Clinton interviews for State Dept.

Richardson in running; hopes for Kerry dim

Senator Hillary Clinton, who spoke yesterday at a transit conference in Albany, would not comment on speculation that she may be selected to become secretary of state. Senator Hillary Clinton, who spoke yesterday at a transit conference in Albany, would not comment on speculation that she may be selected to become secretary of state. (tim roske/associated press)
By Nedra Pickler
Associated Press / November 15, 2008
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WASHINGTON - President-elect Barack Obama is considering primary election rivals Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson to be his secretary of state, as Senator John F. Kerry, an early supporter of Obama, appeared to be out of the running according to Democratic officials.

Obama met with Richardson yesterday in Chicago, a day after conferring one-on-one with Clinton at his Chicago office, said several Democratic officials.

Senior foreign relations staffers on Capitol Hill yesterday were abuzz with news that Clinton would be the pick for secretary of state.

Staff for Kerry appeared to prepare for the senator to take over leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Kerry, who gave Obama an opportunity to give the keynote speech in 2004 that turned him into a nationally known figure, was said to be lobbying heavily for the job. A spokesman for Kerry did not return calls seeking comment.

During much of the primary Clinton and Obama spent a great amount of time criticizing each other on foreign policy, with Clinton portraying Obama as naive for his pledge to meet unconditionally with leaders of Iran and other US enemies.

Richardson and Clinton are not the only candidates Obama has talked to about the job, Democrats said. One senior Obama adviser said the president-elect has given no indication whom he is favoring for the post.

Obama asked Clinton directly whether she would be interested in the job, said one Democrat, who cautioned that it was no indication that he was leaning toward her.

Obama was silent and out of sight in Chicago. Senator Clinton addressed a transit conference in her home state of New York and said emphatically, "I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect's incoming administration, and I'm going to respect his process."

Obama also is reaching out to Republican Senator John McCain, hoping to make an ally of the man he defeated for the presidency only last week. Obama will meet with McCain on Monday.

And he was making decisions on his presidential staff as well, naming longtime friend Valerie Jarrett as a White House senior adviser. Jarrett met Obama when she hired his wife for a job in the Chicago mayor's office years ago and has been a close confidante to the couple ever since.

Richardson is the governor of New Mexico and has an extensive foreign policy resume. He was President Bill Clinton's ambassador to the United Nations and has conducted freelance diplomacy for the United States in such hot spots as Sudan and North Korea.

Richardson also served in Clinton's Cabinet as energy secretary, and angered his former boss when he endorsed Obama after ending his own primary campaign this year.

Advisers to both McCain and Obama say they don't expect an administration post for the defeated Republican presidential nominee, but Obama's aides say he would like to have the Arizona senator partner with him on legislation they both have advocated, with topics such as climate change, government reform, immigration, and a ban on torture.

All this fits with an idea Obama often talked about on the campaign trail, praising the presidency of Abraham Lincoln as described by Doris Kearns Goodwin in her book "Team of Rivals."

"Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his Cabinet because whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was: How can we get this country through this time of crisis?" Obama said at one point.

Lincoln appointed three of his rivals for the Republican nomination to his Cabinet. Obama turned to one rival for vice president, picking Democratic primary candidate Joe Biden even though Biden had questioned whether Obama had the experience to be president.

In his first two weeks as president-elect, Obama has struck a bipartisan tone. He paired a Republican and a Democrat to meet with foreign leaders this weekend on his behalf in Washington.

It's not clear how interested Clinton would be in being secretary of state. She would face a Senate confirmation hearing that would certainly investigate her husband's financial dealings - which the couple declined to disclose in the presidential campaign.

But remaining in the Senate may not be Clinton's first choice, either, since she is a junior senator without prospects for a leadership position or committee chairmanship any time soon.

Being secretary of state could give Clinton a platform for another run at the presidency in eight years. Obama could also get assurances from her that she wouldn't challenge him in four years. And unlike with the vice presidency, a post Obama never seriously considered her for, as secretary of state she would serve at his pleasure.

Clinton didn't give any clues to her thinking at the transit industry conference yesterday in Albany, beginning with a joke about news accounts of her trip to Chicago. "I'm very happy there is so much press attention and interest in transit, especially questions about my own," she said.

Farah Stockman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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