The US election may be over but the politics rolls on with Sarah Palin sucking the oxygen out of the Republican Governor's Conference and Hilary Clinton playing cute over speculation she may be named Secretary of State.

It seems the American elections were held an age ago, so frantic is the post-vote agenda: From guessing who will be key in Obama’s Cabinet, through a convicted felon still in the recount for his Alaska Senate seat, to that state’s governor sucking all the oxygen out of the Republican Governors’ Committee meeting in Miami this week. That’s without even going in to the details of the disaster that hovers around the $700 billion bailout rethink, the G-20 summit or the arguments for and against a ‘car tsar’ to oversee the tanking automobile industry. Phew!

So there I was, rescheduling my life so I could catch the full Palin press conference from the Republican Governors’ summit. Palin uninterrupted. Palin unedited. She’s given at least seven “exclusive” interviews in the last week to the very same mainstream media she treated with such derision during the campaign. To get in the Palin swing, gosh, she even did a chat with NBC’s Matt Lauer while she was cookin’ good ol’ chili mince, the first dude was watching footy on the telly, and they managed to pass the baby between them for the duration of the Lauer schmooze. What did we learn? Well she’s capable of slicing and talking about nothing in particular, so perhaps a cooking programme is in store?

Not on your life. While Palin insists she is not a superstar and while she may well have returned the sheep’s clothing to the Republican Committee, the Wasilla hillbilly has been star-struck by the national stage. This poses a big issue for the so-called Grand Old Party. It is a strange sport to watch interview after interview with Republicans acknowledging Palin as a leader of the future, while trying desperately not to do a disservice to any intellectual integrity they may hold. Sixty percent of exit polling from the US election labeled Palin a drag on the ticket. The Obama campaign quickly recognized this and left her to her own implosion. The strategy paid off. Unfortunately her Republican colleagues aren't yet able to do likewise because she is not prepared to go north to Alaska, and stay home.

There is no denying the curiosity that Palin arouses. She is a good looking woman and, to be deeply shallow here, good looking people in politics are not exactly the majority, let alone in a party of predominantly crusty, old, grey-haired white men. In that respect her timing has been great, but no amount of talking and freely giving interviews now can undo the damage she caused herself during the election campaign. The sooner the Republicans have the guts to front up to that, the sooner they will be on the mend.

Look at some of the talent being obscured by Palintology. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is 37 and a Rhodes Scholar. He could be a true rival to Obama. Watch his name. He is the future hope of the party along with others like Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Bright, fresh and talented, they had to sit and listen to the ‘speech’ Palin delivered their Governor’s conference. Clearly the McCain campaign speechwriters are no longer available as the Governor for Alaska ranted on with a series of “oh my goodness” and “well my goodness” and “heaven help us” and “a special shout out to…” and “folks like Joe the plumber”.

Her speech was rubbish. She didn’t even attend the session analyzing what went wrong with the election because she was too busy giving interviews, and then, that press conference. It consisted of taking four questions, none of which she answered. What she did say was a series of over-rehearsed warmed-up campaign platitudes that only reinforced her glaring incapacity to present as any future leader with any sense of curiosity about the world around her. She has no insight at all into the financial crisis, nor the foreign policy issues, nor a real understanding of how to resolve the energy crisis. “Drill baby drill” is not a strategy, it is a campaign gimmick.

Perhaps the most telling indictment on Palin was that delivered by her Republican Governor colleagues. She was not appointed to any top position within the party, which is almost unheard of for a vice-Presidential candidate. They know, oh yes they know, but they can’t be seen to say anything aloud. Actions, as the old adage goes, speak much louder than words and in leaving Palin out of any senior executive position they are telling her to go home and start studying. At this stage Palin as the bright shining star for 2012 is mere fairy dust and the sooner Palin’s apologists face that, the sooner they will look to the party’s real talent.

Then we can all get on with speculating as to why on earth Obama would offer Hillary Clinton the prized position of Secretary of State. Madam Secretary isn’t quite as big-time as Madam President and it would require her to leave a super-safe Senate seat to serve at the discretion of the President. I suppose she’s already had experience at the latter in a previous incarnation!

For both Obama and Clinton such an appointment could prove a big risk, but pushing another star out to front for the United States could be a well-calculated risk. Clinton is tenacious and would relish the challenge, but the State Department is one of the major areas for friction in US administrations, especially when it comes up against Defence.

There’s a real possibility that such an offer should it eventuate, is a quid pro quo negotiated in return for delivering Clinton’s voting base to Obama during the campaign. Three obvious problems arise. Appointing Clinton, H. would knock back 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry, who, as the Senior Member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee and the person responsible for catapulting Obama into the spotlight by having him speak at the Democrats’ 2004 convention, is seen as a natural choice for the job. Vice President Joe Biden was on the Obama ticket because of his foreign policy experience and he no doubt would want to have a significant influence in this area. That could prove highly problematic for any headstrong Secretary of State. And, then there’s Bill… and a possible conflict between a wife who is Secretary of State and his global foundation, which has tentacles into any number of foreign policy areas.

If Obama is to be the change agent he convinced America he is, making appointments on the basis of who he is indebted to is exactly the wrong way to go about forming his new team. The days of such politics are supposed to be on the way out the door with the lame duck incumbent. While Bush may look like the guy in the locker room with the towel around his neck, Obama needs to prove he's a different kind of coach playing a completely different game; one who is fast and smart and plays his starting five, not those who want rewarding for their part in this generational change in the United States.

Comments (3)

by Peter Salmon on November 19, 2008
Peter Salmon

I think to understand more about Obama it is useful to read the articles Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker has written about him. It is important to remember that Obama comes from Chicago one of the last bastions of machine politicians.

Far too many see Obama as someone transcending politics. He is a gifted orator, but we have yet to see if he has any legislative depth.

by Peter Salmon on November 19, 2008
Peter Salmon

I think to understand more about Obama it is useful to read the articles Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker has written about him. It is important to remember that Obama comes from Chicago one of the last bastions of machine politicians.

Far too many see Obama as someone transcending politics. He is a gifted orator, but we have yet to see if he has any legislative depth.

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