One of the major stumbling blocks to offering Hillary Clinton a Cabinet post, especially State, has been the unanswered question of who donates to Bill Clinton’s foundation. Ever since establishing it after leaving the White House, the former president has refused to disclose his donors, leading many to question whether any influence-peddling figured into the final days of the Clinton administration. Now Clinton has agreed to open the books in what looks like a final step for Hillary’s appointment:
Bill Clinton has agreed to a series of concessions requested by officials representing Barack Obama’s presidential transition team, moving his wife one step closer to potentially becoming the next secretary of state.
Aides to both Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said that a formal job offer had not been made, but the former president’s decision to disclose the identities of donors to his charitable foundation and to vet his future speeches and overseas activities with members of the Obama administration appears to have removed some of the biggest hurdles to her nomination.
Obama aides said yesterday that it would be difficult for Sen. Clinton to walk away from the secretary of state post. Obama’s staff has thoroughly vetted both Clintons with the understanding that, if he should make an official job offer, she would accept.
Chalk this one up to the “He’s really serious” category. After years of refusals, even involving his wife’s bid for the presidency, Clinton has to really want his wife at Foggy Bottom in order to agree to this. It’s either that or a Supreme Court bid, but Clinton wouldn’t make this agreement without an opening already at hand.
Of course Bill wants to see Hillary land on the Cabinet, especially in the plum role at State; that allows him more relevance and a chance to recover his reputation after a bruising primary left him (unfairly) in the role of race-baiter. The more pressing question is why Obama wants Hillary at State so badly. One opinion often expressed is that Obama wants to be seen as a Lincoln of his time, and wants to assemble a Team of Rivals for managing policy. Whether that policy actually helped Lincoln or burdened him would be debatable; Lincoln’s genius and historical impact doesn’t spring from his Cabinet selections, and the most memorable accomplishment of any of them was “Seward’s Folly” — the purchase of Alaska.
Bringing political rivals onto a team brings obvious conflicts of interest, and one might expect the Clintons to have more Machiavellian impulses than most in that regard. Why should Obama go out of his way to bring her closer to him? It’s not as if she’s the most qualified selection. Bill Richardson, who angered the Clintons by endorsing Obama, has real diplomatic experience, and yet it appears he will get passed over in favor of the Tuzla Dash veteran.
What exactly does Obama gain from adding Hillary? Is this an LBJ selection of having people in the tent urinating outward rather than the reverse? Or does he need the Clintons on board so badly to maintain a coalition that can actually govern? Given the number of Clintonistas appearing in the new administration, I suspect it’s the latter more than the former.
Either way, the fact that Bill’s opening the books makes it clear that Hillary will play a major role in this administration, and that Obama wants to corral Bill as much as possible in advance. The donor list should make for some interesting blog posts down the road.