Update - And the Guardian says its a done deal. I'm not certain this is so as in the body of the article they don't present anyone on record definitively saying yes, the deal is signed. It reports little more than the NYT article does, but with less asshattery. The reason I'd be inclined to believe this report despite the lack of sources is the Sidney Blumenthal connection.
This NYT article says to me the consideration of Hillary for Secretary of State is serious.
The "worry" about Bill Clinton is such bullshit, of course. It is no more than fear of the Unity Democrats that they will be over shadowed by this person they irrationally hate. The media is only too happy to drool over the maybes and perhaps and some people say and what don't we know, what isn't he telling us rumor mongering. It is no less than the manufacture of scandal. Calling Bob Somerby...
However, I have to admit I'm not sure I'd be happy to have Henry Kissinger praising my abilities.
Ignoring the specious scandal-mongering of the last part of the article, what the report says is that the decision of acceptance is based on conditions being met. That's serious and negotiations can fall apart for politically legitimate reasons. HRC will request a significant degree of power and autonomy to accept the obligations and burdens of the office because that is how she does things. You can approve of this or not, but that is part of her character. Is what she requests reasonable? Whether reasonable or not, will it be acceptable? There are balance of power issues that are not just personality conflicts (the tedious crap The Village and Blogger Boyz roll in like dogs with a rotting carcass) but involve questions of authority and state interests that matter when dealing with other sovereign states.
Pulling on the poli sci cap, this is a fascinating and significant development for the incoming administration. It is a real test of leadership and how the executive branch will be run. Can this administration put the interests of the country first? We have had 8 years of one that would not. And before the Obamacan zombies start screaming how I am not giving The Precious a chance, this is a challenge that any incoming non-incumbent president must face. Traditionally, a new president focuses on domestic issues in a first term because those are the issues you campaign on and that is what matters most to the electorate. Screw it up and you lose power. Really screw it up and you lose office. See Carter, Jimmy and Bush, George H.W. In both of these cases, they had domestic and foreign policy challenges. One had a failed foreign policy while the other had a successful one. They both got chucked out of office (Carter more decisively than Bush) because of the crappy domestic conditions. Two-term presidents tend to focus on foreign affairs in the second term because the domestic policy battle lines are settled. It gives them some stature and gets them out of the daily mud-slinging.
Obama has been signaling that he really didn't care too much about domestic affairs, offering lack-luster domestic policy positions (except for environmental stuff - whomever is writing those papers is the sharpest person he has in the policy shop) and indicating that he wants to be leader of the free world. The collapse of the economy has brought those intentions to a screaming halt. This presidency cannot be conducted through symbol, gesture and a desire to be the good guy who frees the world of the Bush Doctrine. Domestic affairs will dominate, but foreign affairs are as pressing as ever.
Regardless of who ends up in the SOS seat, the administration is going to have to make some hard decisions about the autonomy of that office. Where is policy actually developed? Who are those actors? Will you have integration or oppositional relations by design (which is different than whether individuals like each other)? I agree with the article that the two most significant cabinet choices are SOS and Sec. Treas. How much will these two coordinate and communicate? To what degree will domestic policy and foreign policy need to work in tandem due to the global nature of the financial crisis? Also, what about the VP? We have been seeing a more activist role for this office since Carter. Where will Biden fit in the overall picture?
Putting the conduct of foreign policy into Hillary's hands could be an extremely bold choice that is in the best interests of the country, even if not in the short-term electoral interests of the individuals involved. With reference to a comment in my earlier post asking about Samantha Powers, the answer is simple - if HRC is the SOS, Powers will get on board and do her job to the best of her considerable abilities or she will leave. That says nothing about Powers individually. It's just how the system works. But that points towards the as-yet-unanswered question of where and how power will be balanced in the administration. A confident executive gets the best, puts them in place, defines the ground rules, and tells people to be smarter and better than the boss in their area of expertise. Do not underestimate the dangers of this power model. The wrong mix of "the best", poor ground rules, bad rule following, titanic ego battles, and people with a great deal of autonomy being flat-out wrong in their judgment will wreck it, just to name a few common problems. Actions to limit risks introduce their own risks of missed opportunities, insecurity about and second-guessing of area leaders, negotiation partners not trusting the authority of who they are dealing with (Can you really promise me X?), and a failure to succeed because of risk avoidance, etc. These are not qualities specific to the SOS appointment, but will accompany any of the cabinet positions and major advisory posts.
Oddly enough, this story has little to do with Hillary and everything to do with Obama.
It is time to commit to a course of action.