Freak Show: Behind the Clinton for Secretary of State Rumors
By Al Giordano
The speculation over Senator Hillary Clinton as a possible Secretary of State in the Obama administration did not begin - as many are reporting - with Andrea Mitchell's report yesterday on NBC, based, she said, on "two Obama advisors."
(Obama has more than 700 titled advisors on foreign policy alone. There's good reason why they received a memo that instructed "do not under any circumstances speak to the press." You can't shoot a cannon ball up Pennsylvania Avenue these days without hitting two or three of them, but that doesn't put them in the loop, and the ones that are in the loop aren't talking to Andrea Mitchell or anybody in the press about inside information.)
No, it was not Mitchell that first floated this Hindenburg balloon. It was former Clinton White House aide (and reliable media spinner for all agendas Clinton) George Stephanopoulos on who first dropped HRC's name for Foggy Bottom last week. ABC's Jake Tapper reminds:
George Stephanopoulos reported Clinton's name being in the mix last week on Good Morning America
The whole thing is a media freak show being served up by members of the Clinton factions in the Democratic party and obliged by a national media (some of them also Clinton noisemakers) in search of a story. The speculation is not because Senator Clinton wants the job, but because her people so desperately want to muddy the waters and throw up a roadblock to either New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson or Massachusetts Senator John Kerry - two of the leading contenders - serving in the post, whom they consider turncoats for having endorsed Obama vs. Clinton earlier this year.
After Richardson backed Obama, Clinton advisor James Carville called him a "Judas."
Kerry's earlier endorsement of Obama likewise brought out the knives:
"And he was dead to us," said one prominent Clinton supporter who is, in his words, "not authorized to trash Kerry on the record."
"Aren't Two Cabinet Posts Enough?"
The backbiting last Spring was particularly vicious against Richardson:
"Look, I think that everyone has their endorsers," said senior Clinton strategist Mark Penn, adding - with a little huff - "I think New Mexico is a state that, actually, we won."
"The time that he could have been effective has long since passed," he continued. "I don't think it is a significant endorsement in this environment."
...The AP reported that President Clinton at one point angrily asked Richardson, "What, isn't two cabinet posts enough?" Richardson was energy secretary under Clinton and U.S. ambassador the to U.N.
Richardson appeared on CNN this afternoon and was asked to recall his conversation with Clinton over his decision to endorse Obama. "Well, let's say it was a difficult conversation. But, you know, I resent the fact that the Clinton people are now saying that my endorsement is too late because I only can help with Texans - with Texas and Hispanics, implying that that's my only value. You know, that's typical of some of his advisers that kind of turned me off."
And now you see the New York media-centric Clinton noise machine setting up the spin essentially to screw Obama whichever way he goes:
Analyst Paul Light of New York University's John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress said picking Clinton would mean Obama was serious about reaching across the party divide.
On the other hand, he said: "To put her in the competition with several others and pick somebody other than Hillary Clinton after you've floated her name is to have a repeat of the spring and summer division and raise questions about Obama's seriousness about healing the division within the party."
(ABC's Tapper quoted another member of the noise machine: "'Clinton is the gold standard around the world,' said Chris Lehane...")
The US Department of State's budget for FY 2009 is $11.4 billion dollars.
What makes anybody think that somebody that so mismanaged her presidential campaign and its finances - still millions in debt - is going to be tapped to manage an 11 billion dollar budget with Embassies across the globe?
President-elect Obama is going to meet, in Chicago, on Monday with Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham: the same courtesy he's reportedly given Senator Clinton. Shall we read into it that one of them will become Secretary of State? (No, we won't, because their people in the media won't be pushing such rumors.)
The conflicts of interest of former President Bill Clinton and his Clinton Global Initiative - a "charity" with a $208 million dollar surplus, undisclosed donors, many of them foreign - signify that before Senator Clinton could hold the post of Secretary of State, Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe would have to disband their own "shadow state department" that is the Clinton Global Initiative.
As Matthew Yglesias asked aloud in the LA Times last year:
What's more, presidential foundations -- unlike political campaigns -- can accept contributions from foreign citizens and even foreign governments. So, although Hillary Clinton is barred from cashing a $100 check from David Beckham, on the theory that he might be attempting to undermine U.S. sovereignty (or force decent Americans to play soccer), Bill is free to have his annual meeting co-sponsored by the country of Oman, whose interests surely don't overlap 100% with those of the U.S.
The real issue here is that the conflict of interest created by the Clinton Global Initiative rules out Senator Clinton for Secretary of State. The Obama job application form is very specific about unearthing potential conflicts by spouses and "family members."
Does anybody really believe that Obama will say to all his job applicants that there's a double standard, one set of requirements for them and another for the Clintons?
The Obama administration-in-waiting has now pushed back a little bit against the freak show:
Senior officials with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team said late Thursday that Sen. Hillary Clinton would be an asset to the new administration, but declined to confirm reports she was under consideration for secretary of state.
All this grating and annoying noise is able to occur because the national media is thirsty for a story, any story, to make itself relevant to the transition.
The saddest of all the spin yesterday came in how Keith Olbermann on MSNBC "took one for the team" in order to bolster the credibility of his network's Andrea Mitchell and her vague report:
That’s a far cry from Keith’s greatest shining moment, last May, when he spoke of all the things Senator Clinton has said that can be forgiven “but this we cannot forgive.” View it and weep for the state of the media in 2008:
The freak show is not about putting a Clinton into the State Department.
It's an effort by the vindictive Clinton organization to stop Richardson or Kerry from serving in that post.
And it has the effect of underscoring why either of them would be so far superior to Senator Clinton to effectively turn the page on US foreign policy.