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Hillary Clinton: A quiet brand of statecraft

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"Frankly, it's hard for me to place her," says George Herring, a professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky and an expert on secretaries of State. "She seems to have become an effective manager of the [State] department, which is not always the case, but she does not appear to have put her trademark on anything at this point."

A not-uncommon take on Clinton had her spending the better part of her first year casting about to secure a place for herself in the administration. That perception was fed by a couple of factors: Vice President Joe Biden's keen interest and close involvement in foreign affairs – Obama made Mr. Biden his go-to guy on Iraq – and the high-powered special envoys Obama named. Either former Sen. George Mitchell, named as Middle East special envoy, or Richard Holbrooke, whose portfolio contains Afghanistan and Pakistan, could have been secretary of State in his own right, experts note.

John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush and former assistant secretary of State for nuclear proliferation issues, says someone of Clinton's stature "must be finding it hard to play such a limited role and not be a central figure in foreign-policy decisionmaking." He compares her to Colin Powell, under whom he served, as "the State Department's envoy to the president, and not the other way around."

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