VP plus other choices such as Richardson who has much more experience in foreign policy than Hillary.

Posted by: openminded1 | November 19, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

You assume that Obama offered her the job. What is your source? Seems to me that sources close to Clinton hint that she ponders the position--just in case she will not be Obama's choice.

Posted by: bn1123 | November 19, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I do think the media jumped the gun on this one.... probably to fill in the void left by the end of all that campaigning.
Today there are several articles about how Hillary is "agonizing" over her decision (as if it is her decision alone). I don't blame people for supporting Hillary. I just don't think they understand what the Secretary of State does. The Secretary isn't just the most senior diplomat, but is also the head of a huge that is now in big trouble. It's going to take time and sensitivity to iron all the problems out. Would Hillary be the best person for the dirty part of being Sec'y? Personally I don't think so, but if she is agonizing over the decision, at least that is better than our old friend Sarah Palin, who jumped at her chance "without blinking."

Posted by: possum_pouch | November 19, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: klhood11:" I agree that Clinton's expertise is in domestic policy."

Add another vote for this position. Her knowledge of domestic affairs seems to be very strong, while her knowledge of foreign affairs seems average at best.

I also agree with the poster who feels that there's something we don't know about this whole deal. Maybe it's just a behind-the-scenes arrangement between BHO and HRC to boost her reputation on foreign affairs: she can honorably deny the post "to work on the important reforms that America needs" or something along those lines.

She comes out looking like someone whose foreign chops are respected enough to be considered for SoS, as well as an ace on domestic issues, which in my opinion, she actually is.

Positioning for 2016 already?

Posted by: Jimibristol | November 19, 2008 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I agree that clinton's expertise is in domestic policy. After reading the Condoleeza Rice interview in NY Times Magazine, I was taken aback by the truly complex nature of that position. One would almost have to have been completely immersed in foreign policy to do a good job. I think HRC should stay in the senate, work on health care with Ted Kennedy and help get some of these domestic issues put forth.

Posted by: klhood11 | November 19, 2008 7:51 AM | Report abuse

"She'd also be good as a Supreme Court justice as well."

I think Obama should appoint her as the new Tennessee head coach. She should be excellent at that.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 19, 2008 7:46 AM | Report abuse

"If you look at the subject area of Secretary of State, it's not where Clinton's professional interests lie. Is Obama offering her that to get her away from domestic U.S. issues? Eliminating her from the health care overhaul and other areas of domestic policy where Obama's leftist plans might be blocked by centrist leaders in the party who might side with a Republican minority to oppose socialist welfare programs?"

I think she would be good for the job, but she isn't the best candidate available and it isn't the best path available to her. Yeah, she would be one of a hundred in the Senate, but hardly all Senators are equal. She would be a staunch ally for Obama in the legislative body (simply because their positions are carbon copies of each other)

And her domestic understanding is superior to her foreign policy understanding. She played up the foreign policy stuff during the primaries because her strategy was to scare voters about overseas threats, but her major legislative works are domestic. Besides, I think she is too much of a celebrity to be an effective SOS (I don't mean celebrity in a positive or negative way. It's just what she is) You want someone who can work under the radar. For all of Hillary's gifts, flying under the radar is not one of them.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 19, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Aspergirl, did you understand HRC's mandatory membership health plan to be more "centrist" than BHO's? Why? Please explain your assessment. Her criticism of his plan was that it is not truly universal, b/c it is not truly mandatory.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 19, 2008 7:40 AM | Report abuse

She probably is undecided on her next move (although I would assume it must have crossed her mind that Obama would offer her a role in his administration.)

Contrary to other posters, I think she'd make a great Secretary of State as she is well-respected globally (as is her husband). She'd also be good as a Supreme Court justice as well.

Posted by: RickJ | November 19, 2008 7:32 AM | Report abuse

No on-the-job training for Billary... no Sec'y o' State. Go work with T Kennedy.
It's also time to retire the "Robt F Kennedy's seat" references. He's gone... it's not his seat anymore.

Posted by: RaDaRR | November 19, 2008 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Hillary does not hold qualifications to be Secretary of State. Anyhow, she is corny.

On Kennedy's request to have her head up a task force on health insurance reform I say: The lady already screwed up health care reform fifteen years ago and recently ran a bad Presidential campaign. No more need be said.

Posted by: Maddogg | November 19, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Suddenly was 5 months ago. Surely Hillary has been thinking about what else to do with herself and where taking a Cabinet position fit in.

Posted by: jackstpaul | November 19, 2008 7:16 AM | Report abuse

If you look at the subject area of Secretary of State, it's not where Clinton's professional interests lie. Is Obama offering her that to get her away from domestic U.S. issues? Eliminating her from the health care overhaul and other areas of domestic policy where Obama's leftist plans might be blocked by centrist leaders in the party who might side with a Republican minority to oppose socialist welfare programs?

Posted by: AsperGirl | November 19, 2008 7:09 AM | Report abuse

In Chris' defense, ascribe is basically a synonym for subscribe.

For a variety of reasons, I'm not very keen on the idea of Sen. Clinton as Secretary of State (I prefer Richardson, though she's a perfectly fine candidate. But in light of Kennedy's move yesterday and Senator Baucus already pushing a health care plan, I really hope she stays in the Senate. I think she could be far more effective and a much greater ally on the domestic policy front.

Posted by: mediagadfly | November 19, 2008 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Hillary is a lousy choice for Secretary of State. As Cilizza notes, she is hell bent on being in charge and is too self-serving to answer to anyone else. Obama was stupid to offer her the position. Hopefully she will spare us all by saying "no." Of course, this could all be a ploy for demand Obama give her unprecedented power. I wouldn't put it past her.

Posted by: RealChoices | November 19, 2008 6:55 AM | Report abuse

I have thought all along the MSM jumped the gun on this. Just because they talked doesn't mean that the offer was made. Why did Richardson come in the next day for the same job if this is who PE Obama wanted in the position. Something about that didn't sit right for me. Not his style. Yet, that is how it went down. So, like I said I was thinking the gun was jumped. But everyone just kept running with it. Finally someone is coming back to the starting gate and saying whoa....but not yet admitting maybe it was too early to float it out there. I still don't think she has the chops for the job. HHS maybe, but not SoS. Just my opinion. Guess time will tell. He commented Sunday night he wanted her advice. I think that is maybe all it was, yet conclusions were jumped on.

Posted by: sweetlucy47 | November 19, 2008 6:32 AM | Report abuse

Please Chris,

"If you ascribe to that idea ... ."

The correct verb is 'subscribe'.

Posted by: tropicalsurfer | November 19, 2008 6:24 AM | Report abuse

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