Originally published on November 21, 2008, at politicsunlocked.com
The nomination of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the nation’s next Secretary of State says a lot about President-elect Barack Obama.
The nomination shows Obama’s confidence to bring a former rival into his inner circle. Throughout her presidential nomination campaign, Senator Clinton demonstrated intelligence and charisma, not to mention the popularity and good will she earned as New York’s U.S. Senator and as First Lady from 1992 to 2000.
That said, Hillary Clinton does not have universal appeal.
According to an August 2008 Gallup survey, 72% of Republicans viewed Hillary Clinton negatively, although she was viewed favorably by 80% of Democrats and by 54% of all respondents, including independents. Her vocal role in the health care reform campaign in 1992 was derided as arrogant or, at least, beyond the responsibility of the First Lady. Her very presence, imbued with contemporary feminism, has always rubbed some conservatives the wrong way.
Despite polar reactions to her in the United States, Clinton should be well received by the international community. More than any other figure in today’s American political landscape, she symbolizes theBill Clinton presidency’s international popularity. He was admired for his eloquence and prized for his effort to bring about negotiated solutions to international conflicts. It is not that Senator Clinton can share responsibility for her husband’s accomplishments, but that through her appointment, Obama undoubtedly sends a clear signal of the kind of international relations he seeks.
After eight difficult years of U.S. foreign policy marked by faulty intelligence and planning, abrogation of international rules, and unilateral action, many in the international community are eager for change. Obama campaigned for a return to respect for conventions and negotiation in international leadership. His campaign was followed widely with great enthusiasm throughout the world.
With the nomination of Hillary Clinton, Obama has smartly linked with the success of the prior Democratic administration and has immediately created some international foundation. Hillary Clinton not only brings the goodwill engendered from the Clinton Presidency, but is also failry well-known politically.
While she was criticized by her party for her initial vote authorizing war in Iraq, in her role as Secretary of State, a voting record demonstrating the willingness to use force if diplomacy fails, is a mark of strength. Her personal familiarity with world leaders, through extensive official travel as First Lady and Senator, should not be discounted either. Obama has chosen both an able politician and a person symbolizing engagement in multilateralism from a position of power. He has made the most of this high level appointment.
Upon leaving the Senate, Hillary Clinton must forgo the opportunity to shepherd health care legislation through Congress. However, Senators Baucus and Kennedy, among others, are stepping ino the lead.
As for Republicans harboring disapproval of Hillary Clinton, she may yet win them over in the role of Secretary of State, where strength and assertiveness are viewed as assets.