Hillary Clinton has been declared the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee by the Associated Press and NBC, and if she wins the general election, one of her first orders of business will be putting together a staff. No president operates in a vacuum, and there are dozens of crucial positions that would need to be filled in. It’s far too soon to say what her cabinet will look like, but it does seem fairly likely that Huma Abedin will have some role role in a Clinton administration. She’s one of Clinton’s longest-serving aides, but exactly what job might Abedin have in a Clinton White House?
Abedin met Clinton as a college student in 1996, when she was an intern in the then-first-lady’s White House office. Since then, she’s been many things to Clinton: personal aide, traveling chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, and body woman. One might broadly characterize Abedin as Clinton’s all-purpose aide, or her right-hand woman. The two are close friends as well.
If Abedin lands a job in a Clinton administration, she’ll most likely serve a role similar to one of her past positions. Precisely which role, however, is a big question mark. There will be a swarm of Clinton loyalists lobbying for White House jobs if she wins the election, and while Abedin is certainly closer to her than most, it’s too soon to say exactly what position she can expect to land in a Clinton administration.
We can speculate, though. It seems reasonable, given her past positions, that Abedin might serve as Clinton’s chief of staff, or perhaps deputy chief of staff. The chief of staff is essentially the president’s gatekeeper and all-purpose enforcer, and unlike many executive-level positions, it doesn’t require Senate confirmation. An effective chief of staff is level-headed, tactically-minded, and above all else, loyal. Abedin fits all of those qualifications.
Alternatively, Abedin could be Clinton’s body woman again. While a chief of staff handles nitty-gritty political maneuvering, a body woman handles their boss’s personal needs: throat lozenges, earplugs, iPod, transportation, and anything else necessary for the their general peace of mind. They accompany their boss almost everywhere and are expected to know their schedules and habits intimately. Abedin has done this for Clinton before, and could well end up doing it again.
There are plenty of other related jobs Abedin could conceivably hold in a Clinton White House — personal aide, policy advisor, legislative director, and so on. It’s hard to predict because in practice, the day-to-day duties of executive-level positions vary from president to president. For example, Robert Gibbs served as President Obama’s first press secretary, but he informally served as a close personal advisor to the president on all sorts of matters.
And that’s probably the biggest takeaway here: If Clinton wants Abedin to lend a hand in the White House, she’ll find a way to make that happen. The job title may end up being little more than a formality.