Hillary Clinton: A quiet brand of statecraft
Hillary Clinton has been loyal to President Obama, her one-time rival. Now she's seeking to redefine U.S. foreign policy for a new century, even as the latest mideast peace talks test her skills as a negotiator.
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That job includes delivering that QDDR by October, and reenvisioning what diplomats do so they are more like foremen of American development projects – or as Clinton likes to say, "people who wear cargo pants as much as striped pants." In that vein, another priority for Clinton is reinvigorating a long-marginalized US Agency of International Development – a task that, if successful, would go down as her "legacy," according to Burns.Skip to next paragraph
IT'S A HEFTY TO-DO LIST, not one likely to be completed anytime soon. So the question naturally arises: Will she be around to see it all through? This being Washington, speculation regularly surfaces of a coming change for Clinton. She will replace Gates when he fulfills his self-announced departure from the Pentagon sometime next year, some say. Ambassador Bolton sees her so focused on development – and so unfulfilled at State – that she will leave her post as Obama's top diplomat to take the presidency of the World Bank when that job comes open. Others speak of the proven vote-getter switching jobs with Vice President Biden before the 2012 election.
When CFR President Richard Haass repeated that latter bit of Washington tea-leafing in his introduction of Clinton before her speech this month, she faintly smiled and shook her head "no."
If Clinton has found a comfortable stride as secretary of State – as many analysts say she has – one reason may be how much she reaches into her own past to share what America is and her vision of the force it wants to be in a 21st-century world. Albright recalls how Clinton responded to her invitation to address the Community of Democracies, a group bringing together new and old European democracies that Albright founded a decade ago when she headed the State Department.
"It was a very good speech, but then she did something else," Albright says, recounting how Clinton retold for her audience the story of the 2008 presidential campaign: How she had run very hard against Obama, how he had won "fair and square," and how she came to serve her former rival as his secretary of State.
"She showed those people assembled, from old and young democracies alike, what power sharing really is and what it means in a democracy," Albright says. "It was brilliant, and it was everything this woman is about."
Clinton may not have yet made the "strategic leaps" that some say the 21st century requires of American diplomacy. If the president calls, her sense of duty may well have her decamping the State Department for other climes. In any case, she has said she cannot envision remaining in a job with such a grueling pace into a second term, should Obama win reelection. In the meantime, she will pursue her vision of renewed American power in the way of the global politician she has become: audience to audience, one village at a time.
IN PICTURES: Travels with Hillary Clinton