Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wicked Irony Alert: Did Obama Snub Richardson to Pick Clinton as Secretary of State?

When Bill Richardson snubbed Hillary Clinton and endorsed Barack Obama, some Clinton supporters said he betrayed her. James Carville, in his classic Cajun style, called Richardson a "Judas."

Now, Ruben Navarrette, a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, complains that Obama has betrayed Richardson by picking Clinton to serve as Secretary of State. For those of you who do not follow Navarrette's writings, he passionately opposed Clinton during the primaries. Afterwards, however, he seemed to develop a softness for McCain. I am not sure what to make of this, but Navarrette's recent anger towards Obama and his disappointment that Clinton will probably head the Department of State do not surprise me.

With respect to Clinton's likely nomination, Navarette argues that:
Now I wonder what message it sends that President-elect Obama has apparently
passed over Richardson and seems ready to offer the post at state to their
former rival, Hillary Clinton. While known the world over from her days as first
lady, Clinton doesn't have anywhere near Richardson's level of experience in
foreign affairs. Besides, she treated Obama reprehensibly during the primary.
Does anyone really think that if Hillary had been elected president that she
would be vetting Barack Obama for secretary of state?

After the snub, Richardson turned the other cheek and got slapped again. He is reportedly about to be offered, as a parting gift, a job — secretary of commerce — that someone else turned down. That someone else was Penny Pritzker, the president-elect's chief fundraiser who reportedly was Obama's choice for the post. A billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, Pritzker withdrew her name from
Navarrette concludes his essay with some harsh words for Obama:

This isn't about Richardson, who might be very happy heading for ribbon cuttings
in Toledo while Clinton heads for blue-ribbon summits in Tel Aviv. . . .

America's largest minority took a chance on Obama despite the fact that
the president-elect had no track record in reaching out to them and didn't break
a sweat trying to win their votes. They deserve better.

I am not sure whether Obama ever considered Richardson for the position of Secretary of State. If Richardson ever had a serious chance at receiving the post, then Secretary of Commerce would certainly represent a sharp tumble in terms of prestige.

But Richardson must certainly understand that nothing is certain in politics. Clinton, for example, believed Richardson would endorse her over Obama because he worked in her husband's administration and gained national prominence as a result. But that experience did not secure Richardson's support for Clinton. Instead, Richardson made a decision that seemed most politically favorable to him. All politicians do this. By the time Richardson endorsed Obama it appeared that he had an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. By supporting Obama's candidacy, Richardson bet on Obama eventually winning the Democratic nomination and possibly the general election. By siding with the likely nominee, Richardson sought to maximize his own opportunities for political prominence and access to the White House. These types of calculations animate all political endorsements, although the carefully tailored statements that accompany most endorsements deceptively imply altruistic motives.

Now, Obama has made a similarly self-interested political decision. Ironically, Richardson loses, while Clinton gains. Because of the strong level of support for Clinton among Democrats and the divisiveness of the primaries, Obama probably cut a deal that reserved a high-level appointment for Clinton in his administration. Because Daschle, whose ideas on healthcare are more in line with Obama than Clinton, won the spot to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the only remaining natural fit for Clinton was Secretary of State. Apparently, her campaigning for Obama paid off with this very important cabinet position.

Because politicians, including Richardson himself, constantly make decisions that advance their own political opportunities, Navarrette's anger is misplaced. The very same type of self-interested political calculation that led Richardson to endorse Obama instead of Clinton, has now caused Obama to prefer Clinton over Richardson. Politics is not for the faint of heart.

1 comment:

CriticalThinker said...

Those of a thin skinned nature should not delve into the world of politics. And the effrontery naivety displayed by most Obama supporters concerning his policies is humorous. He is, at the end of the day, a creature molded by the Daley political machine. They are truly thinkers of the heart and not the mind.

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