Hillary Clinton’s Job Description

Martin Walker is the latest to question how influential Hillary Clinton will really be in making United States foreign policy, noting that other members of the vaunted team of rivals seem to be getting all the playing time. 

His column, as usual, is worth reading in full but his key points are:

  • “The first big foreign policy statement by the Obama administration was delivered last weekend in Munich by Vice President Joe Biden. As former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden sees himself as the administration’s real expert on the world.”
  • “Biden is not Hillary’s only problem. Every key region of the world now seems to be getting its own presidential envoy, someone who arrives empowered to speak for President Obama, although that is supposed to be Hillary’s job.”
  • “[National Security Advisor Jim Jones] is talking grandly of ambitious plans to give the NSC its biggest overhaul in a generation, expanding its reach to embrace trade, homeland security, cyber-warfare, energy and climate change.”

Monday, Dick Morris provided a longer laundry list for The Hill.  He observes,

While sympathy for Mrs. Clinton is outside the normal fare of these columns, one cannot help but feel that she is surrounded by people who are, at best, strangers and, at worst, enemies. The competition that has historically occupied secretaries of State and national security advisers seems poised to ratchet up to a new level in the current administration.


The power of the secretary of State flows directly from the president. But Hillary does not have the inside track with Obama. Rice and Powers, close advisers in the campaign, and Gen. Jones — whose office is in the White House — all may have superior access. Holbrooke and Mitchell will have more immediate information about the world’s trouble spots.

He closes with, “And for this she gave up a Senate seat?”   Indeed, I raised the point somewhat less brusquely over the weekend in “Obama to Run Foreign Policy From White House.”

I just can’t imagine Hillary Clinton smiling and going along with this.   She gave up a prominent Senate seat to be Secretary of State and almost certainly thinks that she, not young Obama, should be in the Oval Office. Similarly, while I’m less familiar with his personality, it’s hard to believe Leon Panetta would give up his lucrative “consulting” and speechmaking lifestyle to take on CIA if he intended to be merely a bureaucratic cog in the NSC machine.  He was, after all, White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton, not only having daily access to the president but actually setting his boss’ schedule.

Clinton is a shrewd insider in the games of Washington and one presumes that she considered the possibility that her erstwhile opponent for the presidency was shunting her to State to prevent her being a  political nuisance.  One presumes that she got some pretty strong assurances before leaving her perch in the Senate.

There has to be more to this than meets the eye. From this vantage point, however, it’s very difficult to see what her role is.  

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.

Related Experts: James Joyner

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