The only political picture I have in my apartment is one of the statue of William Seward in Volunteer Park. Between building the West, and of course his forceful anti-slavery campaign, the man helped shape America, mostly for the good. While the specific cause is, obviously over, there is still much to learn about committing to action from a man who said, “Slavery must be abolished, and we must do it.”
The man is one of my heroes, yet I refer to him as, the original neocon. Early in the Civil War, when there was still a possibility that Maryland and Missouri might leave the Union, a couple confederate diplomats were captured on a British mail packet. The particulars aren’t important except that Seward wanted to use this as a pretext to go to war with Britain, and oh by the way, if you want to have someone in the cabinet run these wars I’ll totally do it.
President Lincoln shot him down saying, “one war at a time, Mr. Seward.” This wasn’t the first time Seward had tried to overstep his authority; he had rather famously tried to keep Chase out of the cabinet. It was the last time, and Seward – realizing that he would only be able to use the power of the Secretary of State – settled down and did an great job: the rest of the world never recognized the Confederacy in large part because of his efforts.
As we have the first official word (and weeks of speculation) that for the first time since then, a president from Illinois is going to nominate a Senator from New York to be his secretary of state, there are some lessons.
– It’s the President’s show. When Obama and Clinton have differences as, any president and secretary of state will, the president will have the last word.
– There’s a good chance that Hillary, or any other cabinet official, will do something that drives you insane. And especially in the wake of President Bush, there will be a lot of time to demand people be fired. I would recommend against that. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t criticize them – in a democracy, of course we should – only that we might want to give them the chance to improve.