Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hillary's the issue, not Bill

Over the past several days, most of the media have become obsessed with the notion that the only thing that stands in the way of Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State -- and by implication at least, the only thing that should stand in the way -- is adequately "vetting" Bill Clinton's globetrotting business and philanthropic activities.

There is no question that if his wife is to be SoS, Bill Clinton will have to stop taking money from an assortment of foreign potentates and business interests and very likely cut back sharply on giving speeches abroad. International politics is a sensitive affair. Foreign governments understandably study our words and policies closely (just as we do theirs), and bad things can happen if they get confused about U.S. policies because of what the SoS's husband, a former President after all, says.

That said, I don't see why Bill Clinton would not agree to virtually any limitation on his future activities (although perhaps not as transparent disclosure of past activities as some would like), in order to see his wife become the nation's foreign minister and regain a shot at the Presidency. The Clinton's are now very wealthy; Bill can make millions in many ways; and it's clear that he wants to see Hillary in the White House.

The focus on Bill creates something of a phony issue -- and a distraction from a more serious one -- namely, that it may not be a great idea to have one of the nation's leading politicians, Hillary Clinton, at State. As I posted a few days ago, it's a recipe for conflict. That's why for most of the past century, Presidents have not looked to political leaders for Secretaries of State. The last time one did -- when Truman appointed Jimmy Byrnes in 1945 -- Truman soon came to regret it.

Here is a relevant summary of past Secretaries of State and their political ambitions.


  1. "There is no question that if his wide is to be SoS,"

    Freudian slip there Publius???