So far, no one has confirmed the Guardian report that Hillary Clinton will accept the offer to become Barack Obama's first Secretary of State, which suggests to me the Guardian got a little more out-front on that story than was appropriate. But what does it mean if she takes it? After appointing a top Clinton aide to chief of staff, putting what seemed like the entire Clinton economic team on his economic advisory board, and choosing Hillary for State, has Obama returned the country to the 90s and broken his promise to bring a new direction to Washington?
I don't believe so, and (I can't believe I'm saying this) I'm turning to Maureen Dowd for back-up. In a recent NYT column, she wrote:
If Barry chooses Hillary as secretary of state, a woman who clearly intimidated him and taught him to be a better pol in the primaries, it doesn't signal the return of the Clinton era. It says the opposite: If you have a president who's willing to open up his universe to other smart, strong people, if you have a big dog who shares his food dish, the Bill Clinton era is truly over.
Appointing a Clinton in the cabinet would be so un-Clintonian.
And the distinction isn't just with the Clinton Administration. Bringing strong voices unafraid to dissent into the inner circles of power is very different from the early Bush Administration, which famously refused to hear viewpoints that didn't agree with Bush and Cheney. And not insisting that all power reside in the White House (instead, allowing some to sit in Foggy Bottom) is also very un-Bushian.
It's part of an early Obama pattern. Forgiving Joe Lieberman his transgressions by allowing him to keep his chairmanship and place within the caucus, which Senate Democratics appear ready to do in part because of a nudge from Obama, is a refreshingly grudge-free approach to managing Washington. (Though, I'll admit, it is hard to see Joe get off scot free.) Forgiveness, power-sharing, brooking discussion and possibly dissent — it's all very new around here.