Hillary Clinton

Black History Month officially began Sunday, though it actually arrived two weeks ago when Barack Obama was inaugurated as our nation’s first black president. That historic event was followed by Friday’s election of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to be the first black head of the Republican National Committee.

Of course, it remains to be seen what effect Steele’s election will have on the GOP. But for now, right or wrong, it appears that installing Steele as head of a political party largely comprised of white people is a bit of stunt casting in reaction to Obama’s soaring popularity. I am not saying that Steele is not qualified for the job, just that the timing of his election is interesting in the same way Sarah Palin’s selection as GOP vice presidential nominee was following Hillary Clinton’s presidential primary loss to Obama. The coincidence is too much to ignore in both cases.

However, the GOP seems to have done its homework better in choosing Steele. John Aloysius Farrell, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, recently described Steele as “charismatic, conservative, media savvy and, incidentally, a person of color.” Palin may be charismatic and conservative, but she sure isn’t media savvy. By that fact alone, Steele surely is a step ahead of her in the game.

It will be interesting to see if Steele’s leadership will help change the Republican Party’s image for the better. Will he call for a more inclusive political party that appeals to more minorities? Only time will tell, but it will be worth watching for the answer.


As if Blagogate wasn’t distraction enough for President-elect Barack Obama, now New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is withdrawing his nomination to be commerce secretary.

According to CNN, Obama aides pushed for the withdrawal because of a federal investigation involving a California company that was awarded a $1 billion contract for business with New Mexico after contributing to various Richardson causes. The investigation began before Richardson was nominated for commerce secretary, but that was before federal prosecutors charged Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with attempting to sell Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, and apparently the Obama team’s threshold for ethical distractions is one at a time.

My first reaction to this news is that Obama apparently chose wisely by picking Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. Richardson wanted that job, and many people (especially Latinos) disagreed with Obama’s decision. But perhaps Obama (or his advisers) had a feeling the federal probe into New Mexico state government business dealings might cause political problems at some point, and it is less controversial to have a commerce secretary-designate step down than a state secretary-designate.

Even if the Obama team didn’t anticipate the possibility of Richardson withdrawing his nomination, the decision to pick Clinton instead of Richardson for secretary of state turned out to be a stroke of genius. Obama likely will be under pressure from Hispanic groups to replace Richardson with another Latino, which would’ve happened no matter which Cabinet post Richardson was slated to fill. But had Obama picked Richardson instead of Clinton for secretary of state, not only would the president-elect face pressure from Hispanic groups, but also from Clinton supporters who likely would question why he didn’t pick her for the job in the first place.

In that case, America likely would experience deja vu as the mainstream media beat to death the idea of Obama not giving Clinton her proper due, as they did after the Democratic primary finally ended. Fortunately we don’t have to live through that again, because there are a lot more important issues to worry about now.

President-elect Barack Obama announced two more nominations for his cabinet today: former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar for interior secretary. Salazar wore a cowboy hat and bolo tie during the press conference.


Salazar is Obama’s second Latino cabinet appointee. The other is commerce secretary-designate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who also regularly sports a bolo tie (but not a cowboy hat). So Obama got a two-fer in the diversity column by picking Salazar – another Hispanic and a cowboy.

You probably thought Obama would steer clear of  cowboys after the Bush administration. But at least it’s not Hillary Clinton wearing a cowboy hat. Not only would she look funny in one, the style might indicate Obama wants his secretary of state to continue Bush’s disasterous brand of cowboy diplomacy. Nobody wants that.

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Bread Line bonus photo: Obama wearing a cowboy hat!

Barack Obama tips a cowboy hat given to him by a volunteer after a rally in Austin, Texas, in February 2007.

Barack Obama tips a cowboy hat given to him by a volunteer after a rally in Austin, Texas, in February 2007.

As I listened today to the latest news about President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team vetting Hillary and Bill Clinton to determine whether Hillary should become secretary of state, an interesting theory popped into my head. What if Obama is just vetting the Clintons so he knows as much as possible about them without a true intention of offering the job to Hillary? The Clintons aren’t fond of Obama after he defeated Hillary in the Democratic primary, so perhaps Obama is gathering as much information about them as possible (including what controversial donors gave money to Bill Clinton’s foundation) to keep in his back pocket in case they try to backstab him in some way. Perhaps Obama really intends to offer the secretary of state post to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has more foreign policy experience than Hillary and likely has a favor coming his way after endorsing Obama during the primary race.

If my theory proves true, wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants to the Clintons? After all the negative things she said about Obama during the primary race, Hillary probably doesn’t deserve a position in his administration anyway. It isn’t as if she won’t continue to rack up seniority in the Senate if she stays there, where she can work with Sen. Ted Kennedy on implementing universal health care, which has long been one of Hillary’s pet projects.