Washington: President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state as early as next week, a new milestone for a former first lady and a convergence of two political forces who contested mightily for the presidency.
Obama transition aides described a process Thursday that appears on track to make Clinton the top diplomat in an Obama administration, just one week after the two first met in secrecy to discuss the idea. Obama plans to nominate her after next Thursday’s U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, aides said.
The nomination would be a remarkable union between the former first lady who was an early favorite to win the presidency and the first-term senator who upset her in the primary and cruised to a general election victory. Such a high-profile seat in the Cabinet for Clinton also would be another achievement for the most accomplished former first lady in U.S. history, who has been the first presidential spouse to serve in the Senate and run for the White House herself.
Some fellow Democrats and government insiders have questioned whether Clinton is too independent and politically ambitious to be an effective secretary of state. But a senior Obama adviser said the president-elect has been enthusiastic about naming Clinton as secretary of state from the start, believing she would bring instant stature and credibility to U.S. diplomatic relations and that the advantages to her serving far outweighed potential downsides.
The advisers who explained Obama’s plans and thinking did so on a condition of anonymity because he was not ready to formally announce his plans.
But transition aides told The Associated Press that the two camps have worked out financial disclosure issues involving Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the complicated international funding of his foundation that operates in more than 40 countries. The aides said Obama and Hillary Clinton have had substantive conversations about the secretary of state job.
Clinton has been mulling the post for several days, but the comments from the transition aides suggested that Obama’s team does not feel she is inclined to turn it down. Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines would not comment, except to say that anything about Cabinet appointments is for Obama’s transition team to address.
Clinton would have to surrender her Senate seat, which she has held for eight years, to take the job.
The president-elect also is likely to choose Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to be secretary of homeland security, top Obama advisers and several Democrats said Thursday as the shape of Obama’s Cabinet begins to emerge.
The Obama advisers cautioned that no final decision has been made on putting Napolitano in charge of the Homeland Security Department, the massive agency created by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the advisers said she was easily the top contender.
Thus far, Obama has informally selected Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as health secretary. The plans could be sidetracked by unexpected glitches in the final vetting process, officials note.
Among other Cabinet posts: Senior Democrats say there is a strong possibility that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would stay temporarily and later give way to former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig. Even so, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel and Democratic Sen. Jack Reed also are said to be under consideration.
Democrats also say that several people remain in the running for treasury secretary, including Timothy Geithner, president of Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Lawrence Summers, former treasury secretary and one-time Harvard University president; and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.
Separately, Clinton has reduced the size of her presidential campaign debt to less than $7.5 million as of Nov. 1, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday. Clinton owed vendors a high of $12 million at the end of June. That was the month she abandoned her presidential campaign and ceded the Democratic nomination to Obama.
Also, late Thursday, telephone company Verizon said some of its employees snuck a peek at Obama’s old cell phone records and will be reprimanded accordingly. Obama aides said no voicemails or e-mails were accessed. The company said the account has been inactive for several months.
Associated Press writers Beth Fouhy in Chicago and Liz Sidoti, Eileen Sullivan, Jim Kuhnhenn and David Espo in Washington contributed to this report.