On Thursday, Hillary Clinton reiterated her intention to only serve as secretary of state. Clinton, who has been a national political figure since her husband's presidency two decades ago, has been the subject of speculation recently, as pundits wonder if President Barack Obama plans to run his 2012 presidential campaign with her on the ticket as vice president. Although Clinton's intelligence, endurance, and shrewd diplomacy have been on display these past three years, the multiple public statements she has made make it seem unlikely that she will become vice president, let alone remain in a top government position for many more years.
Although she ran against Obama in the 2008 primaries, Clinton has developed what seems to be an effective and amiable working relationship with him. She was the face of the government to the Middle East during the Arab Spring, and while she had several missteps (such as declaring Hosni Mubarak's government to be “stable” after the first round of protests), it was clear the president relied on her. America's military intervention in Libya was largely guided by her initial strong support for sending NATO troops. However, she has also been key in some more positive policy decisions: She made the decision not to reveal pictures of the dead Osama bin Laden, the State Department is now officially promoting gay rights abroad, and moves have been made in Burma and other places to support transitions to democratic governments. She currently has a 68% approval rating (far higher than the president's).
In an interview with NPR, Bill Keller, the former editor-in-chief of the New York Times, listed some reasons he thought Clinton would be a potentially helpful tool for the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party: One, that she would energize their campaign, due to her high approval ratings and the added novelty of being a familiar, powerful woman. But it has become apparent during the last round of Republican debates and the three primaries held so far that the Republicans are turning on themselves — “you have the Republicans taking a break from accusing Obama of being a socialist to attack Mitt Romney for being a capitalist,” as Keller put it — that kind of energy isn't even necessary at this point for the Obama campaign. This point Keller acknowledges; another potential upside of a Obama-Clinton ticket would be that Obama would return to office in 2013 with not just a majority, but a mandate — in other words, he could claim that the American people didn't just choose him as the lesser of two evils, but as the right man for the job. A third upside, of course, would be that, four years from now, Clinton could even run on her own ticket — an idea that Clinton has firmly rejected for many reasons, including that in 2016, Clinton will be 69.
It seems unlikely that Clinton will ever return to office. Although some of her policies have not been perfect, it would be a shame to lose a woman in such a high position, and as an intelligent counterbalance to Sarah Palin and the women of the Tea Party. Fortunately, it seems that there will be many people ready to follow in her footsteps.
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