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By TODD SPANGLER
FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF

hillSix months ago they were arguing over which of them should get Michigan’s delegates.

Now, Hillary Clinton is – officially – President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to be his secretary of state.

“I have known Hillary Clinton as a friend, a colleague, a source of counsel and as a campaign opponent,” Obama said this morning as he announced her nomination in Chicago today. “She is an American of tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence; who knows many of the world’s leaders; who will command respect in every capital.”

Clinton – a former first lady who is currently the junior senator from New York – now becomes the top-ranking member of the developing Obama Cabinet and the overseas representative for a man she chided on the campaign trail at a time when America is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She later threw her support behind Obama after conceding the primary race to him in June and spoke on his behalf at the Democratic National Convention, calling for his nomination by acclimation part way through the roll call of states.Former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, a friend of Clinton’s who helped run her campaign in the state this year, called it “a fabulous appointment” and said it offers a kind of “double-barreled leadership” for America on the foreign policy front.

Any suggestion that it could be a divided relationship is misguided, he said.

“Hillary’s a very loyal person,” said Blanchard, who was U.S. ambassador to Canada from 1993 to 1996, when Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, was president. “Any attempt by some to drive a wedge between them will not succeed.”

Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on which Clinton has served, called her imminent departure a loss for the Senate but “a great gain for the country.”

“It’s a terrific appointment. She has got every credential one could want for the job,” he said. “She has always understood the necessity of having allies in meeting our challenges and she has been an accurate, outspoken critic of President Bush’s policies that did not understand that critical importance.”

Clinton’s was one of several appointments announced by Obama today to fill out his national security team. Among the others were:

 

  • As defense secretary, the incumbent, Robert Gates.
     
  • As attorney general, Eric Holder, a former deputy attorney general under President Clinton.
     
  • As secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.
     
  • As national security adviser, Jim Jones, former commandant of the Marine Corps and commander of U.S. European Command.
     
  • As ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of state and adviser to the Obama campaign.
    Clinton and Obama, of course, fought a long primary battle that began with her being the consensus choice to win the Democratic nomination. But after wins in Iowa and South Carolina – followed by a strong showing on Super Tuesday in Feburary – Obama’s went on a string of win that gave him almost unstoppable momentum despite Clinton’s victories in some of the biggest states.And Michigan played a key role in it. Initially stripped of its delegates to the national nominating convention for scheduling an earlier-than-allowed primary, all of the major Democratic candidates pulled out of Michigan – except Clinton – and she won handily.

    But by spring she was calling for Michigan’s delegates to be counted to her benefit, knowing she needed them to narrow Obama’s lead. A meeting of the Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee was called in late May and when Obama flexed his muscle and the all-but-declared presumptive nominee – beating back her campaign’s insistence that she receive all the Michigan delegates she was entitled to while he get none, since he hadn’t run in the state – it effectively ended her chances.

    Blanchard said Clinton’s differences with Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden on foreign policy while on the campaign trail were typically small and she steps down from the U.S. Senate after eight years to take on a more important role.

    “She’s going to be ale to help make and implement policy,” said Blanchard.

    Asked if he expects the 61-year-old Clinton to run for president in eight years, Blanchard said he did not think that was on her mind.

    “Knowing Hillary,” he said, “I think she has pretty much moved on.”

    Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who initially backed Clinton for president this year, called her selection “an excellent choice,” calling her “a tough and able diplomat.”

    “Having served with her over the last eight years … I can say with confidence that she brings a wealth of talent and experience to the State Department as is the right choice for the job,” she said.

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