Bill Clinton Agrees to Disclose Names of Foundation Donors
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Bill Clinton has agreed to a series of concessions requested by officials representing Barack Obama's presidential transition team, moving his wife one step closer to potentially becoming the next secretary of state.
Aides to both Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said that a formal job offer had not been made, but the former president's decision to disclose the identities of donors to his charitable foundation and to vet his future speeches and overseas activities with members of the Obama administration appears to have removed some of the biggest hurdles to her nomination.
Obama aides said yesterday that it would be difficult for Sen. Clinton to walk away from the secretary of state post. Obama's staff has thoroughly vetted both Clintons with the understanding that, if he should make an official job offer, she would accept.
As uncertainty continued to surround Sen. Clinton, other pieces of Obama's administration continued to fall into place. Sources confirmed that former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), an early supporter of Obama's presidential bid, would be tapped to lead the Health and Human Services Department.
Obama's consideration of Clinton for the top diplomatic post has puzzled supporters of other contenders, particularly Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, two men who endorsed Obama over Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries at the cost of incurring considerable wrath from the Clinton camp. It also has perplexed rank-and-file Obama supporters who heard the candidate spend most of the primary contest critiquing Clinton's foreign-policy mindset.
The president-elect also signaled that he did not think that Senate Democrats needed to punish Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) for his outspoken support of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama's presidential rival, and then met with McCain less than two weeks after the general election.
The Senate followed Obama's lead on Tuesday, voting 42 to 13 to let Lieberman retain his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"It's a little unsettling. The earth has shifted a little," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who endorsed Obama early in the primaries. "Barack has sent a very clear signal since the election that all of the talk about changing the way we do things is not just talk -- that he's deadly serious about getting beyond partisan food fights to solve the serious problems of today. What happened with Senator Lieberman was a direct result of the tone he set. There was no venting or teeth-baring or finger-pointing. The vast majority of the caucus is following his lead and realizing that the old politics is punishment and revenge and retribution -- and the new politics is 'Get to work.' "
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) voted against keeping Lieberman in his chairmanship -- "Lieberman was awful to" Obama -- but he said Obama's personal magnanimity should not be confused with a willingness to surrender on key issues.
"You can reconcile without compromises of principle, and that's what Barack is doing," Brown said. "He has enough confidence in his own progressive views to reach out and work with people, and working with people can be bipartisan without moving to the center."
But as Obama brings as many people as possible inside his tent, there are only so many prime seats available. Choosing Clinton as secretary of state would mean passing over Kerry, whose endorsement of Obama gave him a lift after his defeat in the New Hampshire primary, and Richardson, who was derided as a Judas by Clinton confidant James Carville after the governor endorsed Obama in March.
One top Kerry adviser said this week that the senator from Massachusetts is already reconciling himself to Clinton being the pick. Kerry will also be the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 111th Congress, a post he sees as an opportunity to "carve out a legacy as a senior statesman."