Clinton to accept State job, aides say
Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, making her the public face to the world for the man who dashed her hopes for the presidency, confidants of Clinton said Friday.
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat to become secretary of state in the Obama administration, making her the public face to the world for the man who dashed her hopes for the presidency, confidants of Clinton said Friday.
The accord between the two leading figures in the Democratic Party was the culmination of a weeklong, high-stakes courtship.
After an extensive examination of Bill Clinton's complicated financial dealings, the Obama transition team is satisfied the nomination will not pose conflicts of interest, an aide to President-elect Obama said.
After a withering presidential campaign, bringing Clinton into Obama's circle was a feat of diplomacy in itself. As candidates, the two competed hard for the nomination, with loyalists trading tough charges.
In recruiting Clinton, Obama chose to turn a rival into a partner, and she concluded she could have a greater impact by becoming the nation's top diplomat than by remaining in the Senate.
Her selection remains to be formalized and will not be announced until after Thanksgiving, Obama aides said.
The developments came amid a blur of leaks Friday that Obama was close to naming other members of his Cabinet. Among them: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for commerce secretary and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano for homeland security, the latter of which has been rumored for days.
Clinton's role in an Obama administration, though a supporting one, would make her one of the most influential players on the international stage, and it would represent at least one more act for one of the nation's most prominent public families, as former President Clinton also would become an ad hoc member of the Obama team.
The sometimes-awkward dance between Obama and Sen. Clinton in the eight days since he invited her to Chicago for a meeting culminated in a telephone call Thursday. Before the call, Clinton was skeptical about the prospect of joining the Cabinet, said her confidants, who insisted on anonymity. But Obama addressed her concerns about access, personnel and other issues, leading her to conclude she should take the job, they said.
"She's ready," one of Clinton's confidants said. The first meeting in Chicago "was so general" that she needed to have a better sense of how she would fit into Obama's administration, and the call helped her in "just getting comfortable" with the idea of working together, the confidant said.
Obama's advisers said that, although no offer had been accepted formally, her nomination was "on track" and probably would be announced after the holiday. Clinton's Senate office broke a week of silence to acknowledge the talks but cautioned that they had not been made final.
"We're still in discussions, which are very much on track," said her spokesman, Philippe Reines. "Any reports beyond that are premature."
To clear a path for his wife's appointment, Bill Clinton agreed to several concessions: He gave the Obama team the names of more than 200,000 donors to his foundation and library; he agreed to clear future paid speeches with the White House and State Department; and he said he would distance himself from his foundation.
An Obama aide said Friday the "financial-disclosure issues have been worked out." And a Bill Clinton aide said: "If she does not do it, it won't be because of my boss."
Friends said the job is an irresistible one for Hillary Clinton, while the Senate may have lost some of its allure. As a relatively junior senator elected in 2000, she is stuck in a system that prizes seniority, forcing her to wait for coveted committee chairmanships.
Obama wants to announce members of his national-security team at once. Advisers said he was weighing whether to make retired Gen. James Jones, a former Marine commandant and NATO supreme commander, his national-security adviser, installing a formidable counterweight to Clinton. Obama still was trying to decide whether to keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates on an interim basis or install another choice to run the Pentagon right away.
In addition, Obama has been meeting with possible candidates for other posts, including director of national intelligence. One name that has surfaced as a possibility in recent days is retired Adm. Dennis Blair, a former chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. Others said to be possibilities include John Brennan, a former CIA analyst who worked his way up the agency ladder, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.
Some Democrats doubt the Clinton-Obama alliance can work or that it will avoid controversy. Obama is famously averse to drama; the Clintons have proved to be drama magnets. The pairing could prove awkward, in part because Bill Clinton is a prominent world figure in his own right.
"He is a former president," said Don Fowler, a Democratic National Committee chairman during the Clinton years. "I just don't know how you'd expect someone that smart, with that many thoughts on that many subjects, to hold his peace."
But the choice of Clinton pleased many in the Democratic establishment, and they praised Obama for putting the rancor of the campaign behind him. "Senator Clinton is a naturally gifted diplomat and would be an inspired choice if she is chosen by President-elect Obama as secretary of state," said Warren Christopher, who held that job under President Clinton.
Advisers said Obama concluded after the election that the problems confronting the nation were so serious that he needed someone of Clinton's stature and capabilities as part of his team, their past differences notwithstanding.
Information from the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post is included in this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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