Career Advice!

11.28.12

What Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Should Do Next

U.N. secretary-general? Women’s advocate? U.S. president? Grandmother? Ed Rendell, David Brooks, Dee Dee Myers, and more offer ideas for Clinton after she steps down as secretary of state.

First off, everyone would like to make perfectly clear that Hillary Clinton should do whatever she damn well pleases post–State Department. Write, speak, travel, spend all day sprawled on the sofa with her hair in a scrunchie eating Georgetown Cupcakes and watching Scandal.

“How about a dual appointment as U.N. secretary-general and greatest grandmother ever?” quips longtime Clintonite Eric Berman.

Whatever. She. Wants. “She’s earned the right,” says Karen Finney, Democratic strategist and former Hillary aide.

It will also surprise exactly no one that many Dems are dying for Hillary to take another run at the White House. Some see her as the person best positioned to safeguard and build on the current administration’s achievements. “President Obama will make some progress, but there will still be a world of things to do both domestically and in foreign affairs,” says Democratic eminence Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and longtime Hillary supporter.

For other, more disillusioned Clinton Democrats (an increasingly rare species), Hillary is the last best hope at correcting the trajectory on which Obama has taken not just the party but the entire nation. “The country is in very serious trouble, and it is likely to be in even deeper trouble in three to four years because of a failure of leadership,” says a former Clinton White House official. “She has the capacity to be a great leader above and beyond partisanship at a time we need that, while at the same time not being in any way Pollyanna-ish about what all the partisan fights are about.”

Even some conservatives see a presidential run as the only logical next step for Hillary. “She’d be good at it,” says New York Times columnist David Brooks. Not to mention, “her party doesn’t have anyone else.”

Members of both teams also agree that Hillary is better positioned now than in ’08, in terms of experience, brand, and political smarts. “She’s more likely to run a good campaign,” asserts Rendell, noting that last time around “she learned a lesson” about the dangers of turning everything over to consultants.

‘She knows that one of the reasons she’s one of the most popular public figures and most admired women in the world is that she is not in the day-to-day combat of partisan politics.’

But what if Hillary simply doesn’t have the fire in the belly to reenter that particular arena? “It is something you have to want to do with all your heart and soul,” says former Clinton White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers.

While Myers stresses that she’d love to see Hillary run again, she also raises some of the very real downsides—of which she says the secretary of state is herself all too aware. “She knows that one of the reasons she’s one of the most popular public figures and most admired women in the world is that she is not in the day-to-day combat of partisan politics. So even people who would never vote for her will still say she’s done a fabulous job. But once she was running for office as a partisan—as a Democrat—again, as opposed to being the global figure she is, she’d lose a little bit of that luster.”

Case in point: Myers raves about Hillary’s fierce global championing of women and girls: “There has never been in the history of the planet a more effective advocate for the causes she cares about.” Establishing her own platform at the Clinton foundation would allow her to continue fighting that good fight, Myers and others note. A presidential run, by contrast, would inevitably complicate Hillary’s advocacy work and risk tarnishing her shimmering global brand—even if it ultimately opened up greater possibilities.

Whether or not Hillary pulls the 2016 trigger, all agree that she should spend the next year-plus recharging her batteries and clearing her head.

“Rest. Write a book. Get on the lecture circuit six months from now,” says Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

“Sleep, have lunch with her girlfriends, get her nails done,” says Myers. “She says she wants to go to the gym.”

“Visit all the Major League Baseball parks,” suggests David Brooks.

“She has earned the time off to think about it,” says Myers. “If the rest of the Democratic establishment has to cool its heels for a little bit, so be it.”