The Note: The Teammates

They've taken this dance pretty far: "More than a dozen advisers to both sides said Sunday that although they did not have firm information, they considered it improbable that Mr. Obama would have opened the door to Mrs. Clinton's appointment without having decided, at least in principle, that he would like to make it happen. Rejecting her after letting the possibility become so public would risk a new rupture in a party that spent much of the year divided between Mr. Obama and the Clintons," Baker and Cooper write.

Another hint: "No one has called to say, 'Don't get too far on this,' " said James Carville, a longtime Clinton friend and adviser. "A silent phone's sometimes as much of an indication as a ringing phone."

Yet another hint: Installing Greg Craig at the White House, and not in the national-security post he'd been in the mix for. A signal to Clinton, who would rather not have a political enemy in her midst at State?

As always, you can't just get one Clinton: "[Obama] would be investing his fortunes not only with his former rival for the presidency but also in an outsize figure on the global scene who has been conducting a kind of privately financed foreign policy all his own since leaving office," Michael D. Shear and Philip Rucker report in The Washington Post. "Obama and the former president have also continued to share a somewhat strained relationship since the end of the Democratic nominating contest."

The former president himself gives some space to the president-elect -- but emphasizes the "team" part: "If Obama did decide and they do decide to do it together, I think she'd be really great at being secretary of state," the former president said after speaking at a symposium in Kuwait. "Whatever happens or doesn't happen is between Obama and her."

Piecing together the puzzle: "Defense Secretary Robert Gates may be closer to being tapped for extended duty by Barack Obama because of the near certainty a Democrat -- possibly Hillary Clinton -- will be named secretary of state and Gates's willingness to accept a new team around him, according to Democratic and Republican experts," per Bloomberg's Ken Fireman and Hans Nichols.

Making that appointment a bit easier: "Iraq's cabinet on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a proposed security agreement that calls for a full withdrawal of American forces from the country by the end of 2011. The cabinet's decision brings a final date for the departure of American troops a significant step closer after more than five and a half years of war," per the write-up by The New York Times' Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell.

As for the message a Clinton appointment would send . . . Maureen Dowd, in her Sunday New York Times column: "If Barry chooses Hillary as secretary of state, a woman who clearly intimidated him and taught him to be a better pol in the primaries, it doesn't signal the return of the Clinton era. It says the opposite: If you have a president who's willing to open up his universe to other smart, strong people, if you have a big dog who shares his food dish, the Bill Clinton era is truly over. Appointing a Clinton in the cabinet would be so un-Clintonian."

Too much Clinton? Bloomberg's Al Hunt sees Obama going for a balance: "He wants to assemble a group that has gravitas and is fresh, one that reflects the diversity of his political appeal and the depth and knowledge he promised to bring to government. Insiders and outsiders."

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