“What Are You Hearing?”

Reporting on a White House transition is, for many reasons, a challenging assignment. (Check back at Campaign Desk later this week, we hope, for look at how some editors are approaching the task of covering this in-between time).

Meantime, here are some highlights from the speculation-cum-coverage available on cable news, where What are you hearing? is on the lips of news anchors everywhere and the answer is typically something like unnamed Democrats close to someone close to the Obama camp hint that…

And when you’re not hearing What are you hearing? you’re hearing pundits speculating as their own tastes and hang-ups dictate. To wit:

Sen. Hillary Clinton being the speculative favorite for secretary of state, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews wonders, Can she take orders?, just as he did back during the spectacular Will-Obama-pick-Hillary-as-VP? days. During last night’s Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Does she want that kind of job?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY):…There’s no question in my mind that she would make a great person to put in in the state department as secretary of state.

MATTHEWS: That’s not the question I asked. She’s an independent person. She’s her own person and has been now for eight years. Not first lady, not a derivative, but her own political figure. As secretary of state, she has to go along 99% of the time with the boss, the president of the United States. Can you see Hillary Clinton under the leadership of Barack Obama totally, accepting his premiership of her policy? He sets the policy. She carries it out. Could she do it?

Matthews realizes that Hillary Clinton is “not a derivative,” but does former Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card? On MSNBC this morning:

CARD: If President-Elect Obama wants Bill Clinton’s wife to be in the cabinet there is a way to, I think, make sure that there’s a box around Bill Clinton, have a lawyer inside government at the State Department for example that says we’re going to take a look at everything before you agree to do it…

ANDREA MITCHELL: And in fact, she is beyond being Bill Clinton’s wife. I think she proved in this campaign, she has her own agenda, she brings her own talent and reputation to this. For better or worse. She is a very large figure on the world stage.

Very large. And very… scary?

From Fox News this morning:

STEVE DOOCEY: Do you think [Clinton] would make an effective person to have in the Cabinet?

MIKE HUCKABEE: Actually I think she would be a very effective secretary of state. If Barack Obama doesn’t choose her, he better get a food taster. This would be twice he has knocked on her door and not taken her to the dance and you can’t keep doing that.

A woman scorned, and all…

Also on this morning’s Fox & Friends, they played “Fantasy Cabinet,” in which, per the on-screen headline,”Bob Beckel Picks Obama’s Team.” Now maybe you’re thinking, but, Obama Picks Obama’s Team. Yeah, yeah. Meantime, what a fun fantasy for Beckel, a Fox News contributor, complete with images of Beckel’s picks in playing cards!

Fox News also also wins the award for the Most Forward-Looking Clinton-related speculation. Before she’s even been hired, Fox News’s Juan Williams wondered Sunday (h/t, Media Matters):

A big problem may be if you have Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, how do you fire her? Is it possible to fire her? Is it possible to fire her without setting off fireworks inside the party and around the world? They must have come through some discussion about it and decided they can handle it.

They must have.

But my favorite moment to date in CabinetStakes (Clinton Edition) came this morning on MSNBC, in an exchange between Joe Scarborough and his guest (and Daily Beast editor) Tina Brown on the “danger” of Sec. of State Hillary Clinton:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Tina Brown, let me ask you about the danger of selecting Hillary Clinton. Let’s face it. An editor of a newspaper or a magazine will be thrilled with any misstep Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton or the Clinton dog makes over the next four years. Is that not trouble for Barack Obama?

BROWN: I think it’s wonderful for Barack Obama. It completely distracts the press from him. Look at it this way, Obama is looking very cool and very, very gracious and very big by having the team of rivals sort of strategy and bringing in Hillary, his arch rival. It makes him look bigger and, like a very sort of noble guy. Then when Hillary starts and all the fireworks start because people love, the media loves the Clintons, they create fabulous dynamics, that is a good distraction for Obama. He can get on with governing.

Clinton in the Cabinet as chum for the press permitting Obama to swim safely (and nobly!) away and “get on with governing,” undisturbed (unnoticed?).

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.