Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Once upon a time I was undecided about who I’d support for president between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Then Hillary went negative, suggesting that only she and McCain were qualified to be Commander-in-Chief, and Obama revealed himself to be a steady sober statesman with ideas I believed in. I wrote some damning columns about how Hillary conducted her campaign, once writing about the “stench” of her campaign. While not engaged in throwing brickbats at her, I did take the time to write a more analytic column based on the psychology of grief as applied to Hillary’s dealing with losing the nomination.

With her poised to be Secretary of State Clinton I think revisiting that column is appropriate.

For Hillary Clinton the ultimate psychological challenge: fast tracking the five stages of grief

June, 7, 2008

The Democratic Party doesn’t have the luxury of affording Hillary Clinton the time she needs to fully resolve the loss of her dream to be president because this was a primary, not a general election where she would have months or years to lick her wounds. The party needs her now at her best to assure a victory for McCain whether she runs for vice president or uses all the power of persuasion she can bring to bear to keep her 18 million supporters from defecting to McCain.

We saw Hillary going through the first stage of grief, denial, for the weeks where the math just didn’t add up in her favor. She clung to her denial tenaciously even until Tuesday night when Obama went over the top.

Being introduced by Terry McCauliffe as the next president and her enthusiastic cheering supporters shouting "Denver, Denver, Denver" didn’t help her confront the truth of her loss.

Here’s an example of how her denial was fueled from the Sunday New York Times:

Mrs. Clinton recognized the odds. But she was being encouraged by emotional supporters along the rope lines and came to believe she had an obligation to stay in, aides said. At every stop, someone would say, “Don’t you quit!” — and aides said she internalized the message. “The psychology of it all is very complicated,” one said. “I’m sure you don’t want to slow down because once you do, you start to think about
things.”

Advisers shied from suggesting she quit. “You’re a persona non grata if you bring up getting out,” another aide said. LINK

The next stage of grief is anger. This could be discerned by her reluctance to concede defeat and not mentioning that Obama won and agreed to concede until the New York delegation forced her to do so. One could also make the case that being 45 minutes late to give her concession speech endorsing Obama was a manifestation of grief related anger.

So far we have the first two stages of grief which ideally should resolve themselves without others interfering. I always tell my clients that there are no time tables for working through the stages of grief, but there are impasses possible at each level which can be resolved, often with counseling.

From a psychological standpoint, I don’t think any of Hillary’s stages of grief have been resolved. She’s probably working on denial and to a lesser extent anger, but she has been forced by circumstances to move to the next stage of grief which is bargaining. This seems to have begun by making a tentative effort to achieve peace with Barack Obama. It isn’t clear what she is bargaining for unless she is trying to be asked to run as the vice presidential candidate.

In the famous Kübler-Ross model, bargaining seems to involve a higher power. Cynics and smart-ass columnists like myself have suggested that Hillary has been trying this so Obama would disappear from the scene.

Frankly, no matter what obnoxious thoughts may cross my mind about bargaining with Lucifer, I really don’t see Hillary as religious or superstitious. Her bargaining may be the real nitty gritty face-to-face bargaining with someone who actually is a higher power. That hopefully began last night.

It can’t be easy for her. I suspect she’d rather be bargaining with the Devil than a flesh and blood man some 15 years her junior who now has what must be unfathomable andi infuriating power over her.

The fourth stage of grieving is depression, and for this the "cure" is quite special for her. With most people it involves making a concerted effort, sometimes with the help of a loved one or counselor, to be able to think about what you lost realistically, confronting both the good and the bad. It means appreciating what you still have and what you still can do in the future.

Hillary should do this, it is what is effective in conquering grief depression with everyone.

But she can do something few have the good fortune to be able to do during a time of grief. This is to immerse yourself in a cause greater then yourself.

For her own mental health, and the overall health of the nation, she needs to devote herself to helping Obama get elected. What greater cause is there? If she succeeds she can maintain her mantle as the woman with the most power and force for positive change in the world.

She needs to remind herself that if she devotes her full talent and energy to it, in the next administration she could do it so well that she will go down in history as the most accomplished female American politician ever, if not one of the most accomplished politicians period.

Conclusion
Back to the present.

Simply put, from a psychological perspective I think that Hillary has worked through and resolved most of her grief and moved through and beyond the final stage of acceptance.

She’d be an excellent member of the top Obama team and ready to be the “good partner” she has said she wants to be to President Obama.


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Comments

  1. Flapsaddle

    I believe that I am the scofflaw to whom Mr. Brown was referring.

    Apparently, my suggestion that Clinton should remain in the Senate and rot along with Teddy-boy Kennedy was somehow out of bounds.

    Anyway, I rephrased and have apparently passed muster.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  2. Pablo

    The ulitmate in dealing with grief for hillary would be the secretary of state position. Having the opportunity to push our country toward nuclear annhilation of Iran would be very therapeutic for her. She no doubt remembers the good feelings she received when she unrepentently approved the slaughter of the Iraqi people (similar feelings to those bill no doubt received when he denied basic necessities to Iraqi children for many years), so rewarding her with opportunities to destroy the lives of thousands more foreigners would be good therapy for her.

    And we certainly wouldn’t want this woman who cares so deeply for us to suffer, would we?

  3. Hal Brown

    Cynicism and outrage towards Hillary Clinton is understandable.

    But even if one believed she has her own nefarious and utterly insane agenda regarding murdering 70 million Iranians and starting a catastrophic Mid-east war, she will be working for Obama.

    Remember, the Senate vote authorizing the Iraq War was passed 77 to 23. Obama wasn’t in the Senate but would have voted nay.

    The 23 senators
    (including one
    Republican and one
    indepedent) who voted
    against the war
    resolution were:

    Akaka (D-HI)
    Bingaman (D-NM)
    Boxer (D-CA)
    Byrd (D-WV)
    Chafee (R-RI)
    Conrad (D-ND)
    Corzine (D-NJ)
    Dayton (D-MN)
    Durbin (D-IL)
    Feingold (D-WI)
    Graham (D-FL)
    Inouye (D-HI)
    Jeffords (I-VT)
    Kennedy (D-MA)
    Leahy (D-VT)
    Levin (D-MI)
    Mikulski (D-MD)
    Murray (D-WA)
    Reed (D-RI)
    Sarbanes (D-MD)
    Stabenow (D-MI)
    Wellstone (D-MN)
    Wyden (D-OR)

    The Democrats who voted yea were:

    Baucus (D-MT)
    Bayh (D-IN)
    Biden (D-DE)
    Breaux (D-LA)
    Cantwell (D-WA)
    Carnahan (D-MO)
    Carper (D-DE)
    Cleland (D-GA)
    Clinton (D-NY)
    Daschle (D-SD)
    Dodd (D-CT)
    Dorgan (D-ND)
    Edwards (D-NC)
    Feinstein (D-CA)
    Harkin (D-IA)
    Hollings (D-SC)
    Johnson (D-SD)
    Kerry (D-MA)
    Kohl (D-WI)
    Landrieu (D-LA)
    Lieberman (D-CT)
    Lincoln (D-AR)
    Miller (D-GA)
    Nelson (D-FL)
    Nelson (D-NE)
    Reid (D-NV)
    Rockefeller (D-WV)
    Schumer (D-NY)
    Torricelli (D-NJ)

  4. Flapsaddle

    Clinton’s ego might be a problem.

    She is not a team player – unless she is in charge of the team. The SecState job, like any Cabinet position, is one where you carry out the policy of others, not make it up yourself.

    Just as Obama was smart not to put her in the VP slot, he’d be equally smart not to put her in a position where she would tend to think that she was the maker of the official policy and not the president.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  5. JudyB

    Hillary is quite capable and up to the task of serving as Sec. of State.
    As for the Iraq war…everybody was lied to and I long ago decided NOT to hold it against anyone who voted for it based on the lies they were told.
    Bill in the senate??? It aint never gunna happen, but I would welcome it…and you can’t say he dosen’t know the ropes and hasn’t had experience.

  6. Hal Brown

    There have been some very strong minded secretaries of state with oversized egos. Of course there’s Henry Kissinger but looking back in history consider that John Quincy Adams, William Seward, George C. Marshall, Dean Acheson, Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Webster all served in this position.

  7. Hal Brown

    Politics was a soap opera during the Monika Lewinski episode. For the last eight years reality and fiction seemed to blur even more although I’d say more horror fiction than soap. Since Sarah Palin came on the national scene and was taken seriously by so many people, it seems that a portion of the public have slipped through the rabbit hole entirely into a fantasy that makes Wonderland look sane.

    So why not President Senator Bill Clinton?

    Really though, while it would give him a “real job” again as the most famous first term senator since Andrew Jackson, I agree that “it aint never gunna happen”.

    But as I pointed out, it’s legal.

    P.S. I just want to share a cartoon I thought was both funny and an great caricature of Bill.

  8. adamrussell

    After sleeping on it, the latest news is sounding more like a maneuver on Hillary’s part to “accept” the offer before the offer has even been made. Obama, dont bow to politics. Choose the best candidate, not the one that will mend fences.

  9. Malibu

    I agree Flapsaddle. Christopher Hitchens was on Hardball last night and went through many of the Clinton’s actions when Slick was President. From their first day in the White House, Hillary took charge of the travelgate and then jumped into a failed Health Care system.

    I remember those days of the Clinton White House and the deals they made with foreign nations for money never mentioned in the news. Hitchens advises that we all check the Senate Investigations on both Clintons and see if this is what we want as Secretary(s) of State. I would be against it.

    We don’t know the power or soul of either Clinton and I would rather have someone more transparent. They think nothing of lying about their dealings with Indonesia and China. They were money deals not foreign policy.

    Senator Clinton could do great harm to President Elect Obama.

    Malcolm

  10. Flapsaddle

    Hillary Clinton is not in their league. To compare her to Adams, Jefferson, Marshall or Kissinger is an insult to them; she couldn’t wipe the ashtrays for those gentlemen.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  11. Hal Brown

    I think international image and perception is vitally important considering what eight years of Bush did to relationships with our allies and adversaries alike.

    Hillary can rehabilitate this, but not because she’s on a par with a Richard Holbrooke as a diplomate. There are only three Americans that have international “star power” and she’s one of them. I believe this counts for a great deal.

    Mending fences at home within the Democratic party would be a side benefit of choosing Clinton but I don’t think it ranks high on Obama’s list of criteria.

    I think she’d be highly motivated to disprove the predictions of her critics. This would mean advancing the Obama agenda.

    Everything Christopher Hitchen’s said here is true about her but in my opionion his reasons don’t add up to precluding her from the job.

    She would literally be at the table (in the Cabinet room and the Oval Office) in working directly with Obama and other top advisors in formulating policy. As long as she believed her arguments were taken seriously, I think she would follow Obama’s directive even when she disagreed.

    I think she wants to be more a part of history than she’s already been. The 18 million voters breaking the glass ceiling mime will be a footnote to history. If she is a highly effective Secretary of State she will have a whole chapter in the book of Obama, and possibly a book of her own if she follows in the footsteps of one of our great Secretaries of State.

    Remember George C. Marshall gave his name to the Marshall Plan and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

  12. Flapsaddle

    Clinton should remain in the Senate, where she will not present a conflict-of-interest with the new administration.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  13. DonKrieger

    Because Obama has met with Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton, they both must be included in the list of those under very serious consideration for the cabinet.

    Homeland Security is a far bigger job with a much bigger budget than State, and, in my opinion, is far more important.

    Homeland Security screams for its FIRST competent boss to make it effective.

    Hillary could use her “I have a plan” competence and her foreign policy chops to deal with the multi-tentacled imperatives of this job. But because the primarily North American foreign policy implications are far more limited than State, the potential for conflict of interest problems is greatly reduced.

    Bill Richardson is an obvious choice for this, but may be better suited to State due to his non-combative demeanor.

    Don

    Don Krieger
    Pittsburgh, PA
    http://publicservice.evendon.com
    Everything is free and permanent.

  14. Flapsaddle

    The Marshall Plan was the product of the most profound strategic genius that this country has produced.

    It would have been the Truman Plan, except that Truman was too unpopular and there was a chance it might never have gotten through Congress with his name on it.

    Most sincerely,

    T. J. Flapsaddle

  15. Hal Brown

    Some of you may have missed the addition to the rules and guidelines I added a month ago, so I am reposting it:

    New Oct. 18, 2008: Those used to posting off-hand comments on other forums will discover that they may have become the victim of the fact that since I’ve instituted these news rules and guideline the comments section of my columns has begun to draw many more repeat readers to the columns than before. Most of the comments are well thought out and well written. They add to the original post with new perspective and challenging ideas. This has led me to be even stricter in removing posts that aren’t up to the standards being set by the majority of posters.

  16. Malibu

    Mr. Brown. Please be more explicit so we know if we have broken your standards.

    Malcolm the innocent, I hope

  17. Hal Brown

    If your post has disappeared it means your post didn’t pass muster.

    I’m usually not going to explain why I delete unless someone sends me their email address.

    Some people write brief comments which are relevant and when a regular poster does this I have no objection. But if an infrequent poster comes in with a kind of hit and run marginally relevant comment I may very well delete it.

    Friendly posts between regulars are still welcome even if they are not on the topic of the column. We have evolved into a damn good posting community where we all have become familiar with 90% of the posters on all the columns and blogs. You can’t say that about Huffington Post, where by the way, of about 100 comments I’ve put on I’ve had about 20 never appear.