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Obama's Team of Rivals

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If Barack Obama asks Hillary Clinton to become Secretary of State, it would be a brilliantly audacious political move. Choosing Clinton would elate her fans, soothing any lingering bruised feelings, and bring some major star power to the State Department. Clinton would possess real clout and, like Obama, serve as a kind of ambassador to the world. It would also show that Obama, like Abraham Lincoln, who, as the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin showed in her book "Team of Rivals," is unafraid of tapping powerful cabinet members.

But would it be good for American foreign policy? Would it be consistent with the kind of change Obama promised on the campaign trail? Clinton's record is markedly different than Obama's. She supported the Iraq War. In 2006, she supported legalizing the torture of an individual who knows about an "imminent threat" to millions of American, but backpedaled on the idea in September 2007. In April 2008, she said the U.S. could "totally obliterate" Iran if it threatened Israel with nuclear weapons. In essence, she decided to run as a foreign policy hawk for president, figuring that she couldn't run the risk of appearing "soft" on foreign policy. Clinton represents, or has represented, what I would call the Lieberman wing of the party -- Democratic neocons based at places like the Progressive Policy Institute and the Democratic Leadership Council. They don't believe the Iraq War was itself a mistake, but that it was simply conducted ineptly by the Bush administration.

Already there are splits in the Obama camp between those who believe that the United States needs to push for democracy and human rights abroad (Russia or China) and those who think that Obama should focus on limiting America's commitments abroad. Choosing Clinton would be a big victory for the first camp.

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