Obama – Clinton gap widening?

One of the most brilliant political moves I have ever seen was when Barack Obama made Hillary Clinton his Secretary of State. The two had been bitter rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. They clearly did not care for each other.

In making Hillary Clinton his Sec. State, Obama seemed to be following the adage to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. He gave her one of the most prestigious positions in his Cabinet, then he stripped that position of its influence. Case in point, Obama is scheduled to travel to Russia next week but his Secretary of State will not accompany him.

Back in May, Dick Morris wrote how Obama has taken authority away from Hillary Clinton.

Former Sen. George Mitchell is in charge of Arab-Israeli relations. Dennis Ross has Iran. Former U.N. Ambassador Dick Holbrooke has Pakistan and Afghanistan. And Hillary has to share her foreign policy role on the National Security Council (NSC) with Vice President Biden, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, CIA chief Leon Panetta and NSC staffer Samantha Powers (who once called Hillary a “monster”).

Obama maneuvered the Clinton’s into a corner where he could keep his eye on them but they can’t do any real damage to him. As part of the administration, Hillary cannot criticize Obama and neither can her husband. Doing so would be viewed as a betrayal.

What does surprise me is that the Clinton’s let themselves be caught in that political trap. They were supposed to be brilliant political strategists in their own right. How could they not see this coming? Rather than accepting the Sec. State nomination, Hillary’s best move would have been to announce that she was honored by the nomination and she fully supports Obama but she feels that she can best support him by remaining in the Senate and representing the people of New York. Now, she finds herself irrelevant with no senate seat and no influence in the president’s administration.

Bill Clinton at least is showing that he is not happy with the situation. Karen Gillenbrand was appointed to fill Hillary’s vacated senate seat. That seat will be up for election in 2010. The White House supports Gillenbrand and has made it clear they do not want any competition for her in the primary election. Bill Clinton is going to do a fund-raiser for Gillenbrand’s presumed primary opponent. Uh oh. Trouble in paradise?

It will be interesting to see if Hillary can get out of the trap she is in. Her only hope will be an unpopular Obama. Lucky for her, his approval ratings are headed south quickly. As the economy tanks, Hillary could eventually resign and distance herself from its failed economic policies (“I was not a domestic advsior) as well as foreign policy (“I tried to work with the president but he refused to listen to me”). Even so, it might be too late. Clinton influence seems to be irrevocably diminished.

(Hat tip: Hot Air)