Secretary of State Clinton?

SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON?…. In general, there’s no real point in chasing down every rumor about who is or isn’t going to be in Barack Obama’s cabinet. Most of the scuttlebutt is baseless. That said, some reports are more credible, and more important, than others.

The Washington Post’s Al Kamen noted this morning that there’s “increasing chatter” that Obama’s team “is not overly happy with the usual suspects for secretary of state these days and that the field may be expanding.” And who’s emerging as a top contender? The name is kind of familiar.

Several Obama transition advisers are strongly advocating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for secretary of State, a move that would create the ultimate “Team of Rivals” cabinet, according to officials involved in the discussions.

President-elect Obama has narrowed the possibilities for secretary of State and Clinton is among those being strongly considered, the officials said. Some even call her the favorite.

It is not known what Obama himself thinks of the idea. But the fact that it is being entertained within his camp shows how much things have changed in the months since he defeated her for the Democratic nomination in a protracted primary marathon.

By all appearances, this is not just idle chatter. Reports about Clinton being considered for the post have run on NBC, ABC, and CNN, and there’s an AP wire story on the possibility this morning.

How likely is this? Ben Smith reported that “Obama has, himself, recently discussed the possibility with advisors.” Even more importantly, Marc Ambinder reports that Hillary Clinton spent the day in Chicago yesterday, adding that a Democrat privy to Sen. Clinton’s schedule said that “the speculation that she was under consideration should be taken seriously.”

There are no doubt plenty of competing arguments on the merit of the idea. From where I sit, Hillary Clinton would be a fine choice. Between her Senate work and time as First Lady, Clinton has established international respect and credibility, and she’s on a first-name basis with leaders around the world. She’s arguably more hawkish than the President-elect, but when it comes to global diplomacy, there’s no reason to think Clinton and Obama aren’t on the same page.

If Clinton is nominated, the pick is not without risk. Bill Clinton’s private business work with other countries may become problematic, and one assumes the Obama team would want to review the former president’s dealings with a fine-tooth comb.

That said, I’m also a little surprised Hillary Clinton would even want the job (if she wants the job). Right now, she has one of the safest seats in the Senate, and I expected her to have a leading role in the upcoming healthcare debate. Indeed, were she to give up her seat, it’s unlikely she’d get it back. Then again, it’s hard to beat the prestige of being the Secretary of State.

As for Obama, that he’d consider his former rival for one of the top positions in his cabinet speaks highly of him. Stay tuned.