Will Obama and Clinton work as a team?
They’ve had differences, but Obama is expected to name her as secretary of State.
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“Some people are saying this is unprecedented, that no personality as strong or opinionated as Hillary Clinton has taken this job. But what about Henry Kissinger or James Baker?” says Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund in Washington and a foreign-policy specialist. “Those are two recent examples of very strong secretaries, but each was in sync with and implemented the policies of the president, and surely Hillary understands that.”Skip to next paragraph
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A successful president-secretary relationship is not necessarily one where no differences exist, but where any differences are aired in frequent meetings – and behind closed doors, says Mr. Shultz, now at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif. “You talk them through,” Shultz says of any differences. “I had private meetings twice a week with President Reagan, so that in time I had a very good idea of how he approached issues.”
A sign that Clinton understands this dynamic came from leaked information that she demanded – and was assured she would have – direct access to the president.
That’s important because the president and secretary of State’s ability to work together can determine a successful foreign policy, says Professor Herring, who recently published “From Colony to Superpower,” an expansive study of US foreign relations since the Revolution.
“Nixon and Kissinger had a close but very weird relationship, suspicious of each other and each demeaning the other when he wasn’t around. But they respected each other’s views and capabilities, and they worked together,” he says.
Rice, the current secretary of State
The case of Condoleezza Rice exemplifies both how a secretary of State may subjugate her own views to those of the president and how she may end up coaxing the president down a new direction.
Secretary Rice was known as a foreign-policy realist before entering the George W. Bush White House (as national security adviser). But she adopted many of the president’s more idealistic and neoconservative positions, particularly after 9/11. On the other hand, Rice is credited with bringing Mr. Bush back to a more pragmatic and traditional foreign policy – for example, repairing ties to America’s allies after the Iraq invasion. “The term is ending with a foreign policy that looks a lot more like Condoleezza Rice’s original vision,” Mr. Cirincione says.
Indeed, some foreign-policy experts wonder if Clinton – and, more broadly, the national-security team Obama is assembling – won’t influence the new president in a direction that is not the one he suggested during the campaign.
“In the tension between careful and quick, between incremental and transformational in foreign policy, the careful and incremental seems to have won out,” says Cirincione.
After a long campaign and a shared Senate experience with Clinton, Obama knows he’s getting a strong personality with defined foreign-policy views in Hillary Clinton, observers say.
“Clinton could be very effective, but it does have to be clear that she and the president are on the same wavelength,” Shultz says. “It can’t be that she’s thinking one thing and he another – that won’t work.”