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Posted by on Jul 17, 2009 in Media, Politics | 4 comments

Wither Hillary Clinton?

Is Hillary Clinton being shoved to the side? Has President Barack Obama put her in the administration to keep her out of competition in the future? Is she being overshadowed by Obama on foreign affairs and is merely a figurehead? Is all of this normal or a symptom of continuing political rivalry?

And: is all of this emerging speculation based on anything or is it typical of the naval gazing that the new and old media and their seemingly infinite number of pundits whip up because controversy and political tension stories are way more fun and easier to write than other kinds of serious issue pieces and posts?

Overshadowed or not? Here’s the view from Morning Joe:

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The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan:

Mrs. Clinton is in a different position now. By this spring it must have become apparent to her that when the nice new president came and offered her the secretary of state job, and she said yes, she got rolled. What he got was clear: He took her off the chessboard. She wouldn’t be in the Senate being a counterforce, wouldn’t be planning her next move or become the rallying point of anti-Obama Democrats. She’d be on board, part of the team and invested in the administration’s success, for now its success would ensure her future. If their relationship didn’t work, nobody would think it was his fault.

This is the Lincolnesque “Team of Rivals” theory…

What she would not have known was that she would be a public face of American diplomacy—not the face but a face—and not a decisive inside power. The portfolio for key areas—Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Mideast—was day by day given to others. She was sent off to do interviews on “Good Morning Manila.” In a foreign-affairs apparatus of clashing egos, she’d be just another ego. A Henry Kissinger or George Shultz would never have allowed this. She didn’t even go to the G-8 or the Russia meeting. President Obama, that canny fellow, only wants Obama in the room. It is true she broke her elbow, but they make it sound like a farming accident where her elbow was torn from her arm as she fed the thresher. Tina Brown wrote a witty column saying Mr. Obama should let Hillary out of her burqa.

But you know, one thing Mrs. Clinton’s learned is how to wait. Things turn on a dime, you wake up in the morning and there’s a new headline that changes everything. Sooner or later Mr. Obama is going to get in trouble, sooner or later the trouble will take hold and settle in, and sooner or later she will be the unsullied one who quietly did her duty in spite of the slights to which she’s been subjected. And when that happens, she will emerge—reluctantly, painfully—as the Democratic alternative. The one who almost won, who knew—who learned the hard way—that you can’t do everything all at once, that it’s the economy, stupid.

They will look like kids playing with history. Hillary isn’t a kid. She’s experienced, and has been roughed up by history. Watch. She’ll roll right back.

So is a Hillary Clinton cabinet exit in the cards?

A Clinton resignation from the cabinet would be highly dramatic. It would also likely split the Democratic party, unless Democrats are up in arms and want to dump Obama — which polls do not show any indication of happening. It’s highly unlikely.

Most likely reality: Obama wanted to have her in the cabinet partly to co-opt her, partly to unify his bitterly divided party, and more than partly because she is highly capable and he got to know and respect her during the campaign (he also got to know and perhaps not respect as much her husband). As Morning Joe notes, Vice President Joe Biden also considers himself an expert on foreign policy so he will have some input. But does that mean Hillary Clinton is being marginalized or that her nose is out of joint?

A lot of the ongoing speculation seems just that — speculation. Some of the speculation recently on talk radio is even less than that — it’s sheer partisan lashing out and name calling. But, on that score, you increasingly have to consider the source: some of conservative talk has not just jumped the shark recently but has jumped the entire ocean. Listening to conservative talk for three hours five hours while in traffic yesterday — local and syndicated shows on various stations — was listening to often yelling hosts warn their listeners about an insidious “Communist” or “Marxist” Obama who is conducting a not-so-quiet revolution and who now presents a clear and present danger to the American way of life, education, health care, national security and listeners’ bank accounts. Two hosts warned listeners that Obama must “be stopped” after these yelling rants.

The more thoughtful, more informed and less patently partisan-derived new and old media speculation likely will prove to be false.

If Clinton felt she was being manipulated and mistreated she would not stick around too long — and if Obama wins a second term she can still run in 2016. She won’t be older than Ronald Reagan or John McCain.