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Hail Clinton

3:16 PM, Nov 17, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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There appears to be little angst among conservatives at the prospect of Hillary Clinton joining the Obama administration as Secretary of State. The idea was warmly embraced by Henry Kissinger, who our President-elect seems to hold in high-esteem, Governor Schwarzenegger, who likely has no more sway on Obama than the proverbial guy in the neighborhood, and Jon Kyl -- surely Senator McCain put in a good word today as well. The love affair that was sparked last spring between Clinton and the Obama-fearing right continues to smolder, surely a surprise to those who suspected that such an unholy alliance couldn't last beyond the convention. Whether Clinton would accept the job, or why she would want it, is not clear, but the right would be happy enough to have her.

On the issues, Clinton's a hawk. Not only did she vote to authorize the war in Iraq, she delivered her vote in style -- her floor speech on October 10, 2002, went so far as to connect Saddam to al Qaeda:

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. [emphasis mine]

Clinton flipped on the war, but as the nomination slipped out of her reach last spring she spoke of the threats this country faces, and of the prescriptions offered by Obama, in language that would warm the hearts of neoconservatives (if we had them). She threatened to "obliterate" Iran in response to unprovoked aggression against Israel, she spoke of unconditional meetings with the leaders of rogue states as "irresponsible and, frankly, naive," and she castigated Obama's transparent saber-rattling on Pakistan ("last summer [Obama] basically threatened to bomb Pakistan, which I don't think was a particularly wise position to take."). On matters of diplomacy, Clinton's views are not so different from those held by John McCain and most Republicans -- and they are certainly well to the right of Obama.

Of course, if Clinton takes the job one expects she'll be loyal to her new boss. Though it would be extremely entertaining, we probably wouldn't see Madame Secretary working to undermine an Obama administration with recalcitrance and rogue diplomacy. But then Colin Powell was a dutiful soldier while inside the Bush administration and that still didn't prevent him from becoming a foil for the administration's opponents. It's not difficult to imagine Clinton performing a similar service for Republicans. She could be held up as the very model of a responsible Democrat, forced against her better judgment to partake in a series of reckless diplomatic escapades pursued by a more ideological president.

Clinton would be a fine Secretary of State, and she is likely to be a nuisance to Obama whether she is inside or outside of his administration, but as our top diplomat she could reprise a role that made Powell a kingmaker in this year's election. And perhaps she could even present the case for war with Iran to an insubordinate United Nations in the event that Obama's personal diplomacy somehow fails to deter the mullahs from their present course.