Why would Hillary want to be Secretary of State? Update: It's "hers to turn down"

The NYT read my post yesterday and somehow concluded that I’d rather see Kerry or Richardson in the position. On the contrary: My strange new respect for Hillary is a matter of public record, and my point there was that she’s much stronger on Iran — and therefore preferable — to either Waffles or Busy Hands, the former of whom is weak and the latter of whom was far too eager to quit Iraq even by the standards of his colleagues. Realistically, she’s probably the best we could do.

But I don’t see why either her or The One would want to do it. Yeah, she brings name recognition to the position, but you’d end up with the same headaches having her in the cabinet as you would having her as VP (although of course you’d also remove her from being a stumbling block in the Senate). For all the bluster the media’s heaping on Obama about wanting a “team of rivals,” if he was as serious about that as he pretends to be, he could have put her on the ticket. Meanwhile, she loses her Senate seat and spends the next four (or eight) years carrying water for a guy whose foreign policy credentials she disparaged — and who disparaged her credentials in return. As Ambinder puts it:

The CW in Washington is that Obama wants Clinton in his cabinet more than Clinton wants to be in the cabinet, the theory being that the moment she steps into the administration, she loses her power base, she loses her Senate seat forever, and she loses her voice on domestic policy. She concedes her political identity. Actually, on policy: uncuriously silent in all this is Sen. Joe Biden, who has strong foreign policy ideas of his own and a bigger platform to share them with Obama. Would Clinton become a glorified PR tool for Obama if she accepted the job? A Powell, rather than a Rice?

They’ve got a near-filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and she, thanks to her political celebrity, stands to play a major role in managing the agenda. If she goes to State, she’s a mouthpiece relegated to foreign policy work whose stature will have been reduced from day one thanks to Obama’s nonsense during the primaries about direct presidential diplomacy. If she meets with Iran to talk nukes, they’ll want to know why they’re being forced to talk to her instead of getting an audience with the Pope himself.

One possibility is that The One will be so busy with the economy that he’ll essentially have to outsource foreign policy to his SoS. That makes more sense in terms of why Hillary might consider it, but it only makes the idea nuttier from Obama’s perspective. He’s going to appoint a de facto president of international relations — and for the task, he’ll choose his chief rival? Really?

All that said, I think she must be the frontrunner because to float her name now and then pick someone else would amount to a reprise of the same middle finger he extended when he politely neglected to vet her for VP. How many times do you want to publicly snub someone with her cachet?

Update: My suspicions that she’s the frontrunner are confirmed.