Five Months in, Clinton's Role Mostly a Mystery
By Ben Pershing
President Obama's selection of Hillary Clinton to serve as his Secretary of State prompted two primary questions: How would they get along, and how big a role would she really play in formulating the administration's foreign policy? At the five-month mark of the Obama presidency, we still don't have particularly good answers to either one.
Whether because their relationship is really harmonious, or because this White House doesn't leak much, there has been almost no evidence in the media of friction between Clinton and Obama. Policy divides between different camps of advisers, when they do happen, rarely spill out into public. And so the initial subplot that made the Clinton pick interesting -- former primary foes, forced to work together! -- hasn't borne much fruit. The lack of leaks has also made it difficult to read significance into administration personnel shifts. What was the real meaning of Dennis Ross' move from the State Department to the National Security Council? Why would Clinton bring Sidney Blumenthal to Foggy Bottom? It seemed that reporters were left to speculate on the reasons behind the Blumenthal hiring because no one actually knew the answer
The most surprising aspect of Clinton's tenure so far has been her public role, or lack thereof, in advancing the administration's diplomatic aims. As Ben Smith wrote in Politico last week, Clinton took the job as a huge celebrity but now has ushered in "an era of grindstone leadership at the State Department" and "has about as low a news-making profile as is possible for someone who is arguably the most famous woman on the planet." On Iran, Clinton has spoken out on occasion but Obama himself has taken the clear public lead. When Obama was taking heat from critics for his "realist" approach to Iran, what did Clinton think? Did she endorse his approach, or push for something else behind the scenes? We don't know for sure.
Posted at 8:35 AM ET on Jun 29, 2009
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