You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Much Ado About Hillary

The recent fixation with Hillary Cinton’s place in the Obama administration strikes me as overblown, more a function of her ability to drive ratings and web traffic than any real political tensions. Clinton sees Obama regularly and she enjoys a strong link to the White House’s national security team. (Clinton’s deputy, Jim Steinberg, works extremely closely and collegially with the current deputy national security advisor, Tom Donilon, a former colleague from the Bill Clinton years.)

Take, for instance, the data points in today's New York Times story presented in support of the notion that Hillary may have been "shunted to the sidelines": Middle East hand Dennis Ross has moved from Foggy Bottom to the NSC? That has nothing to do with Clinton but rather is about Obama's White House staffing needs. Her failed effort to hire Sidney Blumenthal? A weird idea on her part, to be sure, but pretty minor in the scheme of things. Her candidate to lead USAID is caught up in a vetting process--but that's a story about the madness of confirmation politics, not internecine administration feuds. She hasn't been allowed to fill every ambassadorship at will, which would have been an extraodinary sacrifice of one of the most time-honored (if semi-corrupt) forms of presidential patronage. And then there is her broken arm, unfortunate fodder for metaphor-hungry writers, but almost not worth discussing otherwise.  


This was the hazard of choosing Hillary for the Secretary of State job. The media freak show won't stop. The Clinton vs. Obama campaign storyline was so glorious that people can't resist resurrecting it, interpreting every snafu--like the coincidental scheduling of Obama's live remarks at the same time as Hillary's speech yesterday--as evidence that Obama is out to get Hillary, or vice versa. Obama was to no small extent asking for this.

Hillary's camp isn't blameless. The bid to hire Blumenthal was unwise, invoking the memory of her as a partisan take-no-prisoners political operator. One or more people on her State team seem to have been leaking to the press, in this case complaining about the White House's political team and elsewhere touting her role in internal policy debates (more troops for Afghanistan, a harder line in Iran). I assume these leaks come from people frustrated at the chatter about Hillary being "sidelined." But that sort of thing does not go over well in the West Wing, and there may come a time where such meta, non-policy-related issues, in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, do create a real problem.

Michael Crowley