Not that Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t smart as a whip. Indeed, she emerged from college a cultural visionary. But is she, right now, really one of our country’s great intellectual visionaries, who can offer sound prescriptions for America’s future within a fast-changing world? Is she today one of our great leading political and social global thinkers?
Or is Clinton more a powerful partisan wonk, a good DO-er (and do-gooder) on behalf of her constituents, as well as her own political ambitions and legacy ? Because, if she is 'merely' a powerful, well-connected political operative, then an Obama decision to bring her into his cabinet at Secretary of State will be greatly at odds with, and indeed, will work against accomplishing what Doris Kearns Goodwin, in Team of Rivals, said that Lincoln himself achieved by gathering his own “team of rivals”–help in thinking through, in advance, the implications of his weightiest decisions.
During those pre-Civil War days, politicians gained national political stature through public speaking—that is: by composing speeches and then publishing them in the nation’s newspapers. These thoughtfully-wrought, persuasive intellectual arguments concerning the issues of the day included valuable original personal perspectives and prescriptions for appropriate responses to breaking conflicts and topics. Barack Obama himself has certainly fulfilled all such requirement for visionary intellectual leadership, having personally written two best-selling books during his relative youth, and having personally planned and executed an unparalleled national campaign that bent and shaped the ideas of the world through the sheer force of his intellect.
Unfortunately, Clinton’s previous particular strengths have not been in this department—with the exception of her global work for women and children.
Clinton has proved herself a very successful, bright, capable political fighter. Her greatest abilities have been in adversarial relations and political in-fighting. With Hillary as political strategist-in-chief, Bill could always outmaneuver his opponents. She has also done interesting work on her own political behalf, as well.
Admittedly, Clinton has evolved to becoming a global fighter for women and children on the world stage. Certainly she has met with many foreign leaders. But her global background and perspectives, and frankly, her previous interests in foreign relations have mostly been limited to improving life for her favorite two-thirds of the world’s population—women and children—along, of course, with their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, grandfathers and male friends.
Hmmmm. Come to think of it, if Clinton will serve Obama wholeheartedly and loyally from this pro-family global perspective—and that’s a big if—maybe she’ll turn out to be a good choice for State after all, past ghostwriters be damned.
Clinton’s very loving heart could be wonderfully put to use in the very important role of new Senate Lion during the Obama era. Congress needs her many talents to negotiate the details and fight for passage of the coming torrent of new legislation so necessary to bring real change to America.
But Secretary of State? We definitely do not need a parochial street fighter in that role. What we need is a global visionary who will approach the world non-adversarially—not as a defensive women up against a world of men, not as an advocate of the interests of the United States 'against' the interests of 'the rest,' but as one with all others.
If Clinton has indeed evolved enough to work patiently with (and not against) all comers; if she can bring the world together to cooperatively solve our many common global problems; if she is ready to make the necessary evolutionary jump away from adversarial relationships toward cooperative ones; if she can come from her caring rather than her fears; then she could indeed be the right kind of rival for Obama’s cabinet team, and the right kind of U.S. Secretary of State to the world.
Actually, I had Al Gore in mind for Obama's Secretary of State, because of his green, global, cooperative vision and personality, and his demonstrated intellectual leadership through speaking, writing, and other political venues. But if Obama does offer State to Clinton, then I hope she will consider his offer with real humility concerning her motives and abilities perhaps gained from her recent hubris. And if she accepts, I hope she now comes from that so-necessary intellectual bandwidth which alone will determine whether both their decisions will look good to posterity.