The news that Obama is about to appoint Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is not being received well amongst his aides. They see the Clintons as most unlikely to act as team-players but to try to keep attempting to slide up the greasy pole. See Obama’s Aides Believe He Is making A Mistake In Hiring Hillary.
Is Obama merely following one of the theoretical rules of politics – the one about keeping your enemies closer than your friends?
Or is he being mindful of LBJ’s phrase when LBJ said it would be better to have Edgar J Hoover inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in – which in this case couldn’t have been more true, given that Hoover was probably implicated in the assassination of the previous President, John F. Kennedy.
Whichever thought is deciding Obama’s actions, he can always fire Clinton as Secretary of State if he has to, while as a Senator she could orchestrate substantial opposition. Equally Obama is aware of the power of the media to influence the success of his Presidency, and a tip of his hat to the Bildeburg Group won’t do any harm at this early stage, as he assembles his team.
The look on Obama’s face as he faces the reality of power though is not good. He has a face like thunder in the released publicity shots showing the stress weighing down on his shoulders. It’s as if he finally realises how hemmed in he is on all sides by powerful vested interests and potential enemies. He might even think back to a quote from Winston Churchill who was quizzed by a novice MP who was in the Chamber of the House Of Commons for the first time.
The story goes –
A newly elected young Tory MP, eagerly taking up a place on the benches and pointing to the benches opposite, said to Churchill, “So that’s the enemy”.
Churchill supposedly replied, “No son, that’s the opposition”,
and then pointed to the benches behind and said, “That is the enemy”.
As for the origins of the phrase ‘keeping your friends close but your enemies closer’ I searched its origins and found this –
This quote appeared in the Godfather films, and was spoken by Al Pacino’s character, which I believe was Michael Corleone. However, that’s not where it originated. Many sources attribute the quote to Sun Tzu in The Art of War, but others dispute that. Some say it was taken from an interpretation of Macchiavelli’s The Prince, but I could not find anyone who cited a page number or chapter in that book.. So there is yet another well known phrase without a convincing original source, and maybe not a politically minded dictum at all.
Obama will need to be mindful of such things and many other things as the world heads into the greatest economic crisis it has faced for more than two generations. He will find however that friends and enemies make little difference in the long run. Another British Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, when asked what was the greatest challenge a political leader faces, replied telling it exactly like it is, by saying – ‘events, my dear boy, events.”
Hillary isn’t going to provide any substantial threat to Obama. In fact she might prove more than useful to him in a nasty crisis. Churchill particularly allowed some very strong characters to oversee large parts of his coalition government during WW2, and won out in the end of the day as a result of being able to tolerate big egos working alongside him. While Hitler OTOH, preferred to appoint more malleable weaker characters who would bow to his own wishes, often removing those who were capable of telling him the truth from office.
The Presidential personality test is over. The challenge of the world in severe economic crisis is not. Emperors need good and strong generals if they are to win their battles. Welcome! Hillary Clinton and all the best to you. Opinion polls can now go to hell. The crucible of real events will provide the true test of your mettle soon enough, just as they will do for the President. Billions of people around the world need you both to succeed in your mission, as we, in countries other than the USA, too await ‘events’ with some trepidation.