President Obama should ask Hillary to stay for another year

Paul Evans

Rice is shrewd, smart, and well prepared for the job. They are both good candidates and the issues involved in the President’s decision-making are far above my pay grade. In the end, both people will likely be nominated for a senior cabinet position - both will serve our nation well in whatever capacities they are chosen for.

Our America is poised for a transformation of our governance; the Republican Party is in retreat - working through internal policy and power issues.

It is our moment for a coherent, reasoned discussion over the role of government and civic responsibility. President Obama has the trust of the public to push an agenda but he has a window of opportunity.

He must pick his battles, at least for the initial phase of his second term.

Fair or unfair, the likely nomination (and fight) of our Ambassador to the United Nations cannot happen – at least in the near term – if it does, it will likely unite a Republican Party that is seeking just such a brawl.

This kind of fight plays to the remaining strengths of the Republicans in the Senate: which is why we cannot allow a fight in that venue over this issue, now.

Yes, the Democrats won: the Presidency, increased power in the US Senate, even added seats in the US House.

And yes, a President - our President - has the authority to select whoever s/he wants for the cabinet. Selection of a cabinet is among the most important powers of a Presidency. People demonstrate symbol and values; it is not a trivial issue.

That said, there are political realities.

The ongoing investigations over the assassination of our Ambassador to Libya and his team in Benghazi and the unfortunate kerfuffle over CIA Director General (Retired) Petraeus and SACEUR nominee (and Afghanistan Commanding General) Allen have established a tough political environment for a nomination fight – especially over State.

While I still believe John Kerry warrants the job he asked for during Obama’s initial term, it appears that President Obama wants Ambassador Susan Rice as our Secretary of State.

Kerry gave Obama the keynote spotlight at the 2004 Convention (as a yet-to-be elected US Senator) and many believe a path to the Presidency. However, past gestures are not always relevant when placed in context of emerging requirements - that's politics.

Rice is shrewd, smart, and well prepared for the job. They are both good candidates and the issues involved in the President’s decision-making are far above my pay grade. In the end, both people will likely be nominated for a senior cabinet position - both will serve our nation well in whatever capacities they are chosen for.

However, what the President wants – at least for now – may not matter.

Rather than picking someone Obama doesn’t want, or nominating Rice and possibly losing her in the process, there is a third option: ask Hillary to stay in place for another year.

Hillary Clinton is a dynamic, thoughtful senior statesperson. There is no urgent need to replace her.

During that time Obama can settle the budgetary issues (the fiscal “cliff,” the possible sequestration process, and the nomination of the next Secretary of the Treasury); it will also give the US Senate time to recast the rules associated with filibuster that so many new senators are calling for.

Hillary is a patriot and would stay another year if asked to do so. Simply put, her staying would give Obama added breathing room to be selective in his fights. We need her. Hillary has earned immense clout because of her intelligence, skill, and values. It is important to note that despite the tragic consequences, Hillary has not been caught up in the Benghazi recriminations: she took responsibility and acted appropriately.

Added time in her post would help her as well. It would give her time to strengthen programs she has put into place. Most importantly – separate from Obama and Hillary – our nation needs stability in our foreign policy. The melodrama playing out associated with Petraeus and now General Allen has showcased the need for a steady hand.

President Obama deserves the team he wants, and can have it – if he takes his time. Pushing this fight now would likely be a victory - but a pyric victory; a net loss of immense political capital needed for critical legislation and other nominations.

The Republican Party is in the middle of a civil war; there is no reason for the President to hand them an issue that will unite their split party leadership.

It is best to keep the Benghazi discovery process separate from the new Obama leadership team. That cannot, will not happen if Susan Rice is nominated for Secretary of State in the near-term. The Republicans know they cannot win on the tax fight, but they see her nomination as a way to question other Middle East initiatives.

The President can get his nominee in time, but if he pushes too hard – too fast – he may end up with far less influence in his second term than he could have had.

It’s his choice; let us hope that he chooses wisely.

Comments

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    It's not his choice, its her (Hillary Clinton's) choice.

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    Secretary Clinton has done an admirable job representing our country throughout the world. she should be encouraged to stay on for the obvious reasons that she is the best for the job. Rice is clearly not yet ready for prime time.

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