8 a.m. ET: 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.
On Sunday, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on Face the Nation to discuss Iran strategy, while Ray Odierno was on a pair of shows to talk about Iraq. The administration regularly puts surrogates on the Sunday shows to talk foreign policy, but it's rarely Clinton (she's only done it once). Now Obama faces a tough decision in deciding how to respond to the crisis in Honduras. Clinton made a statement on the subject yesterday, but again it seems likely that the president himself, rather than the secretary of state, will deliver the key message on Honduras when he meets today with the president of Columbia.
On the domestic side, the White House will keep banging away on health care this week, as Obama plans to host an online town hall in Northern Virginia. Ceci Connolly writes that Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden are also pitching in, with the former visiting a community health clinic today and the latter authoring an email to party activists. The search for bipartisanship on health care remains elusive. One bill -- the Wyden-Bennett plan -- does have nearly equal support from both parties, but despite its low price tag, the measure has little chance to proceed because, as Roll Call writes, it would essentially do away with employer-provided health care.
On climate change, the bill that passed the House Friday faces an uncertain future. As (GOP spokesman?) Lindsey Graham put it on Meet the Press, “This bill coming out of the House is going nowhere in the Senate.” Obama did a roundtable interview Sunday to tout progress on the issue, calling it an "important first step" but leaving wiggle room for changes later, particularly on the subject of trade penalties. John Boehner, meanwhile, is less enamored of the bill, telling The Hill it's "a piece of s--t." Maybe he should get some advice from Clinton about being more cautious in public.
June 29, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Go to full archive for The Rundown »
Please email us to report offensive comments.
The comments to this entry are closed.