concurs with the balance of commentary on the suspected appointment of Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State: It was a shrewd
move by Obama. But he does not like the analogy to Secretary Seward in the Lincoln administration.
It had long been a tradition
for political rivals to occupy the position of Secretary of State: this was not Lincoln’s masterful invention, and the
two were often badly at odds. Seward very nearly started a war with England in the middle of the Civil War.
One doubts whether
the United States can afford this kind of rivalry in the 21st century. Since World War II the only successful Secretaries
of State have been those whose views and loyalties were fully shared by the president. Obama may want to send a clear signal
that he intends to be his own foreign minister, as he has every right to do. But then Clinton would be foolish to put herself
in that position.
John F. Kennedy claimed—infamously—that
President Eisenhower never mentioned anything about Vietnam to him during their long talk together
before Kennedy’s inauguration. Rather, Ike was obsessed with Laos. And so was Kennedy for
the first few months of his administration, and failed to anticipate an even greater crisis for the United States
Reportedly Bill Clinton told George W. Bush that he did all he could to
kill Osama bin Laden. Judging by the Bush administration’s list of priorities in 2001, Clinton’s
statement did not make a very deep impression.
What will Bush tell Obama today when
they meet in the White House? What will he warn him against? Which parts of the world will he emphasize? Which foreigners—friends,
foes, or both—will he tell Obama to watch out for?
Whatever Bush says, it is
likely that he will leave out—probably inadvertently—the most salient information. Any lucky flies on the wall
should be sure to make note of what is not said between the two.