Friday, November 21, 2008

Senator? Secretary of State?

I happen to think that the Obama organization is managing the news cycle perfectly. Pundits, such as Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, are agonizing over the Clinton drama being played out over the airwaves, in newspapers, and on the electronic news network. Why, they wonder, are the Clintons front and center? What ever happened to no-drama-Obama? This is change?

I believe that they are part of the show that the Obama team is producing and directing with aplomb (complete confidence and self-assurance), and expertly. Who coul dhave failed to guess that the Clintons would leak all over the place? (Last night Chris Matthews remarked with incredulity how much of a source of leaked news the Wall Street Journal has become for Democrtas.) Who would not have known that the Clinton drama would be played out before the world?

Obama and his team would not have been so foolish and naive, now are they. It was not accidentally that the first leak of the Clinton trip to Chicago occured before the G-20 summit; releasing it then was purposeful. As I see it, either an Obama source leaked it, or just as credibly, the invitation was made at that particular time, with the expectation that not only would there be a Clinton leak, but that the Senator would be seen by the media, and the story would inflate rapidly. As it has.

Why involve her? Chris Matthews admitted, he of a thousand opinions and confidence to the point of arrogance, that he is baffled. Others continually talk about The Team of Rivals, the Kearns Goodwin book-inspired discussion of doing as Lincoln did: putting his rivals in the Cabinet, keeping one's friends close and one's enemies closer; or, as attributed the LBJ, rather having her inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.

But there is little original thinking being done. The same concepts are bandied about, repeated, agonized over, and have become conventional wisdom. The only original thoughts I've heard the last few days came from Richard Wolffe and Howard Fineman, both of Newsweek, whom I see on MSNBC. Matthews hardly lets Fineman, or anyone else talk, without many interruptions.

The opinions of these two are different, and, I think, more accurate, but because they are outside the confines of conmventional wisdom, are not picked up on.

Here's a story on the website today:

Just how much 'change' is coming? Nov. 21: A star-studded panel weighs in on how President-elect Barack Obama is handling the assembly of a new cabinet and how much change Americans will see in Washington.

The point is being missed: Obama said change from Bush. If he does not want to form his government with novices and inexperienced folks, then he has to get people who served in the Clinton Administration.

So consider this article's geadline: An Option for Clinton: Enhanced Senate Role. There is so much spin going on that it is easy to get dizzy.

Democratic leaders in the Senate are prepared to give Senator Clinton a still-undefined leadership role there if she does not become secretary of state, Democratic officials close to the situation said Thursday.

And of course it is said this happened before the President-elect approach to Senator Clinton. SO who leaked this one? Smells Clintonite. Could be an Obama ally.

Although advisers to Mr. Obama have said he has not made a formal offer, most Democrats believe the decision is hers to make, and friends said Thursday that she was wavering. One friend said Mrs. Clinton decided late Wednesday to say no, reasoning that she would have more freedom in the Senate. By midday Thursday, the friend said, she was “back in the indecisive column again.” By the end of the day, another associate said she could accept by Friday.

Now there is a Clinton leak: a friend? Sure. And that's vintage Clinton: public drama. But they are not in control, so she is being careful.

At the end of a confused day in which even Mr. Obama’s advisers seemed unsure what was happening, a transition official reached out to reporters Thursday night to say that the president-elect’s team believed things were on track with Mrs. Clinton and that her nomination could be announced after Thanksgiving. The decision could affect the composition of Mr. Obama’s overall national security team as he tries to balance personalities and experience. The formation of that team appeared fluid Thursday. A senior Democratic adviser said Mr. Obama had talked with a retired Marine general, James L. Jones, former commander of NATO, about serving as secretary of state or national security adviser.

A counter-leak. So Washington is pinning in feverish speculation about whether the two former rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination would team up. Mrs. Clinton was keeping counsel only with a tight circle of confidants, leaving even prominent veterans of the Clinton political operation guessing as to her intentions.

Spinning is a perfect word for the drma playing out in the heart of American politics.

But driving her consideration, friends said, is a sense of disenchantment with the Senate, where despite her stature she remains low in the ranks of seniority that governs the body. She was particularly upset, they said, at the reception she felt she received when she returned from the campaign after collecting 18 million votes and almost becoming the first woman nominated for president by a major party.

Another Clinton leak: she was not greeted as a returning conqueror, so she is upset. Yet she is unsure whether she wants to leave the Senate, lose her independence, and become a Cabinet member.

I'd say Obama has her in a quandary, painted into a corner, yet giving her a way out. He is in control.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Friends say Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s lack of seniority in a chamber that is run by it has left her somewhat disenchanted.

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