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Hillary Clinton's Next Stop: Replacing Robert Gates at Defense?

5 years ago
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Speculation is bubbling at the prospect of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of Defense upon Robert Gates retirement in 2011.
Gates, the only Republican holdover from the Bush Administration, recently told "Foreign Policy" magazine that he planned to step down next year.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in an e-mail to reporters, "This is not Secretary Gates announcing his retirement. This is the secretary musing about when it would make sense for him to finally bow out. He has long said he would not serve the whole term and now he has told Foreign Policy that he thinks it best to leave with enough time on the administration's clock for his successor to be effective."
Hillary Clinton, Robert GatesStill, it was enough to set off a name game of possible replacements, including Clinton. If Clinton accepted the position, she would be the first woman to hold it – another milestone in a historic political career.
On CNN Monday, William Cohen, the Republican Defense secretary during President Bill Clinton's second term, said Obama should go for bipartisanship and choose a Republican. That might not set well with Democrats since the last one of them to have the job was the late Les Aspin, a former Wisconsin congressman, who gave way to technocrat William Perry in 1994.
Possible candidates aside from Clinton include former Navy secretary Richard Danzig, who also served as a Obama campaign adviser, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) have also been touted as possible replacements.
Only one person – George C. Marshall – has held both the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense positions. The Marshall Plan was named for him and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.
Hillary Clinton was an early supporter of the Bush's administration invasion of Iraq. In 2004, she said she did not regret her vote but did regret "the way the president used the authority." She later said that she would not have voted for the war if information on weapons of mass destruction had been clearer.
As Secretary of Defense, Clinton would be in charge of executing policies of military defense including all things Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since becoming Secretary of State, Clinton has certainly won plaudits from generals at the Pentagon and former military leaders.
Leslie Gelb, a onetime senior official at State and former chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, floated a "Hillary for Defense?" balloon in a Wall Street Journal article in June, saying she had "terrific relations with the military brass."
The controversial Rolling Stone article that cost Gen. Stanley McChrystal his military career quoted one of his advisers as saying, "Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review. She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.'"
Clinton has also been touted as a possible vice-presidential candidate if Obama chooses to replace Joe Biden. Clinton could be ideal for Secretary of Defense, says long-time Clinton watcher, Lara Brown, assistant professor of political science at Villanova University.
"Hillary Clinton's long track record of governmental service and engagement with world affairs – from her UN speech on behalf of women's rights to her position on the Armed Services committee in the Senate to her appointment as Secretary of State – makes her well-positioned to step into the Secretary of Defense position," Brown, told Politics Daily.
"Still, Clinton is likely to experience a learning curve should she move from Foggy Bottom to the Pentagon and from managing career-service diplomats to high-ranking military officers because the cultures of the two departments are significantly different," said Brown.

See David Wood's story: Robert Gates Plans a Last Hurrah to Control Defense Spending Before Retiring

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I wholeheartedly doubt that Hillary Clinton would willingly accept her "demotion" to Secretary of Defense. Do keep in mind that the Secretary of State takes precedence over all other cabinet posts and stands fourth in line for the presidency.

August 24 2010 at 6:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hillary's best defense plays involved covering for Bill. I see no iota of temperamental or experiential inclinations for Hillary to aspire to, or be particularly well suited for, Secretary of Defense.

August 19 2010 at 9:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Let's see now.... Hillary as Secretary of Defense? Might not be too bad of an idea, actually. Think about it. She certainly scares the hell out of me and she does seem to keep Bill pretty much in line. Maybe she will have the gumption to get our troops back in shape and under better control. We have gone soft over the years with all this political correctness. It's time we became the #1 world power we were once before. These days, we are a laughing stock. We lost in Korea and Vietnam. Why? Because we were afraid of how the rest of the world would look at us if we took out some civilians along with our enemies. People, do you think even for a minute that Al Qaeda or the Taliban care if they kill innocent cicilians? If you do, then you are on the wongs meds. We have to get tough. We have to accept the fact that if we don't take some REAL action, the we are going to be bringing ouot trops home yet again with their tails between their legs. It's time we do what we have to do to win these wars we are in. If that means blowing entire towns into oblivian, then so be it. Maybe Hillary will be strong enough to get us there. Maybe not. All I know is that at this point, we are looking like losers to the rest of the world and those that used to stand by our side have been backignf away from us... Think about it...

August 18 2010 at 11:08 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment

Jim - Get tough? Real Action? You have been watching too many old war movies. Which towns did you have in mind to obliterate? Really large ones where we can have big body counts, or just small ones where we get to blow up lots of animals too? We don't need anyone leading us who wants to run veins through their teeth, Jim... unless we want to see some whole scale death on every continent. World War 3, Jim?

August 18 2010 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hillary has a "historic political career"? A one term senator from a state she had hardly lived in before being elected, who rode into office on the political coatttails of her husband after being publicly humiliated by him and giving up her dignity to him? A failed presidential candidate and a Secretary of State who has done nothing? Did not support the students in Iran against their dictator government following a phony election. has done nothing to control Hugo Chavez. Has done nothing with US-China relations, though her husband sold the chicoms missiles. Hillary as secretary of defense is something floated by Hillary who can't do anything at the State Dept. and wants to push gay military service and budget cuts at the pentagon, while bragging about being the first female defense secretary.

August 18 2010 at 10:15 AM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

This whole piece is speculative, coming from the press and not the Sec of State. While State and Defense have different cultures, she knows where the "Light switches" are in Defense. Overall, it is a moot point until two things happen. First - Hillary decides to leave State. Second - if Obama decides to change his VP and Cabinet. The rest of this is journalistic horsehockey.

August 17 2010 at 6:48 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to firstad's comment

The media who trashed McCain and Palin to elect Obama, desperately hopes moving a few deck chairs around will save Obama's flailing presidency. It will not.

August 17 2010 at 8:33 PM Report abuse +23 rate up rate down Reply

tistolaugh...I believe they trashed themselves. Obama will be re-elected and if he chooses Hillary as VP that would set her up for the presidency run in 2016. I think that would be good.

August 17 2010 at 9:37 PM Report abuse -11 rate up rate down Reply
dc walker

How about placing a military person in charge of defense. One who knows the defense systems; the planes, ships, weapons strategy. What on earth does Mrs. Clinton know about the job already that she wouldn't have to learn in the first six months? That has what become wrong in the government the last thirty years. presidents placing inexperienced people in charge of agencies they know nothing about. She's great at State why not leave her there??

August 17 2010 at 6:33 PM Report abuse +23 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dc walker's comment

The Senate and Congress have previously approved Michele Flournoy as Under Secretary of Defense. Both parties trust her, would support her, and she's the one to watch when Gates names his own choice for successor...if the President asks. Flournoy has the goods.

August 17 2010 at 7:15 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

2016....Bill will be First Dude

August 17 2010 at 5:01 PM Report abuse -12 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to vallesula's comment

Absolutely not. If Hillary is unable to wrest his flailing presidency away from Obama in 2012, she will stands zero chance in 2016. She is supporting too much of his failing agenda to survive a run in 2016.

August 17 2010 at 5:22 PM Report abuse +24 rate up rate down Reply

vallesula: I certainly hope not! She is the same as Obama.

August 17 2010 at 5:33 PM Report abuse +19 rate up rate down Reply

1)She will switch places with Biden - he always wanted to be Secretary of State and she, president. The switch is so she could run in 2016 - after Barry's second term ; ...and there will be a second term cuz Republicans can't present us with a worthy candidate. Only fools would reward them for incompetence - the nation and our people's problems requires more than just say NO and tax-cuts for the very rich.

August 17 2010 at 4:57 PM Report abuse -21 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to vallesula's comment

Well according to your own assessment, America must be filled to the brim with fools because the one-solution party of YES YES YES to spending on everything Dems are in for massive losses in NO-vember.

August 17 2010 at 5:33 PM Report abuse +25 rate up rate down Reply

Take a look: what you are getting is a 50% tax increase on the bottom bracket when the Bush cuts vanish.

August 19 2010 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Imagine, husband a draft dodger, Hillalry banning luniforms when first lady and maybe now in charge of the people she dispises.
I think you will see mass resignations. If not they deserve her.

August 17 2010 at 3:22 PM Report abuse +18 rate up rate down Reply

No, Hillary Clinton's next stop --- running for President in 2012......along with Palin. And my vote goes to.......PALIN !!!!!!!!!!!!!

August 17 2010 at 3:04 PM Report abuse +15 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to momprayn's comment

momprayn: Palin is not ready. Someday but not 2012.

August 17 2010 at 5:35 PM Report abuse -11 rate up rate down Reply

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