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Service to Country, Personal Ambition Plague Clinton Decision on Cabinet Post

Hillary Clinton's "agonizing" decision over whether to accept Barack Obama's offer of the secretary of state position could be the result of her weighing whether she has a better option staying put in the Senate or just no taste for the workload. 

The New York senator, who was vanquished by the president-elect in the Democratic presidential primaries, may also not want to play second fiddle, say observers watching the to-and-fro between Clinton and Obama.

Clinton's hesitation could very well be tactical, said Dr. Allan J. Lichtman, a professor of American political history at American University in Washington. 

"The Clintons love to do everything in the spotlight. This is their M.O.," he told FOXNews.com.

Lichtman said such drama is probably expected by the Obama camp, which didn't offer Clinton the vice presidency in part because of concerns that she would try to steal the show.

"The question is, are there policy differences, personality clashes that could lead to problems," he said, noting the troubled relationship between President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. "We saw all the problems they had."

Maria Cardona, a former senior adviser to Clinton's presidential campaign, said Clinton must decide in what position she can best serve her country.

"I don't think she's not interested. I just think she is really looking at this from every possible point of view," Cardona said, adding that Clinton also has her own pet interests.

"It shouldn't surprise anyone that she would have at least some tugging to stay in the Senate to see through health care reform," she said. Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a longtime Obama adviser, was named the Health and Human Services secretary nominee on Wednesday.

An adviser to Clinton told The New York Times that Clinton enjoys being her own boss and has reservations about giving up the independence she has as a senator. It was unclear whether her hesitation is a signal she may decline the secretary of state job or use the offer as a bargaining tactic, the newspaper reported.

Obama transition officials said Clinton has emerged as the leading contender for the post even as intense vetting continues over the senator's husband, former President Bill Clinton. Hoping to ease concerns about possible conflicts of interest, Bill Clinton has agreed to disclose the names of all donors who have given more than $250 to his presidential library and foundation.

A spokesman for the former first lady declined comment on the matter, referring questions to the Obama transition team.

At the State Department, the prospect of Clinton as secretary is creating some anxiety among career foreign service officers who worry that she would install her own loyalists and exclude them from policy making. Some at the State Department see her as a foreign policy lightweight, although there is grudging acknowledgement of her star power.

Lichtman added that Cabinet positions are "burn-out jobs" and noted that people serving as secretary of state usually last for about three years.

He said Clinton must decide if she wants to take a "burn-out job" at this stage of her career or keep her Senate seat for life.

"If she gives up the Senate position, she'll never get it back," he said.

Cardona said Clinton also has to decide whether she wants to focus on domestic issues in the Senate or try to restore alliances around the world as secretary of state.

"This would not be an easy decision for anyone," she said.

Lichtman said he would advise Clinton to stay in the Senate. But if she declined the offer, she would be faced with the reality that she is a junior senator from New York with no immediate prospects for a chairmanship or a leadership position. 

But he said that wouldn't matter, because Clinton would still wield a lot of influence with her star power.

"Because she's Hillary Clinton, she'll always have a lot of influence," he said.

Lichtman said Clinton's image will be enhanced regardless of what she decides.

"She gives up her Senate seat to serve her country, or she's someone who has turned down the second or third most important position in the country to serve her constituents," he said.

Cardona said she hopes Clinton accepts Obama's offer.

"I think she should take it," she said. "I think she would be phenomenal. I think she brings so much to the table. Unlike others who have talked about how there is not a close relationship between her and Obama, that is not true. I think they would make a terrific team."