Media react to sec. of state rumors with suggestions of a rogue Clinton agenda, Clinton as Obama's "enem[y]"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON & MEREDITH ADAMS

Discussing reports that President-elect Barack Obama is considering naming Sen. Hillary Clinton secretary of state, several media figures have responded with smears, including speculation that Clinton would pursue her own agenda as secretary of state and not Obama's, references to Clinton as Obama's "enem[y]," and speculation that Obama is considering the nomination because if Clinton remains in the Senate, she poses a threat of challenging him for the Democratic nomination in 2012 and can "mak[e] trouble" for him in the Senate.

Discussing reports that President-elect Barack Obama is considering naming Sen. Hillary Clinton secretary of state, several media figures have responded with smears, including 1) speculation that Clinton would pursue her own agenda as secretary of state and not Obama's, with at least one pundit speculating that she would attempt to set up a "parallel government" and another suggesting she might use the job to position herself to deny Obama the Democratic nomination in 2012; 2) references to Clinton as Obama's "enem[y]" with invocations of the adage from The Godfather: Part II that Obama is considering the nomination out of a desire to "keep[] his friends close and his enemies closer"; and 3) speculation that Obama is considering the nomination because if Clinton remains in the Senate, she poses a threat of challenging him for the nomination in 2012 and can "mak[e] trouble" for him in the Senate.

Examples of media figures suggesting that Clinton would pursue her own agenda as secretary of state and not Obama's

  • During the November 14 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, MSNBC contributor Michelle Bernard asserted that Clinton "will run a parallel government" as secretary of state and "could give him [Obama] some cover, and she could also walk -- go around the world acting as if she is not the secretary of state but the United States -- the president of the United States. That's a huge danger for him. It's a very, very high-level job." Host Chris Matthews then asked Jennifer Donahue, political director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, "[W]ould you trust her to be a loyal subordinate, or believe she would be a bit too aggressive as a colleague?" Donahue responded:

DONAHUE: Well, let's take past as prologue. I mean, how did she handle herself during the nominating fight? How did she handle it when Obama was coming up upon her and then lapped her? She didn't handle it very kindly. She didn't allow him to have his piece. She went negative. She tried to bury him. And I think that he should take a lesson from that. I mean, I understand this idea of hug your friends tight, hug your enemies tighter. I think that's often true. If you look at it, you and I were talking about [Nicolò] Machiavelli and The Prince. Absolutely true stuff in there. And I think it's smart to do it. But what will she do overseas? Will she be laying out the groundwork should Obama have only one term? Will she be, in fact, trying to create only one term for Barack Obama?

  • Fox News host Greta Van Susteren suggested that if Clinton is named secretary of state, both she and Bill Clinton pose a threat of "freelancing." During the November 14 edition of her show On the Record, Congressional Quarterly reporter Jonathan Allen asserted that the appointment "would also give Barack Obama complete control over Hillary Clinton's political future because she would be serving at his pleasure." Van Susteren responded: "Except for the fact that you've got her potentially -- any Cabinet candidate member freelancing, and you've got her husband out there freelancing."
  • James Taranto, editor of The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com, suggested during the November 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight that Clinton was interested in the secretary of state position because "[i]t would also put her in the line of succession."

Examples of media figures referring to Clinton as Obama's "enem[y]"

Media figures and political analysts also asserted that Obama might be following the strategy of Michael Corleone from The Godfather: Part II -- that Obama might name Clinton secretary of state to "keep[] his friends close and his enemies closer." Such figures include Donahue, Fox News chief White House correspondent Bret Baier, Fox News political contributor and managing editor of The Washington Times' digital media operations Jeff Birnbaum, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, and CBS sports commentator Boomer Esiason (during an appearance on the November 14 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend).

Examples of media figures suggesting that Clinton might cause trouble for Obama if he does not include her in the administration

Media figures also asserted that Obama might name Clinton secretary of state because she might otherwise challenge him for the presidency in 2012 or cause "heartache" for him in the Senate. Such figures include the following:

  • On the November 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle said, "President-elect Obama, of course, would have every reason to consider her for secretary of state, because having her serve in his administration would neutralize his chief Democratic rival."
  • Also on the November 14 edition of Special Report, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer stated, "I would agree with Fred [Barnes, fellow panelist] -- she's a reasonably good choice. But what's so sort of cynically brilliant and impressive about this is that with her out of the way, Obama is not going to have to show up in Iowa or New Hampshire in 2012. He has now cinched the renomination."
  • NBC News political director Chuck Todd said on the November 15 edition of MSNBC Live that if Obama names Clinton secretary of state, "there is a lot of upside politically for Senator Obama. You bring -- you get one of your chief rivals, somebody who could cause you a lot of heartache in the Senate, Senator Clinton, and you get her inside your administration. You take somebody that could be a potential rival to you in 2012 out of the picture as well."
  • During the November 14 edition of CNN Newsroom, Sanchez asked Patricia Murphy of CitizenJanePolitics.com, "Is there something to do with wanting to have Hillary Clinton as your secretary of state if you're Barack Obama here?" Murphy responded:

MURPHY: Well, there could be. Certainly, the question is, do you want the Clintons inside your tent or outside your tent? Do you want your rival outside making trouble for you or do you want to bring them in? You must have 100 percent trust with your secretary of state. You cannot have somebody out there advocating for themselves and not for you.

From the November 14 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Well, here's the question. Because of the very reason that Jennifer mentioned -- she is a notch or two to the right of this guy Barack Obama. She did vote for the war resolution. She did oppose -- or support naming the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. She has spoken positively of keeping permanent bases in Iraq. She's a bit of a hawk on the Middle East. She could give him some cover on any Middle East deal that is struck with Israel and Middle Eastern countries.

BERNARD: She could give him some cover, and she could also walk -- go around the world acting as if she is not the secretary of state but the United States -- the president of the United States. That's a huge danger for him. It's a very, very high-level job.

MATTHEWS: Jennifer, would you trust her to be a loyal subordinate, or believe she would be a bit too aggressive as a colleague?

DONAHUE: Well, let's take past as prologue. I mean, how did she handle herself during the nominating fight? How did she handle it when Obama was coming up upon her and then lapped her? She didn't handle it very kindly. She didn't allow him to have his piece. She went negative. She tried to bury him. And I think that he should take a lesson from that. I mean, I understand this idea of hug your friends tight, hug your enemies tighter. I think that's often true. If you look at it, you and I were talking about Machiavelli and The Prince. Absolutely true stuff in there. And I think it's smart to do it. But what will she do overseas? Will she be laying out the groundwork should Obama have only one term? Will she be, in fact, trying to create only one term for Barack Obama?

MATTHEWS: [unintelligible] You guys are so suspicious. Look, I think that since she lost the fight for the nomination, Michelle and Jennifer, she has been not just a good soldier, she has sang the tune of this guy. She's been illustrious, she's been admirable. She -- her spirit seems to be with him. Bill's a little more troubled, obviously, by what happened. But she's been totally with him, and that's why he's obviously thrown her name out. Why would he even be thinking of her if he thought she might be insubordinate?

BERNARD: Well -- well --

MATTHEWS: Why would he think of it?

BERNARD: -- because there are a lot of people out there, particularly women, who are saying, "We've had Madeleine Albright, we've had Condoleezza Rice, let's have another woman in the -- you know, in the top post at the State Department." There will be people also, I will tell you, who will be saying, "Why not Susan Rice?" She was one of his chief foreign policy people --

MATTHEWS: OK -- OK -- this is so hot --

BERNARD: -- throughout the campaign.

[...]

MATTHEWS: We're back with Michelle Bernard and Jennifer Donahue for more of the "Politics Fix." Jennifer, you're up there in New Hampshire, we're down here. I have to tell you, it's amazing to watch how these things develop. First of all, the word comes out tonight -- here we are on Friday night -- that Hillary Clinton has been offered the job if she wants it. That's the word that's floating around. And then she's coming back, the senator from New York, and saying, "Well, I want to look at a couple things like, is Joe Biden gonna get in my way as vice president?" I would assume that among her other concerns are, which are stressed here in the news reporting, is who's gonna get Defense, who's gonna get CIA, who's gonna get NSC, the national security adviser. In other words, she's sort of dictating terms here in what looks to be a proffer of a job. Jennifer, it's an extraordinary position of power she's in, in what normally would be considered one of the great prizes in the world she's being given.

DONAHUE: Yes, and I think this reflects how she behaved in the idea of who was gonna be the vice-presidential candidate that Barack Obama picked, so she's got a competition going on with Biden. Biden's the vice president. Her strength: HHS, Supreme Court -- there's plenty of places -- education, children. These are things that are near and dear to her. I just don't see where she's a foreign policy expert to the extent of Chuck Hagel. Team of rivals? Chuck Hagel. Colin Powell. Both sides of the aisle. Sam Nunn.

MATTHEWS: Right. Well, Jennifer, do you think -- do you think there's an ingenious Machiavellian streak in Barack Obama, who wanted her to hang herself with these public demands, the fact that they're being leaked --

DONAHUE: Ah -- I think --

MATTHEWS: -- and therefore he tried to bring her aboard, but she set too many standards, too many conditions. He just couldn't do it. He couldn't give away his presidency.

DONAHUE: Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I mean, this man can think two steps ahead of any opponent, and that's what we've seen. We see it with him meeting with McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Rahm Emanuel, sort of brokering this big meeting. This guy thinks way ahead of anybody else. That's how he got here; he'll continue to do that. He picked Rahm Emanuel not to be someone who could bring people in every party together but to keep his own party in line. That's what Rahm Emanuel knows how to do. Are they going to keep Hillary Clinton in line? Yes. Are they going to keep watch on her? Yes.

BERNARD: No, they're not going to keep her in line if she's secretary of state. If she's secretary of state --

DONAHUE: Well, that's why she's not gonna get it.

BERNARD: -- she will run a parallel government. It will be a huge problem.

DONAHUE: I don't believe she'll get it.

MATTHEWS: If he hires her, he cannot fire her.

DONAHUE: She's not gonna get it.

[crosstalk]

BERNARD: Well, he could fire her, but it would look horrible. He can't do it.

DONAHUE: He can't do it.

MATTHEWS: That's the prob -- well, we'll decide --

DONAHUE: Michelle, you're right.

MATTHEWS: -- I think you two are probably the toughest people in the world who are on it.

From the November 14 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:

ALLEN: Well, I think, obviously, there's only one person that makes this decision, and it's President-elect Obama. And he'll choose who he thinks is best for that job regardless of who he thinks owes him or who he believes he may owe.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you believe that? I mean, is that how these decisions are always made?

ALLEN: I certainly hope so.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean -- anyway, I mean --

ALLEN: It's not how these decisions --

VAN SUSTEREN: That's how the decision -- we all say that's how the decision should be made --

ALLEN: It's not --

VAN SUSTEREN: -- but sometimes you make political decisions.

ALLEN: Well, but the political decision may, in fact, be Hillary Clinton for a number of reasons. One is that, obviously, the Clintons are well-known around the world and well-respected around the world. It would send a message about how Barack Obama wants to do business in a sort of team of rivals kind of way. And it would also give Barack Obama complete control over Hillary Clinton's political future because she would be serving at his pleasure.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except for the fact that you've got her potentially -- any Cabinet candidate member freelancing, and you've got her husband out there freelancing, as well, so you could --

From the 3 p.m. ET hour of the November 14 edition of CNN Newsroom:

SANCHEZ: Is there a little Machiavellianism going on with this, because look, think about it.

MURPHY: Who would accuse somebody of that?

SANCHEZ: Well, you know the expression, keep your friends close, but you want to keep your enemies closer?

MURPHY: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Is there something to do with wanting to have Hillary Clinton as your secretary of state if you're Barack Obama here?

MURPHY: Well, there could be. Certainly, the question is, do you want the Clintons inside your tent or outside your tent? Do you want your rival outside making trouble for you or do you want to bring them in? You must have 100 percent trust with your secretary of state. You cannot have somebody out there advocating for themselves and not for you.

SANCHEZ: And then there's the Bill Clinton effect, which we don't get a chance to talk about.

MURPHY: The effect, yeah.

SANCHEZ: Boy, that would have been good.

It's great having you on.

MURPHY: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: You're fabulous. It's fabulous. Thank you so much.

From the November 14 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

TARANTO: Well, Mrs. Clinton pretty much can't run for president till 2016 anyway, because it's unlikely she will take on President Obama in 2012, and it's unlikely that he'll -- that he will not seek re-election. So this may actually be the most sensible course for her, assuming that he's interested in giving her the job, and if she wants a high-profile position. I would also note -- Michael mentioned that it would get her out of the country. It would also put her in the line of succession.

From the November 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BAIER: Coming up next, is President-elect Obama operating under the idea of keeping his friends close and his enemies closer? What's behind the meetings with Hillary Clinton and John McCain? Some breaking news about that after the break.

[...]

BAIER: Jeff, politically smart move?

BIRNBAUM: I think it's a very smart move. As you pointed out, as the old adage goes, you want to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, and by bringing in Hillary Clinton, he keeps an eye on Hillary Clinton. In fact, she has to work with him. This is very much like another president from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, who filled his cabinet with rivals.

[...]

KRAUTHAMMER: If she is secretary of state, he [Vice President-elect Joe Biden] won't be. That's how the Clintons operate, and I'm sure if she accepts the job, it's going to be under those terms. She is not going to split the job with the Sage of Wilmington.

What's really ironic here is that, if you remember, for about half a year, she was touting her credentials in foreign affairs and Obama was ridiculing them. And you remember, there was this little episode about her being shot at in Tuzla? But I guess change has come to America, and now all of that is behind us.

I would agree with Fred -- she's a reasonably good choice. But what's so sort of cynically brilliant and impressive about this is that with her out of the way, Obama is not going to have to show up in Iowa or New Hampshire in 2012. He has now cinched the renomination.

In the Carter administration, [Sen. Ted] Kennedy [D-MA] challenged him as his presidency weakened. The Clintons have owned the party for 16 years; it's now Obama's. He knows that if he weakens and if he ever has a challenge, it would be her. And now, if she accepts, it won't be her.

From the November 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Weekend:

ALISYN CAMEROTA (co-host): Let's look at another top story that we're covering and that is, what's going to happen with Hillary Clinton? Has President-elect Barack Obama offered her the secretary of state job, and if so --

ESIASON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- would she take it?

ESIASON: Is my neighbor Bill O'Reilly around here somewhere now that we're getting down into this? I like it.

CAMEROTA: No, you were telling us that you have some thoughts on this.

ESIASON: You know what? I think she should take it. You know what? She's 61 years old. And just think: Bill and Hillary traveling the world. And now, all of a sudden --

CLAYTON MORRIS (co-host): Wait, you think Bill's going to go? He has the house all to himself.

ESIASON: Well, he can go one way, she can go the other. That'd be fine. But, you know, I think that she's --

DAVE BRIGGS (co-host): When the cat's away.

ESIASON: -- intimately qualified to become secretary of state, and I guess it goes back to the old adage, if you're Barack Obama, you know, keep your friends closer, but your enemies even closer than your friends. So I think this is going to be an interesting thing, and it would be -- I think it would be good for her. You know, they'll name a bridge after her around here for some of the stuff she's done in the Senate, as a state senator of New York.

MORRIS: And now, you're known as a tough guy, obviously, NFL legend. Now, she's a tough woman, OK?

ESIASON: She is.

MORRIS: And former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton saying, "Look" -- I don't know, he predicted this -- but saying, "Bringing her into the White House" --

ESIASON: Right.

MORRIS: -- "don't ever hire someone you can't fire." Is she too un-fireable? Is she too tough?

ESIASON: That's a good point. You know, and I think you've got to be really careful. But I think, also -- I would imagine that Barack Obama is extending an olive branch and showing people that he's trying to be a uniter, especially within their Democratic Party.

And listen, I'm a McCain guy. I'm an independent. I voted for John McCain. But you know what? Barack Obama is our president right now, and I think he deserves our respect, of the office, and we have to see what he does before we can start really criticizing all the decisions he's making.

From the 8 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on November 15:

ALEX WITT (anchor): And for a bit more on today's top political stories, we're joined by NBC's political director, Chuck Todd. Yay hey. Nice. On a Saturday, some OT for Chuck. Hello.

TODD: Good morning, Alex.

WITT: How likely is it, Chuck, that we're going to see Hillary Clinton as secretary of state? What do you think are the potential pluses and the pitfalls to it?

TODD: Well, I think the likelihood is fairly high. I mean, the -- this wouldn't get floated out there this seriously if she weren't going to be seriously considered, because the last thing Obama wants to do is alienate the Clintons and somehow embarrass her, have her considered and then say, "Oh, we're not going to appoint you. We're going to appoint Bill Richardson." So, I think it is very serious at this point.

And there is a lot of upside politically for Senator Obama. You bring -- you get one of your chief rivals, somebody who could cause you a lot of heartache in the Senate, Senator Clinton, and you get her inside your administration. You take somebody that could be a potential rival to you in 2012 out of the picture as well. Senator Clinton wouldn't be able to get involved in Democratic politics very actively at all from secretary of state. It's just not kosher these days to practice politics when you're at a position like State, attorney general, or the Pentagon.

So, there are a lot of political upsides for him. The question is, what are the upsides for her? And I think there are more there than people realize. The biggest: She really doesn't have a big portfolio in the Senate. She would like one, but I think she is struggling to get it. There's a lot of people in her way, seniority-wise, and going over to the State Department would, I think, give her -- would raise her profile in a way that maybe she won't be able to do in the Senate.

From the November 14 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:

ANGLE: President-elect Obama, of course, would have every reason to consider her for secretary of state, because having her serve in his administration would neutralize his chief Democratic rival.

DOUG SCHOEN (Democratic strategist): He would ensure the loyalty of somebody who got close to 18 million votes against him in the Democratic primary and has made it clear that she was going to speak up for her constituency and the issues that she cares about, were she to stay in the Senate.

[...]

ANGLE: But why would Senator Clinton want to serve in the administration of the man she ran against and may want to succeed? For one thing, she is still the junior senator from New York with no prospect of even chairing a committee, while the alternative is pretty attractive.

[...]

ANGLE: So, if the job is officially offered and she takes it, many Democrats think both would benefit. He removes his chief rival from Congress while gaining an experienced hand at his side. And she gets a great and challenging job and yet another credential, if she decides to run again.

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