Friday, November 21, 2008

Hillary?? There Go My Chances With the Obama Administration!

Yes, of course I tossed a resume at the trasition team. What am I, stupid? A chance to work for perhaps the most important administration in my lifetime, an opportunity to serve under the first African-American president this nation has ever seen? Of course I sent them a resume!

Then I read a fascinating and disturbing article by Spencer Ackerman, discussing some of the unmentioned consequences of a Hillary Clinton State Dept.: namely, the likelihood that she'll recruit and hire members of the foreign policy establishment, rather than the Young Turks that surrounded Obama during the primaries, like Susan Rice, Samantha Power (no chance in hell that she'll get a job under Clinton, more's the pity), and Greg Craig (now appointed as Special Counsel to the President).
Some progressive Obama supporters think the arrival of Clinton at the State Dept. will mean they’ll be frozen out. That would have implications for their advancement in subsequent Democratic administrations.

“Basically, you have all of these young, next-generation and mid-career people who took a chance on Obama” during the primaries, said one Democratic foreign-policy expert included in that cohort. “They were many times the ones who were courageous enough to stand up early against Iraq, which is why many of them supported Obama in the first place. And many of them would likely get shut out of the mid-career and assistant-secretary type jobs that you need, so that they can one day be the top people running a future Democratic administration.”

In the foreign-policy bureaucracy, these middle-tier jobs — assistant secretary and principal-deputy-assistant and deputy-assistant — are stepping stones to bigger, more important jobs, because they’re where much of the actual policy-making is hashed out. Those positions flesh out strategic decisions made by the president and cabinet secretaries; implement those policies; and use their expertise to both inform decisions and propose targeted or specific solutions to particular crises.
Althought I've never complained about the number of Clintonistas in Obama's developing Cabinet, I have to wonder why he went with his biggest critic on foreign policy--at least in his own party. Now, it's not like he has a large group of recently-experienced people to draw from. The next most recent Democratic administration before Clinton's was Jimmy Carter's. You know, back when Checkoslovakia existed, and Africa was one country. And better to have some experience, I feel, and be wisely led, than to have no experience and wise leadership. Look at how well that worked out for Bill! Someone has to know where the restrooms are, and whether or not the German Chancellor likes shellfish.

But Hillary? Let's be honest, being on a first-name basis with a large number of world leaders doesn't necessarily mean that they'll listen to what she has to say, when she sits down to talk business with them. I'm on a first-name basis with a lot of people to whom I wouldn't give a thin dime! But there she is, or will be, so it seems. And experts and career diplomats like Rice and Power have to sit on the sidelines, or take orders from her? Well, there goes my chances of getting a job at Foggy Bottom this decade.

Charles Brown at the Undiplomatic blog goes on to note that
During the primaries, the Clinton campaign asked foreign policy experts to remain “exclusive” to Hillary (meaning they could not also offer advice to other candidates). That’s not an unreasonable position, even if the other leading candidates (including Obama) chose not to follow suit. I know many people in the foreign policy community who volunteered for the Clinton campaign because they thought she was the best candidate. But I also know a few who, because of ambition, felt that they had to work for her even though they preferred another candidate. When Obama ultimately won, all of them were welcomed by his campaign and integrated into Obama’s existing campaign apparatus.

If Hillary were to become Secretary of State, I presume that she, like most Secretaries, would be given significant leeway in picking most (if not all) of her senior advisors (meaning in the case of State the two Deputy Secretaries, the Under Secretaries, and those Assistant Secretary postions not assigned to career foreign service officers). It would be logical (and not unreasonable) to conclude that she probably would favor those who served her during the primaries.

But doing so could create two problems. First, the team of rivals could turn into rival fiefdoms, with Obama supporters dominating the NSC (and Defense) and Clinton supporters dominating State. Given the fact that the next Administration urgently needs to reintegrate State into existing foreign policy structures (and give it the resources both to achieve its mission and play a more robust role in intra-agency negotiations), Obama needs to end existing inter-agency rivalries, not create new ones.

Second, there was no love lost among the two camps’ advisors during the primaries. The Clintons attacked those it viewed as disloyal (such as Bill Richardson and Gregory Craig), which angered many in the Obama campaign. In addition, I heard from more than one friend that they were warned that they could forget about a role in a Clinton administration should they not support Hillary during the primaries. Given those realities, Obama risks angering those who did support him, and some of his supporters may regard Hillary’s likely selection of her loyalists to senior posts as a betrayal.
Sounding worse and worse. I think I'd have better luck tossing a resume at Citigroup. What? Never mind.

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