When Barack Obama asked Hillary Clinton to be his first secretary of state, she turned her Democratic primary opponent down, but then consulted with U.S. Senate colleagues after the president-elect persuaded her to reconsider.
Clinton, who represented New York in the Senate, turned to Nevada’s U.S. Sen. Harry Reid for advice.
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid surprised me when he told me the president-elect had asked him what he thought of the idea earlier in the fall, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas,” Clinton wrote in her new book, “Hard Choices.” “He said that although he didn’t want to lose me in the Senate, he didn’t see how I could refuse the request.”
The episode demonstrates how close Obama is to Reid, who early on advised him he should run for president, moving up from his elected post as a U.S. senator from Illinois. Reid then won an early caucus spot for Nevada in the 2008 election and the state Democratic Party registered 100,000 new voters to help secure Obama’s victory here.
Obama, in turn, visited Nevada several times in 2010 to campaign for Reid’s successful re-election.
The Clinton story also highlights the influence Reid has as leader of the Senate Democrats. It took a little more persuading by Obama, but Clinton soon agreed to be the nation’s top foreign diplomat, an experience she writes about in her book and one that could lead her to run for the White House again in 2016.
On Nov. 20, 2008, Clinton said she again spoke with Obama on the phone about the secretary of state’s job, but wasn’t ready to accept because she thought she might be able to do more good as a senator working on domestic issues.
She stayed up all night, Clinton wrote, and realized she could play a role in restoring the United States’ reputation around the world, damaged in part by the lingering wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“When your president asks you to serve you should say yes,” Clinton wrote, relaying her thoughts at the time.
The next morning she called Obama to accept.
The president, she wrote, promised her direct access, saying, “I want to be sure you’re successful.”
He also said he hoped they could become friends after a highly competitive primary contest that sharply divided Democrats.
“Contrary to reports, I think we can become good friends,” Obama told her.
Clinton’s book, released on Tuesday, launches her on a media and book tour that could test the waters for a possible presidential campaign. Clinton has said she hasn’t decided whether to run, but she is expected to announce a decision by early next year. A political organization, Ready for Hillary, already has formed to build a nationwide network of volunteers and political operatives if the 66-year-old jumps into the race.
Early polls show Clinton the far-and-away leader among potential Democratic White House hopefuls.
In Clinton’s book, Reid merits another reference, but only in passing.
In a chapter about Afghanistan and Pakistan, Clinton wrote about getting a resistant Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to a run-off election in 2009 after a United Nations team declared the election flawed. Former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, who’s now secretary of state, was going to Afghanistan so Clinton asked him to help.
Karzai was stubborn, however. To buy time, Clinton asked Reid to delay any Senate votes to give Kerry more time in Kabul.
After four days of pressure, Karzai relented, though his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, dropped out.
Nevada also makes a fleeting appearance of sorts in the most dramatic section of Clinton’s book, when she describes the story of the U.S. Navy SEALs’ successful 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
“The SEALs and the Night Stalkers, the pilots of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, trained extensively for the mission, including two rehearsals on full-sized replicas of the compound conducted at two different secret locations in the United States,” Clinton wrote.
The New Yorker magazine in 2011 reported that the SEALs rehearsed the nighttime raid over the course of a week in Nevada. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported that remote sites in the high desert near Groom Lake, the Tonopah Test Range or perhaps the Fallon Naval Air Base were likely used.
Clinton’s book doesn’t name the training site at all.
Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.