Clinton Serves In Shadow Of Obama

In Speech, She Tries To Put Her Stamp On Foreign Policy Of Global Cooperation

July 16, 2009|By Paul Richter | Paul Richter,Tribune Newspapers

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Wednesday for a new "architecture of global cooperation" in a wide-ranging address aimed at raising her visibility as a chief voice of U.S. foreign policy.

Outlining her view of global relationships, Clinton said the administration's goal is to enlist more partners, including individuals and groups, as well as governments, in solving world problems.

"We will offer a place at the table to any nation, group or citizen willing to shoulder a fair share of the burden," she said, speaking to an audience of experts at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Clinton reiterated the administration's positions on several key issues, including Iran and Middle East peace, without breaking new ground. She said that while the administration wanted talks with Iran, "the offer will not remain open indefinitely."

Aides said Clinton has been eager to return to a full schedule of work after being largely sidelined for the last month by a broken elbow that forced her to cancel an overseas trip and other meetings. But some analysts believe that her problems extend beyond the injury, and that she has been overshadowed in her first six months as chief U.S. diplomat.

Although the former New York senator and first lady brought star power to her post, they say, the debut months of the administration's foreign policy have been dominated by her boss, President Barack Obama, as well as a White House inner circle that has strong ties to him.

Clinton has had to share the spotlight as well with other foreign policy heavyweights, such as Middle East envoy George J. Mitchell, Afghanistan-Pakistan representative Richard C. Holbrooke and Vice President Joe Biden. Although administration officials insist that she is a major player in all top decisions, she has not been the leading voice so far on the urgent national security issues - Iran, North Korea, Arab-Israeli peace, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

"It's fair to say that in the first six months it's been a very Obama-centric policy," said David J. Rothkopf, a foreign policy specialist and author, and a former Clinton administration official. "Obama has brought a huge break with Bush and Cheney - he is the foreign policy." He said Obama also has been surrounded by influential aides, such as chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, senior adviser David Axelrod and Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, who have often appeared as spokesmen for the new foreign policy.

State Department aides billed Wednesday's speech as a major foreign policy address and distributed excerpts in advance in an apparent effort to heighten interest.

State Department officials dismissed portrayals of Clinton as a secondary player. But some State Department officials have said there has been concern at the department that Clinton has not gotten enough credit for her efforts to date.

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