Hillary Clinton: Obama's foreign-policy hawk
Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama believe in engagement with foreign adversaries, but Secretary Clinton believes in engaging from a position of strength.
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Secretary of State Clinton, Washington's No. 1 diplomatic salesperson, is fast becoming the foreign-policy hawk in a Democratic administration, while President Obama seems to be slow moving. Both believe in engagement with foreign adversaries, but Clinton believes in engaging from a position of strength. By contrast, Mr. Obama is now being faulted for engaging from a platform of weakness, if not appeasement.
Clinton seems to be replicating as secretary of State the technique she employed when she became a senator. During her first months in the Senate, she maintained a low profile, taking the measure of her colleagues and learning the ways of that historic chamber before becoming a major player. Similarly at State, she has spent quiet months learning the contents of her briefing books and summing up the foreign players before asserting herself as a cabinet heavy.
The 3 a.m. crisis call
This was the woman who during the presidential campaign dismissed Obama as being too inexperienced to take a 3 a.m. crisis call. Yet as a cabinet member she has projected loyalty to the president and his declared policies, while exuding firmness in their support and application. Thus on her first Asian foray, she sharply warned North Korea to mend its nuclear ways, publicly confronted Pakistani officials for harboring terrorists, and publicly endorsed Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, while privately cautioning him to shape up.
Unkind critics declared the Chinese set piece of Obama's Asian trip a near diplomatic disaster. The hallowed wisdom of summitry is that you do not let the president embark upon such an odyssey without the final decisions agreed upon, the protocol set, the farewell communiqués written well in advance. But on the Obama trip there were no breakthroughs to trumpet, the Chinese orchestrated press conferences without questions, obliged the US president to tiptoe around human rights issues like Tibet, and rigged a public "town hall" meeting not with ordinary folk, but selected young communists.