And you thought that Hillary Clinton was the political season’s upset loser and that the upset winner, Barack Obama, promised “change.”
You were wrong. Reneging on his promise of change, Obama may turn out to be the only fresh face in his administration. He is expected to bail out Clinton by naming her today as his Secretary of State.
It wasn’t that many years ago that Clinton was appointed chief diplomat of Wal-Mart, thanks only to her possessing the celebrity of being a governor’s wife.
During the chain’s march toward becoming the world’s largest corporation, she carried the message of low, low prices to small towns throughout America’s heartland. Not to mention — she didn’t — that she was a Democratic governor’s wife representing the world’s largest union-buster. (See my May 2000 story, “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.”)
Now, unless all the signs are wrong, she’ll be the chief diplomat of a country with low, low esteem. Maybe it isn’t so bad to have a celebrity in the post to try to restore our international rep, but as some outlets point out, Clinton and the other expected foreign-policy appointments are all more hawkish than Obama.
And many of them are much more experienced and/or skillful at actual diplomacy and/or negotiation. Maybe no diplomat will be able to step into the Mumbai rubble and tiptoe through the still dangerous minefield that is India and Pakistan. Clinton doesn’t have the chops to strike deals, as her record on health care and other issues prove. She was good at such “constituent services” as making sure that potholes are fixed. Big deal.
She doesn’t have much of a track record of skillful negotiating from her years as First Lady and senator. One can only hope that Clinton surrounds herself with some real diplomats and just focuses on being the chief U.S. spokesmodel.
There’s little doubt that we are now officially a celebrity culture. Gone are the days when colorless types like Warren Christopher can move into Foggy Bottom or when little-known wonks like Condoleezza Rice can use the job to attain celebrity. Now it’s celebrity first, then the job.
Not that I’m telling you anything new, but if you still don’t think we’re a celebrity culture, ask the New Yorkers who started lining up yesterday to watch gun-crazy football player Plaxico Burress‘s perp walk, also scheduled for today. (It is a pretty interesting tale.)
Clinton is perhaps the first celebrity to get the State post, which is usually a stepping stone to the presidency, not a reward for losing. (See the list.)
Now she’ll be third in the line of succession to the presidency, behind Joe Biden and the Senate president pro tem Robert Byrd, who at 91 is so decrepit that he has to be wheeled around the Capitol. [Correction: Actually, Hillary would be fourth, behind Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and then Byrd. The order of succession is vice president, then House speaker, then Senate president pro tem, then secretary of State. Thanks to reader “Bob” for pointing this out.]
Good thing the Democrats have control of the Senate. Otherwise, convicted felon pro pen Ted Stevens would still be president pro tem.
Moving on to the this and that of the here and now …
NO PARTICULAR ORDER:
Wall Street Journal: ‘India Security Faulted as Survivors Tell of Terror’
Washington Post: ‘Obama Poised to Name Hillary Clinton to State Post’
Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Captured Terrorist: Mumbai Attackers Had Orders To Kill Israelis’
The Age (Australia): ‘Experts not certain al-Qaeda to blame’
McClatchy: ‘With economy souring, illegal immigrants going home’
N.Y. Times: ‘One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex’
Salon: ‘Sympathy for Charles Graner’
Jewish Daily Forward: ‘Chabad Grieves for Emissaries Killed in Mumbai’
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 1, 2008