Diplomacy promised

Clinton lays out her intention to form alliances as secretary of state, broaden national security role

Obama's Transition

January 14, 2009|By Paul Richter | Paul Richter,Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton promised yesterday a new diplomacy that would give America "more partners and fewer adversaries," and signaled her intention to reach out to Iran and continue the uphill struggle for Middle East peace.

At a five-hour Senate confirmation hearing, Clinton said she and President-elect Barack Obama would overhaul the approach of the Bush administration with a rejuvenated emphasis on diplomatic engagement, alliance-building and development.

"I believe that American leadership has been wanting but is still wanted," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She said U.S. foreign policy should not be guided by "rigid ideology," pledging that in the Obama administration "there will be no doubt about the leading role of diplomacy."

Yet, on a series of international problems, Clinton described a U.S. posture that echoed the Bush administration. "We will lead with diplomacy because it's a smart approach," she said at one point. "But we also know that military force will sometimes be needed."

But Clinton wants to swiftly increase State Department funding so she can broaden its national security role and increase the government's reliance on nonmilitary action in response to international crises. That objective is shared by her Pentagon counterpart, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

"America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America," she said. "The best way to advance America's interest in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and implement global solutions. This isn't a philosophical point. This is our reality."

Clinton, 61, was received warmly but faced repeated challenges about the charitable activities of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Democratic as well as Republican senators expressed concern that contributions to the former president's foundation pose potential conflicts of interest.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the committee's senior Republican, urged the Clinton Foundation to exclude all foreign donations. He said the foundation represented a "unique complication" because of the risk that foreigners will believe that giving money will win favors from the former president's wife.

Clinton defended her husband, contending that plans for disclosure of contributors go beyond that required by government ethics watchdogs.

"No matter what we do, there will be those that [claim] conflicts," she said.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the new chairman of the committee, said Lugar's concerns were shared by the others on the panel.

Under an agreement with the Obama transition team, the Clinton Foundation made public a list of its past donors, promised to annually publish the names of its future donors, and to submit future foreign donations to a State Department ethics review.

She appeared with her daughter, Chelsea, who sat directly behind her. The former president stayed away to ensure attention remained focused on his wife, a spokesman said.

Clinton spoke easily about a range of thorny problems worldwide, addressing the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip for the first time.

Clinton acknowledged that problems in the Middle East may seem intractable, but said: "We cannot give up on peace."

While repeatedly criticizing President George W. Bush, she had warm words for him in some areas, praising his work for world AIDS relief.

Clinton is expected to win confirmation, and Kerry said he plans to hold a committee vote tomorrow. She could be confirmed by the full Senate as early as Inauguration Day.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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