Game Changers

Photo by Damon Winter/NYT, via Good
Photo by Damon Winter/NYT (h/t Good)

Pictures are very often worth much more than 1,000 words, and something about this one, as the rumors of Clinton being on the verge of becoming Obama’s Secretary of State appear to be true, is oddly reassuring.

Despite all the heated rhetoric of the primary season, I share Sullivan’s slightly cynical take on it:

The differences between Clinton and Obama were always exaggerated; and we need all the talent we can get. I defer to no one in Clinton Derangement Syndrome, which is why I believe it’s good for them to have their hands full and to be kept under surveillance.

I didn’t like the idea of her as President (or Vice President), as much because of the question of Bill as her own deficiencies as a leader — which in some ways are directly related to each other — but I kind of like the idea of her and Obama becoming the new faces of the US abroad. It’s a powerful symbolic combination for a country that purports to be dedicated to the idea of all “men” being created equal.

It’s important to remember that the “change” Obama represents is one of leadership and prioritization, not necessarily personnel; he can’t just conjure a cabinet and staff of virginal outsiders who wave their magic “change” wands and get all of his proposals pushed through in his first term.

ETA: Ben Wyskida has an excellent, thoughtful post — Change is the policy, not the people. — over at Pinko Magazine that’s a must-read for the knee-jerks on the left who are fretting over some of the appointments Obama has made so far.

Carter and Clinton, our last two Democratic Presidents, won elections and made the kind of genuine progressive appointments that we long for today. They challenged entrenched power right from the start. And they failed. Today we have a President four years out of the Illinois State Senate taking office in the midst of two wars and an enormous crisis. To me, having an administration that is helmed at the start by people who run solid organizations, who can learn from past mistakes, and who know realistically how to move legislation is what we want. It’s entirely possible that Obama won, sat down in some meetings, crunched the numbers, reviewed the security briefings and said, OMFG. Maybe it is more important to have a steady team some of whom have been there before, given the gravity of the challenges they face right now. I think that’s fine too. Some early successes are important.

What attracted me to Obama the most was his pragmatism, and I think Clinton as Secretary of State is a smart pragmatic choice for all parties involved. For Clinton, it’s way more high-profile and powerful than any of her other options, and it offers an immediate shot at redemption for some of the bad calls she made in the Senate and during the primary. For Obama, it keeps both her and Bill close, limiting the damage they can do as freelancers waiting for an opening, while enabling him to take advantage of their deep network to help get things done in other areas.

ETA #2: Sullivan sums it up perfectly:

By winning without them and even, in some measure, despite them, Obama can now bring the Clintons into the power structure while retaining clear dominance. The State Department appointment is prestigious enough not to be condescending, yet also keeps Clinton off the Washington circuit more than any other position. She’ll be on a plane or abroad a great deal. Extra bonus: Bill will just love that. Sending his wife to the Middle East is the ex-president’s idea of a good time.

There’s also the small question of Iraq. Think of the appointment this way: “You voted for this bloody war, Hillary; you can end it.”

Somewhere down the road, people will realize Obama and his core team have completely redefined the political game on every level — not unlike Karl Rove did eight years ago — and they’ll stop questioning his tactics and recognize the brilliance of the underlying strategy they derive from. Where Rove played to people’s emotions, Obama appeals to our intellect, effectively boxing those who disagree with him into a corner and having them put the dunce cap on their heads themselves.

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