12/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sorting Out Hillary's Secretary of State Decision

I wouldn't be surprised if the agreement between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton when they joined forces was that he would at least ask her to become secretary of state. No matter her answer, doing so saves face for her and gives the appearance of reciprocity for him. That's politics.

But what if she were to take it? Some in the press have implied that she will resist his authority. This song is getting old. It's reminiscent of the chorus sung over and over about Hillary Clinton during the primaries. The truth is that President of the United States handsomely outranks secretary of state. And Barack Obama does not strike me as worried, especially at this point, that anyone's competence is going to outshine his own.

So that nonsense aside, what does Hillary Clinton have to gain? Secretary of state has been a very high visibility position for the last two women who accepted the role -- Condoleezza Rice and Madeline Albright. It is a powerful position carrying considerable respect around the world. It's a chance for Clinton to bring her substantial knowledge of foreign relations to bear on the long climb back America faces in garnering respect again. It's a central position in the War on Terror and someplace where her experience, a burden for her in the primaries, would be a superb asset. Moreover, it would allow her to be front-and-center in crafting a collaborative spirit among countries now wary of the U.S. and in making diplomacy and negotiation a precursor to future considerations of war.

She could be a powerful figure in the Senate. But Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi aren't about to let someone break up their promise-them-everything-and-deliver-as-little-as-possible routine they've mastered. Besides, the secretary of state, by contrast, has easy access to the President of the United States. And I suspect that is a critical plus in Clinton's decision process

It's time for the New York senator to take a step forward -- to use her experience for the benefit of the country. She'll always have to put up with the likes of Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens who despises her and uses her to get on Larry King Live. There will always be Gloria Borger's type and many of the CNN "senior political analysts" making a career at Hillary's expense. So as a visible secretary of state, it will not always be a picnic. But Hillary thrives in a firestorm and she has a driving desire to serve the country in a profound way.

As for President-elect Obama, he's a smart guy. He'd rather have Hillary Clinton as part of his inner circle than part of the outer one. I have no doubt that she would respect his authority as president even if they disagree and that he'd respect her opinion and the experience she'd surely bring to his administration. All else is fabrication when it isn't simply pathetically using a visible woman to prop up a flagging journalism career.

And then there are the women who backed Hillary Clinton during the primaries. Do they want her to take the job? With some exceptions and a few reservations, from what I can gather, that answer is: "By all means."

Dr. Reardon also blogs at bardscove.

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