Eliminating any trace of their formerly intense rivalry, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he would nominate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for the position of Secretary of State. She will join a national security team expected to include incumbent Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and retired Marine General James L. Jones as national security advisor.
“On the broad core vision of where America needs to go, we are in almost complete agreement,” said Obama about his three picks when he made the announcement in Chicago on Dec 1.
When word of the choice leaked days in advance, it prompted speculation about how Obama would resolve the high-profile activities of former President Bill Clinton so as not to conflict with his wife’s potential new role. Ultimately, The Huffington Post reports, Mr. Clinton agreed to disclose the donors to his presidential library and foundation, and accepted limits on the activities of his Clinton Global Initiative, clearing the way for Obama to nominate Mrs. Clinton.
Clinton, 61, has served as the junior Senator from New York since 2000, where her assignments have included service on the Committee on Armed Service. If confirmed by the full Senate as Secretary of State, she will be the third woman to hold the position, after Condoleeza Rice, the current occupant, and Madeleine Albright, who served as Secretary of State during President Bill Clinton’s second term.
Clinton rose to prominence on the world stage as a First Lady from 1992–2000. In 1995, she led the U.S. delegation to a United Nations conference on women’s rights in Beijing. As a Secretary of State, she is expected to focus on poverty, education and violence against women.
However, before she can advocate more strongly for women, Clinton and the national security team will face a slate of immediate foreign policy challenges including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, a reassertive Russia and the ongoing Middle East peace process. They also have the task of reestablishing America’s credibility abroad after two terms of George W. Bush, who is unpopular the world over.
Back in New York, groups like the Feminist Majority, the National Organization for Women and NARAL Pro-Choice America were already rallying for a woman to fill the senate seat to be vacated by Clinton. They suggest that not picking a woman could reopen the wounds of the presidential campaign, where Clinton, who garnered 18 million votes, lost to Obama amidst charges of sexism and media bias.
By law, New York Governor David Paterson, a Democrat, is responsible for selecting a replacement. He has said he plans to wait until Clinton officially leaves the seat before making an announcement.