Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Senator Hillary Clinton has emerged as another of President-elect Obama's possible picks for secretary of state. And if she does indeed get and accept the appointment, it would be make the third consecutive woman serving in that post. (POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Colin Powell was secretary of state between Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice.)

Emily Bazelon and Hanna Rosin write for the XX Factor at slate.com, and let's talk about first, before we get to whether or not you support this idea of Hillary Clinton being the next secretary of state, let's talk about this line of women, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice. What is it about this position that attracts women or that make presidents want to appoint women to it.

Ms. HANNA ROSIN (Writer, Slate.com): You can think of this in two ways. You can think of it as, you know, in the insulting way, that it's like a PR position. You know, it's a position in which you want somebody who can sort of present and make a good face, and it's a sort of symbolic position more than it is an actual position. Now, that's not actually true. So I'm not going to stop there for all you people who are sort of getting their guard up listening to that.

But that is one way in which it tends to seem natural that a woman would be in that position. You have to be diplomatic. You have to call on a certain set of skills. You know, you have to be intelligent, but you have to sort of appear in a lot of meetings and deal with delicate situations. And so, I think that's why, in some ways, a woman can do that job.

BRAND: So - and Emily, do you agree with Hanna?

Ms. EMILY BAZELON (Writer, Slate.com): Well, I think that the premise is sort of wrong. I mean, yes, we've had two female secretaries of state, but we've also in recent history had lots of men: Colin Powell, Warren Christopher, James Baker. I think it's just happenstance that we're now, you know, at an end of two and possibly of three with Hillary Clinton.

Ms. ROSIN: You know, I have to say, the most interesting thing that I read about this today was Thomas Freedman's column, talking about what is the sort of delicate balance of being the secretary of state, and it kind of gives the substantive view of why we're all obsessed with a Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton relationship.

And what that is, is that the secretary of state has to kind of channel the president but has to have their own power. It's this thing where they can't be just a sort of microphone with the president speaking through them. They have to have their own kind of vision and world view, but they also have to be channeling the president.

So, it's like not too weak, not too strong, and so he was - you know, he didn't sort of come down on whether he thought the Clinton/Obama relationship met those standards, but it's - I thought it was a useful paradigm for thinking about this.

BRAND: Right, and that seems to be the big question of the day. There's Thomas Freedman's column in the New York Times, also David Broder bringing up a similar question. And basically, the overarching question to both of those columns, it seems to me, is whether or not Hillary Clinton will be able to subsume her own opinion, her own ambitions, her own ideas of what the world should look like to President Obama's.

Ms. BAZELON: For some reason, I never take that stuff that seriously. We had this discussion on the X Factor blog yesterday, where, you know, it's sort of like a thing that people run through where they bring up all these quotes from the campaign of her saying, oh, it's so dangerous and naive to meet with people. I mean, don't we allow a little bit of leeway for the things that people say during a campaign?

BRAND: But that was a pretty big substantive policy difference between the two of them. I don't think it was just campaign rhetoric per se, that she did not agree with meeting with the heads of state of so-called rogue nations - Syria, Iran, North Korea - and Barack Obama did.

Ms. BAZELON: That's his weakness in a way. That's the thing that sort of hounded him during the campaign, and she can sort of push against him, and maybe that's a useful relationship.

Ms. RESIN: Look, obviously, she's going to have to modulate her position if she takes this job. I mean, she will be working for the president. But, you know, we saw this debate already when there was discussion of whether Hillary Clinton would be Obama's vice president. And the Obama team made the decision that they didn't want her on board in that role at that time.

But now, we're in a different moment. He is elected. He is about to govern. And if the Obama campaign people and the, you know, the transition team feel like they can trust Hillary Clinton and her people, that says something.

And I think also, you know, at this moment where certainly, in terms of economic circumstances, this feels like a dire world moment, if these two separate wings of the Democratic Party can come together and, you know, put all of the might of both the Clintons and the Obamas behind dealing with the rest of the world, that would be a very powerful signal sent.

Ms. ROSIN: And also can unite those two parts of the party. There's the sort of Howard Dean wing, the kind of anti-interventionist, you know, the war was a disaster. And then there's the kind of more hawkish that was sort of slightly emerging but were a little bit quiet during the whole election. You know, if you can unite those two things, that's pretty good.

Ms. BAZELON: Right. And the fact that the Iraq War, the war in Iraq is going somewhat better and that the surge was somewhat effective, also sort of bolsters the hawkish wing and the Clinton position. And it means that, you know, to some degree, Obama, you know, notwithstanding his commitment to withdraw the troops within this definite timetable, he's going to be moving in that direction anyway.

BRAND: Now, Hanna, you write that your dread about the Hillary revival is more general. And I think you were saying, basically, you're getting a little leery of all these Clintonites in the Obama administration.

Ms. ROSIN: Yeah, when I thought about that - I had written that when I saw Hillary Clinton, it just seemed like, here we are after the campaign, and people are like dancing in the streets. And then, you know, the next day's news, it's like deja vu all over again, as they say. It's like OK, here come the Clinton people again, like all the old experts, you know?

And then I thought about it and I felt, well, really, my complaints, which were just that, you know, we think of the Obama moment as the blue sky moment, like, you know, here we're going to - you know, we're taking somebody who's slightly outside, whose naivety can either work for them or against them, and let's take the scenario where it works for them, and he comes up with these sort of - fabulous energy plan or fabulous sort of economic regulations, or, you know, he thinks really, really outside the box about these things.

And then you just kind of bring in all the Clinton experts, and they ruled during a time of Republican dominance, and so they have a much more limited notion of what one can accomplish. They sort of take small steps. They include the middle class. I mean, there's a different way that they think about these policies. But then, when I thought about it again, I thought, you know, it's mostly domestic policies where this is relevant. It's not so much in foreign policy.

Ms. BAZELON: You know, one question we do, obviously, have to ask about this potential appointment is Bill Clinton. I mean, that is really the elephant on the table right now. His, you know, incredible deal making and money making abroad is a concern with this appointment. And I have to say for myself that this is one instance in which I just feel like I don't want Bill drama to stop Hillary Clinton from getting this job, which I think she could be very good at.

BRAND: Yeah, and you saw the Bill drama during the campaign and what happened there.

Ms. BAZELON: Right, and that's not good for her.

Ms. ROSIN: Yeah, see, I'm hoping he feels really guilty. He thinks like, OK, I screwed it up. So now, he's like being a good boy. Like, he's giving up all the papers and sort of, you know, he's just laying his cards out on the table. Like, here's all my relationships. Here's all the money I made. Here's the seven times I spoke in Korea, and the 18 times I spoke here and there. And it's like, here, just look it over, it's all out there for you. And so, maybe that'll work.

BRAND: Emily Bazelon, Hanna Rosin, thank you both very much.

Ms. ROSIN: Thank you.

Ms. BAZELON: Thank you.

BRAND: They both write for slate.com's XX Factor. COST: $00.00

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.