President-elect Barack Obama made the right decision when he offered Senator Hillary Clinton the post of Secretary of State and she made the right decision when she accepted.
Some are already wondering, can these two former rivals get along? Can she report to the President when she wanted to be the President?
I believe they both understand the dynamics of their new relationship and are ready to make it work. One chapter--their battle for the Democratic nomination has closed, and a new chapter, working together has begun. As Secretary of State she is part of the Obama administration. It is in both their interests to succeed. He wants a strong, well informed, and highly respected person to represent his new administration to the world--one that commands respect more by action, than by threat. Both Obama and Clinton understand how much American soft diplomacy is in need of repair. They also understand that tough diplomacy, to keep America safe, must also be demonstrated. No one has more stature and respect around the world than Hillary Clinton. She knows many of the world leaders, from her time as First Lady, when she not only accompanied the President, but also traveled on her own. My first insight into Senator Clinton's diplomatic power was at the World Conference in Beijing when thousands of women cheered when she announced, "Human Rights are Women's Rights and Women's Rights are Human Rights." She fervently believes these words must apply to women and men all over the world.
What does this new position provide for her? She will be Secretary of State in her own right, not as a spouse, not as a First Lady. As United States Senator she took the first step towards establishing an authoritative and independent role for herself. But she was relegated to being the Senator from New York.
Now she will be the Secretary of State of the United States, a position of greater depth and breadth than she had before.
One of my friends continued to ask the question that has been asked of the Clinton's all along, "What about Bill?"
Bill Clinton made it clear during the vetting process that he would do what was required to distance himself from any conflict of interest, and he appears to have done so. He wants desperately for her to succeed. I believe he will have the discipline to enable her to succeed in her job without any spousal interference. Throughout their marriage, he knew that she was as committed and talented as she was. Until her election to the Senate and her campaign for the Democratic nomination, she supported him through thick and thin, even through his very public infidelity.
He knows that now it is his turn. I believe he cares passionately about her success because he owes it to her, but also because he loves her.
This appointment will also burnish President-elect Obama's image among women. His confidents appear to be men, and other than Governor Janet Napolitano for Secretary of Homeland Security, the names floated for his cabinet are men as well. One consequence of Clinton's appointment will be that women will have her a strong voice when she is seated at the table.
This was originally posted at Chelsea Green.
Madeleine M. Kunin is the former Governor of Vermont and was the state's first woman governor. She served as Ambassador to Switzerland for President Clinton, and was on the three-person panel that chose Al Gore to be Clinton's VP. She is the author of Pearls, Politics, and Power: How Women Can Win and Lead from Chelsea Green Publishing.