Washington was abuzz with speculation yesterday that US president-elect Barack Obama is weighing former Democratic primary rival Senator Hillary Clinton to be a heavy-hitting secretary of state.
Sources close to Clinton and Obama did not deny reports that the New York senator and former first lady met Obama in Chicago on Thursday, and was in the frame to become the top US diplomat and fourth in line to the presidency.
Obama also has met with Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico to discuss the secretary of state job, the New York Times reported yesterday, citing unnamed Democrats.
The reports came as Obama’s team announced that the president-elect, who will take office on Jan. 20 during an intense economic crisis and with two foreign wars raging, would meet former Republican rival John McCain tomorrow.
The Clinton reports spurred talk that Obama would assemble a “team of rivals” uniting his former political foes, like that framed after the 1860 election by his hero Abraham Lincoln.
Aides to Obama and Clinton refused all comment on the rampant speculation.
“I’m not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect’s incoming administration. I’m going to respect his process,” Clinton said in a speech to the New York Public Transit Association.
Democratic strategist James Carville told CNN he believed that talks with Obama were “pretty far advanced.”
“She knew she was not going there [to Chicago] to have tea with the president-elect,” said Carville, who remains close to both Clintons.
But ABC, quoting an anonymous source, described the talks between the two in Chicago on Thursday “as not a hard offer. Obama is more cautious than that.”
Obama told Clinton that he knew how much she “cared about healthcare but said there are other challenges” and he wanted to reach out to her about secretary of state, ABC reported.
Meanwhile, in their first post-election interview, the Obamas described to CBS’ 60 Minutes the moment when they realized Barack Obama had won the election.
“I remember, we were watching the returns and, on one of the stations, Barack’s picture came up and it said, ‘President-Elect Barack Obama,’” Michelle Obama said, in a excerpt released ahead of the full interview to be shown today. “And I looked at him and said, ‘You are the 44th president of the United States of America. Wow. What a country we live in.’”
Obama spent much of Friday closeted in his transition headquarters in Chicago in meetings about his future administration, fleshing out priorities following his historic Nov. 4 victory.
With the Obama administration inheriting two wars and the pressing need to restore the country’s damaged global reputation, the post of secretary of state will be key.
Clinton, 61, has extensive foreign policy experience, having traveled widely when her husband was president from 1993 to 2001, and from her time in the Senate, where she serves on the Armed Services Committee.
After Obama narrowly beat Clinton in the bruising Democratic primaries this year, her legions of loyal supporters were disappointed when she was not approached to be his running mate.
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