The media and blogosphere are abuzz with rumors of HRC being considered for Secretary of State. From CNN to Alegre's Corner, there are plenty of perspectives on why this is/isn't a "real" offer, why this is/isn't a good position for Hillary to take, why she should/shouldn't accept this offer if it is actually an offer at at all, and so forth.
Steve Clemons at the Washington Note appears to have some of the most insider information on what facts can be known and offers a few considerations, most of which are simply inside-the-beltway horse race handicapping. He has another post from about a week ago, Who Wasn't On Stage With Obama and Should Have Been?, discussing the participants at Obama's first post-election press conference. There was a post by Lambert day before yesterday, Mysterious spreadsheet lists candidates for appointments in the Obama administration, which presented screen shots of what purported to be an Excel spreadsheet of the short list of Cabinet and other top advisory positions in the administration-to-be. The provenance of this document is unclear and it strikes me that it is more an attempt to influence the final choices than a presentation of those choices.
As far as Hillary and the SOS, if there is any validity to the rumors (and we'll know soon enough), I'm not of any particular opinion as to the outcome. HRC would be a solid choice for SOS, though I suspect there are other people (not many) who are better prepared right now to take over the office. I share Alegre's glee at having HRC's foreign policy chops being recognized by the group that spent so much time dissing her over them, and it's fun to watch the exploding heads. That said, I'm actually disinterested in what Hillary will do in regards to her next career move. She's brilliant, she will work her heart out for the nation, and she has nothing to prove to anyone. Hillary is a known quantity.
What is making me go "Hmm" over the last few days is the cast of characters trotted out in public to measure reactions to potential choices, such as Clemon's wish list, the PDF Lambert referenced, and the Larry Summers death-watch. There was Yves Smith's reaction to Albright and Leach representing Obama at the G20, Bush and Obama Diss the G20 Financial Summit, which made me wonder why Obama would not send a stronger economic advisor presence, though it may simply be a move to have two excellent observors present while staying detached from the Bushies. I got some snarks in last week about the presence of former Clinton administration people on the transition team and being tapped for key positions, mostly to poke a finger in the eye of professional Clinton haters (and, oh boy, but did I get a fine selection of outraged responses - you guys are a riot!), but the on-going news leaves me scratching my head.
Why is there so much indecision about key posts like SOS or Treasury? Throughout the primary campaign and more muted in the general, I remember how the high-brow punditocracy like Clemons was insisting that Obama had this great team on foreign affairs (or the pundit's particular specialty), and they knew the players and they were excited at the potential, etc. I don't think this was BS for the most part, though it may have been wishful thinking. I admit to being surprised at just how heavily the prospective administration is populated by former Clinton people, even if it is just rumors and wish lists. There's a lot spinning going on over the prospective choices as is to be expected, and the people doing this are playing a game I have no part of. When I look at this, even taking into account both the obvious political jockeying and the short duration since the election, what I see is indecision.
Here's a proposition - McCain wasn't the only candidate side-swiped by the abrupt collapse of the economic world. I'm not saying this to be snarky nor am I drawing some kind of equivalence. There are a large number of very smart people who expected a downturn but who didn't anticipate the expanding sinkhole. The recent unemployment numbers are shocking people who have not been wearing rose-colored glasses. People who know what they are talking about are nervous, if not downright afraid, of what they see.
When the economic horizon looked like a another recession, somewhat worse than the downturn after the dot com crash but not as much as the mess of the early 90s, mild and vague policy stances seemed sufficient and blather about bipartisanship could be served up with a straight face. Even now, these nostrums - not so much centrist as inconsequential - are being pushed by Villagers truly too stupid to recognize reality even when it beats them over the top of their perfectly coiffed heads. They are still obsessing about whether the Evil Hillary Mommy Monster will get "rewarded" with a major administration post.
My deepest suspicion is that Obama has just run smack into the realization that events are in the saddle and ride men.
He is now faced with the situation of having spent more than a year cruising along on the demonization of the people who are in possession of the institutional knowledge and practices that will give his administration any hope in Hell of surviving the next four years, which is tantamount to saying the people who give the nation that hope of getting through it. This is bigger than the Clintons themselves; this goes to the entire cadre of top and middle level Clinton appointees and hires who have been treated like shit from the left and the right for nearly a decade, and who Obama himself dismissed throughout his campaign as the old way of thinking. It is irrelevant whether that stance is his true belief or just a campaign posture because it has set up expectations that he will reject them.
This is a problem for him on all fronts because his rejection of the previous administration has resulted in opposition from a significant slice on the left, people he took for granted beacuse they had no where else to go, but whose support he will now need to put through the kinds of programs and policies necesary to deal with the sinkhole. To placate them means pissing off the interests who he pandered to in order to secure the nomination. Rock, meet hard place.
Taking seriously the reasonably dire predictions of thinkers and analysts that we are facing at best severe recession and possibly a full-blown depression, what is needed in the administration are old hands capable of performing new tricks, people with thorough knowledge of the federal bureaucracy and a willingness to turn it upside down, comfortable ignoring the squawks of the Village, the bluster of the Movement Conservatives and the greek chorus of the blogosphere.
Thus, I'm looking at the trial balloons going up and what I see is an attempt to decide who Obama can bring in to do the job that needs doing without creating a backlash from the unstable part of his electoral coalition.