WASHINGTON – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., emerged Friday as a contender to be secretary of state after flying to Chicago the day before and meeting privately with President-elect Barack Obama, according to former Clinton advisers.
Obama is considering several other prominent elected officials for the nation’s top diplomat, but has zeroed in on the former first lady and the runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to one of her campaign aides.
Many of Clinton’s allies would like her to take the job, even though it would mean giving up her power base in the U.S. Senate.
“She could weld this world together,” said Susie Tompkins Buell, a Clinton donor and friend. “I think it would be amazing.”
Since losing the nomination, Clinton has been on Obama’s radar. She reportedly made the short list for vice president, but lost out to Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.
Having passed over her once, Obama would be hard-pressed to do it again by dangling the secretary of state job and giving it to someone else, said members of Clinton’s circle.
Other candidates include New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., 2004 presidential nominee.
Clinton’s Senate office referred questions to the Obama transition headquarters. “Any speculation about Cabinet or other administration appointments is really for President-elect Obama’s transition team to address,” said Philippe Reines, a Clinton spokesman.
Obama’s office declined to comment.
One thing is clear: Obama has done nothing to bat down speculation that Clinton may take one of the premier Cabinet posts in his new administration.
Clinton’s foreign policy bona fides were a running theme during the primaries.
She tried to make foreign affairs a selling point, repeatedly telling crowds that as first lady she visited more than 80 countries. But Clinton was forced to backtrack after claiming she had to evade sniper fire when landing in Bosnia in 1996. Archival footage showed a peaceful arrival.
During a conference call with reporters in February 2008, Clinton aides were asked to name a single foreign policy crisis in which she was tested. There was a lengthy pause. A reply offered by one aide seemed beside the point: She had been endorsed by more than two dozen high-ranking military officers.
By trading in her Senate job for secretary of state, Clinton would command a global stage. She could use the position to take up causes that have long been important to her: Middle East peace, a resolution to the Iraq war and international respect for women’s rights.
But she would also face internal competition for control of Obama’s foreign policy portfolio. Biden, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will undoubtedly want a strong hand in shaping the nation’s diplomatic strategy.
Still, Clinton’s friends believe the job would be a good fit. Lanny Davis, a longtime friend of the Clinton family, said: “There’s no question in my mind that the combination of Barack Obama as president and Hillary Clinton – who is a great listener and has the rare ability to walk in other people’s shoes and see the world through their eyes – would make a dramatic impact in international relations.”