Well, Abe, Hillary is no shrinking violet and I don’t expect that she accepted the job with the Biden-esque ambition to make the job smaller than she found it. But I think one can overstate the real news in the press report, which is clearly the result of the Clinton hype-machine working at peak efficiency. There is nothing new in the State Department jousting with other cabinet-level departments and with power centers both within and outside the White House. The more interesting issue will be how the National Security Advisor ensures that Clinton’s is not the only voice in the administration and that the President has an assortment of viewpoints and data on which to base his decision-making.
But I rather think a larger role for the State Department on international economic issues might not be such a bad thing regarding certain topics such as trade. State is not a place where ripping up NAFTA or throwing Colombia to the wolves (rather than finding a face-saving way to ratify the Colombia Free Trade Agreement) is likely to find traction. As for the personnel decisions, everything is relative. Would I rather have a fading star or Christopher Hill roving the globe? It’s a close call, but we should be realistic about the pool of savvy, smart, and steely-eyed young diplomats who would have a chance at a State Department post in the Obama Administration.
That’s a long way of saying that State in the second Bush term was nothing to write home about. If Clinton can hold her own, both within the administration and on the world stage, she might be a pleasant surprise. In short, I’d rather she than Labor Secretary Solis or Energy and Climate Czarina Carol Browner have the upper hand on some key issues.