Speculation Obama will choose Clinton as top diplomat
AFP - Saturday, November 15
WASHINGTON (AFP) - - Intense speculation flared Friday over reports that president-elect Barack Obama is weighing former Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton to be a heavy-hitting secretary of state.
Sources close to Clinton and Obama did not deny media reports that the former first lady met Obama in Chicago on Thursday and was in the frame to become the top US diplomat and fourth in line to the presidency.
The reports came as Obama's team announced that the president-elect, who will take office in January during an intense economic crisis and with two foreign wars raging, would meet former Republican rival John McCain on Monday.
The McCain talks and Clinton reports spurred speculation that Obama would assemble a "team of rivals" uniting his former political foes like that framed after the 1860 election by his hero Abraham Lincoln.
Obama spent much of Friday closeted in his transition headquarters in Chicago in meetings about his future administration, fleshing out priorities following his historic November 4 victory.
A Secret Service motorcade of the kind in which Clinton travels, by virtue of her role as former first lady, was seen leaving the building shortly before Obama headed for his home late Thursday.
Two unidentified Obama advisers told NBC News the formidable former first lady, who is now a New York senator, was under consideration for secretary of state.
Clinton flew to Chicago to meet with the Democratic president-elect on Thursday, CNN and ABC said, but one adviser said it was on personal business.
Aides to Obama and Clinton refused all comment on the rampant speculation, but equally did not deny the reports. Clinton herself also refused to give details.
"I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect's incoming administration. I'm going to respect his process," she said in a speech to the New York Public Transit Association.
With the incoming administration inheriting two wars and the pressing need to restore America's damaged global reputation, the post of secretary of state is especially key.
Clinton, 61, has extensive foreign policy experience, having travelled widely when her husband Bill was president from 1993 to 2001, and from her time in the Senate, where she serves on the Armed Services Committee.
But a decision to include her in the cabinet would also raise the question of the larger-than-life former president, who is popular abroad but hardly fits into the on-message discipline of Obama's team.
After Obama beat Clinton in the bruising Democratic primaries earlier this year, her legions of loyal supporters were disappointed when she was not approached to be his running-mate.
But Clinton, who won nearly 18 million votes, campaigned feverishly for her former rival in the final days of the campaign, doing more than 50 rallies.
Obama is also due to meet Monday in Chicago with McCain.
"It's well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality," a transition statement said Friday.
An impressive array of former Clinton-era diplomats and officials have already been appointed to oversee the transition teams that are burrowing into the sprawling US bureaucracy.
Obama's office announced Friday new teams to review nearly all of the rest of the cabinet departments, to join reviews already in progress of the principal offices of treasury, state and defense.
According to the Washington Post, Clinton's name emerged as a possible secretary of state because the Obama camp "is not overly happy with the usual suspects" mentioned for the job.
Those include Senator John Kerry, a former presidential candidate, former US representative to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.
Republican Senator Richard Lugar, whom Obama admires, has made clear he does not want to serve in the administration.
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, a moderate on foreign policy, is also said to be in the mix for a national security job after touring Iraq and Afghanistan with Obama earlier this year.
Speculation has also swirled around the post of defense secretary, with rumors Robert Gates might be asked to stay on.
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Barack Obama (R) and Hillary Clinton address supporters during a rally in Orlando, Florida in October 2008. Intense speculation flared Friday over reports that president-elect Barack Obama is weighing whether to name former Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton as a heavy-hitting secretary of state.
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