add Aides; Obama plans to nominate Clinton
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state after Thanksgiving, a new milestone for a former first lady and a convergence of two political forces who contested mightily for the presidency.
Obama transition aides described a process Thursday that appears on track to make Clinton the top diplomat in an Obama administration, just one week after the two first met in secrecy to discuss the idea.
The nomination would be a remarkable union between the former first lady who was an early favorite to win the presidency and the first-term senator who upset her in the primary and cruised to a general election victory. Such a high-profile seat in the Cabinet for Clinton also would be another achievement for the most accomplished former first lady in U.S. history, who has been the first presidential spouse to serve in the Senate and run for the White House herself.
Some Democrats and government insiders have questioned whether Clinton is too independent and politically ambitious to be an effective secretary of state. But a senior Obama adviser said the president-elect has been enthusiastic about naming Clinton as secretary of state from the start, believing she would bring instant stature and credibility to U.S. diplomatic relations and that the advantages to her serving far outweighed potential downsides.
The advisers who explained Obama’s plans and thinking did so on a condition of anonymity because he was not ready to formally announce his plans.
But transition aides told The Associated Press that the two camps have worked out financial disclosure issues involving Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the complicated international funding of his foundation that operates in more than 40 countries. The aides said Obama and Hillary Clinton have had substantive conversations about the secretary of state job.
Clinton has been mulling the post for several days, but the comments from the transition aides suggested that Obama’s team does not feel she is inclined to turn it down. Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines would not comment, except to say that anything about Cabinet appointments is for Obama’s transition team to address.
Clinton would have to surrender her New York Senate seat, which she has held for eight years, to take the job.
The president-elect also is likely to choose Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to be secretary of homeland security, top Obama advisers and several Democrats said Thursday as the shape of Obama’s Cabinet begins to emerge.
The Obama advisers cautioned that no final decision has been made on putting Napolitano in charge of the Homeland Security Department, the massive agency created by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the advisers said she was easily the top contender.
Thus far, Obama has informally selected Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as health secretary. The plans could be sidetracked by unexpected glitches in the final vetting process, officials note.
Among other Cabinet posts: Senior Democrats say there is a strong possibility that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would stay temporarily and later give way to former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig. Even so, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island also are said to be under consideration.
Democrats also say that several people remain in the running for treasury secretary, including Timothy Geithner, president of Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Lawrence Summers, former treasury secretary and one-time Harvard University president; and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.
Several news organizations reported Thursday that Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker, who was Obama’s national campaign finance chairman, was his leading choice to become commerce secretary. However, Pritzker issued a statement Thursday saying she is not a contender for the post.
Officials say Laura D’Andrea Tyson, the former chair of White House Council of Economic Advisers in the Clinton administration, is in the running for the Commerce job.