Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Secretaries Have the Real Power

I listen to NPR in the morning. Partly because I need to listen to people talking to have a hope of waking up - I found that out after a Boston station divested itself of competent morning hosts and went to all music that I slept right through it. Partly, it's because it's the only station I have reception for in my electromagnetic dark hole of a cave condo.

This morning, I woke up to Hillary Rodham Clinton answering questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It was interesting. I've never heard her speak so fluidly and respectfully and competently. I found myself thinking she could do really well with this gig. (I also had a moment to reflect that after all that hard work, her title is "Secretary".) I had been wondering after all her "foreign experience" gaffes on the campaign trail if this would work out. I don't particularly care for the foreign policy she proffered during the campaign. Mostly because it was like everything else I heard from her - it came off as unoriginal, arrogant, reactionary fluff that had been poll tested to the point of meaninglessness. It had no direction and was wandering. This morning, she had originality, direction and focus. She spoke well of other people and they spoke well of her.

And she does have foreign connections, even if they weren't as executive level as she tried to spin them. In addition to travelling as the First Lady, She and Bill took Chelsea to every possible place they could get in a handshake on the girl's school vacations. They got in a ton of photo ops, and I kept thinking that they'd done a really great job integrating Chelsea's white house opportunities in an age appropriate way. "What did you do over spring break?" Not "I puked in a gutter in Cabo", but "I met Nelson Mandella for tea." Seriously, how cool would that have been - or at least to think about later as an adult? But I felt then and feel now that the relationships she has are more casual, "I can get in the door" relationships rather than "I can get them to do things for me at an executive level right off the bat" relationships.

So why would I like her for Secretary of State when I think she came off as rude and stilted and unoriginal in the campaign, and doesn't have the necessary depth of connection? Because now, for the most part, she will be there to implement Obama's plan rather than her own. And at this point, I trust that he will have a better plan. He's more visionary and proactive. And Obama, I think, has more capital with foreign leaders than HRC does at this point - if only because he's never met with them from a semi-submissive position. Hillary's a tea and photo op connections will make it smoother because there won't be wasted time in introducing her around, and she'll be able to build these relationships to a power connection more quickly than a fresh face would have been able to. But by doing it under the aegis of Obama's directive, I honestly think she'll be better received - her status as Bill's wife is a definite double edged sword.

She doesn't totally have to drink the kool-aid to execute to his plans, and she can get some real face time on substantive issues in the meantime, and set herself up for whatever she hopes to do in the future, even if that's just retire comfortably and Kato her way around the world. I've got no problems with that. As long as she acts first to protect and defend the constitution, secondly to implement Obama's plan, and lastly, to do whatever it is for her personal agenda.

I can see this working out. I hope she comes through.

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