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Clinton returns to the Hill

By Ben Pershing
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is spending the day at her old office, as the former junior senator from New York returned to the Capitol Thursday as the face of the Obama administration's foreign policy.

In between private meetings with former colleagues, Clinton joined Senate Democrats for a lunch meeting and an exchange of views on a variety of global hot spots. Clinton did not give any prepared statement, choosing instead simply to answer questions from lawmakers concerned about Afghanistan, Iraq and other pressing diplomatic issues.

Senators present said the largest share of the discussion was devoted to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Obama administration is in the midst of a strategic review of the conflict, and both White House advisers and Senate Democrats are divided over whether to send thousands more U.S. troops to the region. On Thursday, Clinton did not tip the administration's hand.

"I think she just gave a very honest and very effective summary of the questions" faced by Obama, said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.). "She didn't say where the president is or where they're going."

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said the discussion was wide-ranging.

"We just asked a whole lot of questions about different subjects," he said. "There was a lot on Afghanistan but a lot of other subjects too.... Also Iran, Middle East a number of other questions."

Before Obama nominated Clinton as secretary of state in the wake of her unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign, Clinton spent eight years in the senate, working her way into a position of prominence on the Armed Services Committee. Along the way, Clinton earned a reputation as a serious legislator and the affection of many of her colleagues, some of whom had been initially skeptical of the former first lady's intentions.

On Thursday, Clinton's former colleagues were happy to welcome her back, giving her sustained applause at the end of the luncheon discussion before she slipped out a back door to head to her next meeting.

"She fielded many questions about different parts of the world," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). "She actually didn't even give a talk, she just answered questions. She was just amazingly thorough and well-informed and I think people were incredibly impressed."

Clinton held a private session with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before the lunch, discussing State Department management issues as well as foreign policy topics. Clinton was also set to meet with Levin Thursday afternoon, and will attend a dinner Thursday evening with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and a group of lawmakers who recently returned from an official trip to Sudan.

Staff Writer Mary Beth Sheridan contributed to this report.

By Ben Pershing  |  October 22, 2009; 3:32 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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I wonder if it has occurred to the Clintons that they are being "phased" out of the Democrat party? A personage like John Kerry would be an excellent representative for Pres. Obama - "birds of a feather fly together"...

Posted by: us1156 | October 23, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Obama needs to immediately see if Bill Richardson is available and ready to be appointed Secretary of State. Hilary is not up to the job. The North Koreans dismissed her and laughed her out of their country. She is inept. She is a Secretary of State in name only and not one in terms of competence. If Obama must let Hilary go to Pakistan, she should be accompanied by Vice-President Joe Biden who is a foreign policy expert and consumate diplomat or Mr. Holbrook. President Obama, please tap Bill Richardson!! This mission is much too important to leave to an inept, inexperienced person like Hilary!! Bill Richardson is also a foriegn policy expert and knows what he is doing when dealing with foriegn leaders.

Posted by: abishop2 | October 23, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

A "very honest and effective summary" given by SoS Hillary Clinton was her colleagues' opinion and they showed clearly their "affection" for this top-notch public servant.

I don't believe there is, currently, a more informed, knowledgeable and qualified person in the Obama administration than HIllary Clinton. And she is not one to seek endless media attention with her face on the screen daily. Amplifying her media personality hasn't been a priority on her agenda. She's too busy being thorough and knowledgeable while keeping her vision of the fundamental rights of girls and women worldwide intact. She understands the basics. You can't even begin to talk about human rights without understanding that these are synonymous to "women's rights". She's the only pragmatic Visionary in the Obama Administration.

Clinton as SoS has really taken her job very seriously and her efficiency consists in recognizing true talent and using it effectively. If only Obama could prove as decisive, knowledgeable and surefooted in his approach--leaving the naive kumbaya illusion of bipartisanship and his unfortunate worship of the "Reagan trajectory"--he would see his numbers rise. It's time that he acted as if he does have a majority in both houses!

Posted by: MSakel | October 23, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse

I am so amazed as the top two comments here (abishop2 and us1156) that are still trashing the Clintons and Hillary in particular, one of the smartest, best prepared, and competent people in the administration. MSakel says it all. Recently Salon had an article by Joan Walsh about how misled everyone had been about the Clintons, due to the MSM vendetta against them. Look carefully, people, at where you developed your opinion of Hillary Clinton. Are you sure it isn't based on that MSM poison?

Posted by: SharonToji | October 25, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

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