Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama to Nominate Clinton and Name Foreign Policy Team Tomorrow

According to several media reports, Barack Obama will name his entire foreign policy team Monday, and Hillary Clinton will officially receive an offer to serve as Secretary of State. I have expressed my cynicism over this rumored nomination a few times (see, e.g., If Clinton Becomes Sec. of State for Obama, My Cynicism Will Max Out! ). Nonetheless, political idealists apparently still exist. According to CBS News, for example, Obama's decision to pick Clinton does not stem from cold political calculation but instead represents "an extraordinary gesture of goodwill after a year in which Clinton and Obama competed for the Democratic nomination in a long, bitter primary battle" (boldface added). And perhaps McCain really did pick Sarah Palin because he is an old-school feminist.

Clinton's nomination likely results from a carefully negotiated deal between the Obama and Clinton camps and DNC leadership. The agreement kept Clinton off the ticket altogether, in return for a very high-level position within the Senate or in Obama's administration. In exchange for the deal, Clinton needed to keep the PUMAs in the party by campaigning for Obama's. The gritty "No Way, No How, No McCain" speech set things into motion, followed by the cute emails to supporters urging them to canvass for Obama to tell prospective voters that "Hillary sent me."

In exchange for her work, Clinton gets the highest cabinet position, and she forces Obama to contradict his campaign message and declare that she has credible experience and good judgment in foreign affairs. Furthermore, Clinton's nomination would, by implication, help neutralize racism charges that surrounded both Clintons for about a year. As a race relations scholar, I tend to see race more than the average person, but I doubted many of the accusations of racism during the Democratic primaries. Because Obama has campaigned with both Clintons and has picked Hillary to hold his highest cabinet position, perhaps he views these accusations with a similar level of skepticism.

Query: What do readers think? Is my analysis too cynical? Should I celebrate Clinton's nomination tomorrow as a rare "feel-good" political moment? Am I "stuck in the past"?

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