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."
Mr. Herring says Clinton has been a "team player," but he adds that this does not mean she has been "marginalized" the way Mr. Powell was. Indeed, Secretary Albright says the cold-war-era scenario of one dominant player in the promotion of US foreign policy is over, replaced by a "constellation" of participants and influences.
"Her role is to exert power by being a team player, knowing when to delegate and when to take the driver's seat," Albright says. "It's a different modus operandi from a Dean Acheson or a Henry Kissinger."