Overstated Differences: Obama and Clinton Steering the Ship of State
Exactly eight years ago, as what was then one of the longest, most expensive, and hard-fought primary campaigns in decades wound down, the Democratic foreign policy establishment was deeply divided between “Obama people” and “Clinton people.” Of course, most of the differences were exaggerated — after all, many of Obama’s senior campaign advisers had been senior officials under President Bill Clinton — but like any family of competitive hard-chargers, the disputes could become energetic and bitter, and many on both sides assumed an “us versus them” outlook. The two worlds dutifully unified for the general election campaign, but it always seemed an uneasy alliance.
Then, in December 2008, President-elect Barack Obama shocked the foreign policy and political worlds by asking his vanquished opponent, Hillary Clinton, to leave her safe Senate seat to become his Secretary of State. The surprise initially rattled Washington — it would not be the first time Obama made an unexpected, unorthodox move to defy conventional wisdom — yet the possibilities of this partnership were electrifying. National security wonks savored the opportunity to be part of the “team of rivals,” while many observers, especially journalists, licked their chops in anticipation of the stories that would inevitably pop from the combustible mixture of “Obama world” and “Hillaryland.”
Photo Credit: Nathan Forget