Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trouble in Paradise?


Evidently, there is some noticeable tension between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. Clinton reportedly urged Obama to take a tougher line on Iran. Obama eventually did so at his June 23rd press conference when he said “appalled and outraged” by Iran’s brutal suppression of protesters. But he used the new language without consulting her (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jul/01/clinton-urged-obama-to-talk-tougher-on-iran/?feat=home_cube_position1).

I think some in the press are making a bit much of this affair. Internal disagreements happen in any administration. Still this is an interesting development. I wonder what Clinton and Obama’s relationship is really like behind closed doors. How much do they talk? How much does Clinton respect Obama? Part of her must be bitter after losing such a close race last year.

This makes me think of the contentious relationship Abraham Lincoln had with his cabinet. If you recall, there were a good many people talking up the idea of a team of rivals in the Obama administration, a concept made famous by historian Dorris Kearns Goodwin.

The book follows Lincoln’s dealings with his Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, his Secretary of State William Seward, his Attorney General Edward Bates, and his Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Astonishingly, all four of these men were rivals for the Republican nomination in 1860! Lincoln ended up close to Seward and developed working relationships with the others. Perhaps such a future is in the cards for Clinton and Obama.

Whatever tensions there are between Clinton and Obama, I’m inclined to think that Obama picking her for his cabinet was still a smart choice. He got to look magnanimous in extending an offer to a former rival. And he made sure she was invested in his having a successful Presidency instead of positioning herself potentially for a future election.

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