Meet Obama's New Hero: Hillary Clinton

A guy who gave a speech in 2002 proves there's more than one way to draw on a lifetime of experience.
A guy who gave a speech in 2002 proves there's more than one way to draw on a lifetime of experience. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)
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By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

When Barack Obama stood on the stage in Chicago yesterday with his "dear friend" Hillary Clinton at his side, it was the starkest evidence yet that change had come -- to the president-elect.

Peter Baker of the New York Times pointed out to Obama that he once held a different view of his nominee to be secretary of state. "You belittled her travels around the world, equating it to having teas with foreign leaders," Baker recalled. "And your new White House counsel said that her résumé was grossly exaggerated when it came to foreign policy. I'm wondering whether you can talk about the evolution of your views of her credentials since the spring."

"Well, I mean, I think --" Obama began. "This is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign."

"They're your quotes, sir," Baker pointed out.

"No, I understand. And you're having fun," Obama continued. "And there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not faulting it." Obama grinned broadly. Clinton smiled faintly.

Baker's "fun" was actually a serious, even startling, development: Obama, who campaigned against the Clinton way of doing things, is now engaged in a veritable restoration of the Clinton administration. As The Post's Al Kamen and Philip Rucker report, Obama has appointed at least nine veteran Clinton aides to top positions in his White House so far. Of the seven Cabinet-level nominees Obama has officially announced, four served in the Clinton administration.

But since Obama himself said "there's nothing wrong" with stirring up the old quotes from the campaign, Post researcher Alice Crites accepted the president-elect's invitation yesterday and plunged deep into Nexis.

Remember Clinton, earlier this year? "Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, I will bring a lifetime of experience, and Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002," she said.

Obama retorted that his foreign experience is "not just of what world leader I went and talked to in the ambassador's house who I had tea with."

And while we're reopening old wounds, there was Obama's mocking claim that "I don't think that Madeleine Albright would think that Hillary Clinton was the face of foreign policy during the Clinton administration."

Greg Craig, now tapped by Obama to be White House counsel, issued a campaign memo back then saying that Clinton "did not have a security clearance" and "did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments."

On and on it went. Clinton dismissed Obama as a "talker," not a doer. Obama adviser Samantha Power called Clinton a "monster." Obama said Clinton wasn't "that concerned about accuracy or the truth."

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