Secretary Clinton: Dutiful diplomat? Or 2012 candidate?
So far, she's hewed so close to the Obama party line that she sounds like a clone of the president.
"Whatever happened to Hillary Clinton?"Skip to next paragraph
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That question came from a senior diplomat of yesteryear in a conversation I had a few weeks ago. He raised the issue in light of all the talk months ago about what role Mrs. Clinton might play in the Obama Cabinet.
Pundits pondered whether President Obama risked being outshone and outmaneuvered by a superstar who nearly became president herself.
The pondering has proved irrelevant. In domestic and foreign media, Mr. Obama has become a superstar to trump all other superstars. (If he has anyone to fear in Washington on the publicity front, it is not Clinton but Mrs. Obama, who is getting multinewspaper and TV coverage.)
By contrast, Secretary of State Clinton has become a dutiful bureaucrat, hewing close to the Obama party line, with never a ripple to agitate the White House. No more campaign trail talk of obliterating Iran if it attacked Israel. No more questioning the president's competence to handle the 3 a.m. crisis call. And minus the mistranslated "reset" button she presented to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, not even a Joe Biden-like gaffe to bring a frown to the president's brow.
When the president speaks, she is in a silent phalanx behind him with other members of his team. She has a private, one-on-one weekly meeting with the president – the kind of session that all secretaries of State yearn for, but not all get. But in public, when presiding over her own meetings, or when she travels abroad, she sounds like a clone of the president, albeit cloaked sometimes in diplomatic nonspeak.
Some cynics suggest that Clinton's good-soldier routine is a clever ploy with an eye to 2012 and another crack at the presidency. Obama's prospects for a second term will sink or swim on the economy. If it is up, he looks good for reelection. If it is still down, the Obama family, and their dog, go home to Chicago.