In early August, I wrote that when it comes to the idea of Secretary Clinton as President Obama's running mate in 2012, it's "not going to happen." Turns out that a scholar of the U.S. vice presidency, Joel K. Goldstein, concurs, writing in Aug. 28's Washington Post: "It's not going to happen. Let's move on."
Goldstein's reasons for rejecting the Clinton-as-vice-president idea are different from my own, though (which focus on Clinton's weariness and expressed desire to transition out of government). Among them is this important point: Clinton is simply not the solution to Obama's problems. Goldstein writes (with my emphasis in bold):
Obama has no political reason to dump Biden, who is not the source of the president's problems. Obama's issues stem from the economy and the administration's failure to convince the electorate of its accomplishments.
Some have argued that while Biden is not a drag on the ticket, he is also not able to produce the excitement Clinton would ignite. Although Clinton's unique stature and the skill with which she has handled her Cabinet role are clear, she is not the solution to Obama's perceived difficulties. Her popularity would probably suffer if she returned to a partisan role, and Obama would pay a price for removing Biden.
Clinton might have a lot of positives, but putting her name on the ballot alongside Obama isn't going to magically makes things better for the president. But there a lot of people out there who relish that fantasy.
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images
Will President Obama dump Vice President Joe Biden as his running mate in the 2012 election and replace him with Hillary Clinton? Earlier this month, I wrote that it's "not going to happen" and highlighted some quotes from Clinton in which she has made it clear she wants to escape the nonstop 24-7 nature of government work and retreat to private life.
But inside the Beltway, chatter about running mate Clinton continues away. On Aug. 22, the Washington Post's David Ignatius wrote that a "Vice President Hillary Rodham Clinton" would be Obama's "second-term masterstroke." Today, a Washington Times editorial, "The Hillary Coup," discusses both the "Dump Biden" movement and some form of "musical chairs" to keep Clinton from running against Obama in a 2012 Democratic primary. Additionally, Clinton might relish the idea of being the first female defense secretay after Robert Gates likely retires next year, the editorial speculates. (For more about Clinton heading the Pentagon, read here.)
It just seems so far-fetched. It's so much easier to envision Clinton doing philanthropic work to advance her signature issue -- the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
But if this November's congressional elections end up a total fiasco for the Democrats, strange things could happen. (And who knows what I'd then be blogging about.)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Would Secretary Clinton be up for being President Obama's running mate in 2012, replacing Vice President Joe Biden?
An article this week in Politico, written by former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, an Obama supporter in 2008, states it would be "both needed change and audacious" if Obama were to select Clinton as his running mate for his 2012 reelection campaign. He praises Clinton, writing:
Clinton has been nothing but a team player who has earned good marks since being asked to serve as secretary of state. She has skillfully navigated the globe and been tough and commanding when the moment called for it (with Iran) and graceful and diplomatic when situations required (navigating complex relations with Russia, Pakistan and China).
Wilder asks the rhetorical question, "Has she ended these 18 months with the stature of someone ready and able to be president were the moment to call for it?" He firmly responds, "The answer, unequivocally, is 'yes.'"
But, would Clinton want to be vice president? Based on what she has said when asked about any presidential ambitions for 2016, it seems like she's ready to transition out of government after serving as secretary of state. When asked by Tavis Smiley Reports in January about what she plans to do next, Clinton said:
"[T]here's so many things I'm interested in -- I mean, really going back to private life and spending time reading, and writing, and maybe teaching, doing some personal travel, not the kind of travel where you bring along a couple of hundred people with you. Just focusing on, on issues of women, girls, families, the kind of intersection between what's considered 'real politique' and real-life politics, which has always fascinated me."
And when Smiley asked her whether she plans to run for U.S. president again, she firmly responded:
"Absolutely not interested."
Also, as much as Clinton is giving her secretary-of-state job 110 percent -- not even appearing to ever suffer from jet lag -- she has hinted that keeping up such a demanding schedule is wearing her out and not something she wants to do in post-secretary life. She told Smiley:
"I'm honored to serve -- I serve at the pleasure of the president -- but it's a, it's a 24-7 job, and I think at some point, I will be very happy to [laughs] pass it on to someone else."
She told the Washington Post something similar:
"It is a really hard job … a 24-7 job," and "I feel the weight of it pretty significantly."
After Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, shadowed her through an exhausting day for Parade magazine, he wrote:
She has to be perpetually onstage. But what I think I glimpse beneath the unflagging smile and constant concentration is a very tired person -- tense, frustrated, but absolutely determined to make her tenure as Secretary of State a success and to accomplish important things.
Sounds like Clinton wants to transition to private life, still working on important issues such as empowerment of women and girls, but not having to be, as Gelb put it, "perpetually onstage."
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images from Oct. 20, 2008
Secretary Clinton was busy on the phones yesterday afternoon, calling the foreign ministers of coalition countries to discuss with them President Barack Obama's decision to have Gen. David Petraeus succeed Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
As FP's The Cable notes, Clinton has been "conspicuously silent" about this mess. She has not issued a statement about the issue, even though two of her officials, special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, were insulted in the Rolling Stone article. One possible reason Clinton remains mum is she doesn't want to step onto Defense Secretary Robert Gates's turf by commenting on a top military official. Doing so could also drive the rumor that she's itching to replace Gates as defense secretary.
Plus Clinton -- the only person singled out for praise in the Rolling Stone article -- "admires" McChrystal, as State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley put it at yesterday's daily press briefing. It's a tough position in which to be, liking a guy everyone's upset with.
(In the photo above, Clinton walks into the White House yesterday.)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
In the Rolling Stone article that resulted in Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation today, Secretary Clinton is apparently the only nonmilitary person who gets McChrystal's respect. The Washington Post stated today:
Clinton comes off well in the article as the only non-military person who earns McChrystal's respect.
Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal's inner circle. "Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.' "
At yesterday's State Department press briefing, spokesman P.J. Crowley said Clinton has read the Rolling Stone article but not made any comment:
QUESTION: What does the Secretary make, if anything, of the fact that she appears to be the only one of the - in the senior national security team who comes out looking good, at least in McChrystal's view?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, she's - as did every member of the national security team during the course of the fall, she presented the President with her best advice on the strategy options. So did Ambassador Eikenberry. And she has read the article. Beyond that, she has not offered any particular comment.
QUESTION: She hasn't said anything to any of her staff that you're aware of?
MR. CROWLEY: No, she has not spoken to me about it.
Given how much civilian-military cooperation is needed for nation-building in Afghanistan, let's hope Clinton gets along well with Petraeus. Her position on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is summarized by the Washington Post as such:
An active participant in the internal debates, Clinton worried about Pakistan remaining a haven for terrorism no matter how many troops were sent, but eventually joined with Gates and Mullen to push for a more robust force. In doing so, she bucked the advice of the U.S. ambassador, who reports to her.
For more about how Clinton was the only person singled out for praise in the Rolling Stone article, check out yesterday's post on this topic.
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton's favorable rating is at nearly the highest it has been in the 17 years that Gallup has been polling people about her. In a poll this month, 62 percent gave her a favorable rating, higher than President Obama's 56 percent. Clinton's highest rating -- 67 percent favorable -- was in December 1998, soon after her husband, then president, was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Among Democrats, 91 percent have a favorable rating of Clinton. For Republicans it's 35 percent, and for independents it's 55 percent.
Meanwhile, Obama's 56 percent favorable rating is the lowest it has been since late 2007, and his unfavorable rating -- 40 percent -- is his highest ever. (The telephone poll of 1,013 American adults was conducted Oct. 1 to 4, before the announcement of his Nobel Peace Prize, which might have temporarily lifted his favorable rating.)
(The margin of error for 95 percent confidence is ± 4 percentage points.)
Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are in harmony on many foreign-policy issues, according to a recent New York Times article. Tensions between the secretaries of state and defense have often been "epic" in previous administrations, but the two get along remarkably well, even talking Afghanistan policy over a long private dinner at the Blue Duck Tavern last week after their joint talk for CNN.
Over at FP's Shadow Government blog, Peter Feaver comments.
Secretary Clinton was on NBC's Today show this morning. She made some boilerplate remarks that President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize due to "his attitude toward America's role in the world" and that the award is "not going to influence" his decisions regarding Afghanistan. (She of course has to say those kinds of things; Obama's her boss.)
Then Clinton addressed the thorn-in-her-side issue that she supposedly has too low a profile in the Obama administration. She said the claim was "absurd" and that it was "so at variance with what I do every day." (She did just save the day on the Turkey-Armenia accord and promote peace in Northern Ireland -- all in the one weekend after Obama won the Nobel.) She explained that U.S. foreign policy doesn't have to be "me, me, me" 24/7, stating:
Maybe there is some misunderstanding which needs to be clarified. I believe in delegating power. … I am not one of those people who feel I have to have my face in front of the newspaper and on the TV every moment of the day. … It's just the way I am. My goal is to be a very positive force to implement the kind of changes that the president and I believe are in the best interest of our country, but that doesn't mean that it has to be me, me, me all the time. I like lifting people up."
When asked if she'll run for president again, she laughed and simply stated, "no."
Video: Today show, NBC
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics telephone survey of 900 registered American voters conducted Sept. 29 and 30 found that 27 percent think Hillary Clinton would have been doing a better job than Barack Obama had she won last year's presidential election. On the other hand, 28 percent said she would be doing worse. The margin of error is 3 percentage points, so that's probably not a statistically significant difference. Overall, it appears people, regardless of their political affiliation, are more or less divided on who would be a better president, though Republicans skew a bit toward Clinton and Democrats a bit toward Obama.
Graphic created by Bradley Amburn, Foreign Policy
Fortune magazine just ranked Secretary Clinton as the No. 2 most powerful woman in Washington, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (The magazine says it excluded first lady Michelle Obama because she "exercises her own brand of influence.") Clinton's No. 2 position makes a lot more sense than her No. 36 ranking on Forbes' list last month of the 100 most powerful women in the world.
Fortune did bring up the discussed-to-death topic of "Clinton in the shadows," stating: "As she travels the globe, wielding clout with America's trading partners, many question how strong a voice she has in Obama's inner circle." I'm sick of blogging on this topic! Clinton and President Obama get along very well. Above, the two hug right before Obama's health-care speech last Wednesday, Sept. 9. And look at the photo below of Thursday's cabinet meeting -- the meeting of the "inner circle." Clinton is literally Obama's right-hand woman (albeit Obama is left-handed).
Photos, top to bottom: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images, Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
A Harris Interactive poll of 2,498 American adults conducted online from Aug. 10 to 18 found that of the Obama administration officials asked about, only Secretary Clinton received an overall positive rating:
President Barack Obama was not included in the poll. Also, some of the percentages don't add up exactly due to rounding.
Here's how Clinton has done by month, with percentages in the order of positive, negative, and not familiar:
Overall, pretty stable.
Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton should drink "Mad Bitch" beer suggests Washington Post journalist Dana Milbank in a video that was later pulled from the newspaper's Web site. [Foreign Policy, by the way, is owned by the Washington Post Company.]
The humorous video related to the discussion about what type of beer would be consumed at last week's "beer summit" between President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Sgt. James Crowley. "We won't tell you who's getting a bottle of Mad Bitch," Milbank says while dispaying a photo of Clinton about 2:35 into the video.
The Washington Post's communications director told Talking Points Memo via e-mail: "The video was a satirical piece that lampooned people of all stripes. There was a section of the video that went too far, so we have removed the piece from our website."
The video isn't that funny, and Clinton laughs off this kind of ridicule anyway. It's probably getting pretty old for her by now.
When Tina Brown wrote in belittling fashion that President Obama has Secretary Clinton in a burqa, it revealed just how difficult it is to comprehend how foreign policy gets made in the United States, writes Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum today.
Applebaum writes that Obama doesn't send detailed instructions to Clinton, controlling what she does -- that kind of stuff only happens in dictatorships, like North Korea. Rather, she is granted a lot of leeway in deciding how to engage the world. Obama doesn't force her to keep quiet; rather it's up to Clinton to engage the world as she sits fit.
And Clinton has been outspoken many times during her first six months. In April, she said Pakistan was "abdicating" to the Taliban; she made controversial statements about China and human rights in February; she discussed a possible "defense umbrella" in the Persian Gulf region. She has held town-hall meetings overseas and spoken in TV interviews both abroad and in the United States.
Ultimately, Applebaum concludes, the ball -- not the burqa -- is in Clinton's court: "It is up to her to tell us what she thinks is important, and why. If she hasn't done so yet, that isn't the president's fault."
Photo: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
When asked yesterday about allegedly being sidelined by the White House, Secretary Clinton put the issue to rest, responding wittily:
"I broke my elbow, not my larynx," she said, referring to the fractured elbow that kept her out of the limelight for a month.
Speaking with reporters at the State Department after meetings with the foreign ministers of Canada and Mexico [in above photo], Clinton delivered the line with a straight face, seeming miffed at widespread speculation that she has lost influence in the Obama administration.
"I have been consistantly involved in the shaping and implementation of our foreign policy and I am off to India and Thailand tonight," Clinton said stonily.
For more about this issue, check out The Cable for the details from Laura Rozen's exclusive talk with Secretary Clinton herself.
Photo: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
One trait I admire about Secretary Clinton is her ability to not let criticism get her down. She has weathered so much meanness from her time as first lady to her tenure as a U.S. senator to last year's presidential campaign to her current post as secretary of state. Entire books have been written about what a terrible person she supposedly is. There's even a Hillary Clinton voodoo kit.
So, it's no surprise that, according to the New York Times, Clinton says she's amused and baffled by Tina Brown's Daily Beast piece that compares the secretary to a Saudi wife and declares, "It's time for Barack Obama to let Hillary Clinton take off her burqa." Clinton just laughs at that kind of stuff.
The Times also reports that Clinton's aides say her habit is to just "brush off" all the talk about how she's toiling in the shadows with a low profile. They said that keeping her "head down" is also the approach she used early in her Senate career.
Meanwhile, reports the Times, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told Clinton that he knew of no other time when there seemed to be less tension between the the State Department and White House. Further, Strobe Talbott -- a former deputy secretary of state who once wrote about marginalized secretaries of state for Time magazine -- told the Times, "There's a reflex assumption on the part of a lot of people that the secretary of state is going to be out there, on every conceivable issue. … But to do that on every conceivable issue is way too much, particularly when we have so many issues." (I should note that Talbott is friends with Clinton and her husband.)
Clinton is one smart woman. She knew what she was getting into when she accepted the secretary-of-state job. Dedicated to her position as her country's top diplomat, she's pushing forward, not letting her mean-spirited detractors get in the way.
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton will be making her foreign-policy speech soon. FP's The Cable reports, "a key theme of Clinton's speech appears to be defending the administration's pursuit of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program."
Regarding countries with which the United States disagrees, Clinton is expected to say:
We cannot be afraid or unwilling to engage. Yet some suggest that this is a sign of weakness or naiveté -- or acquiescence to these countries' repression of their own people. That is wrong. The president and I believe that refusing to talk to countries rarely punishes them. And as long as engagement might advance our interests and our values, it is unwise to take it off the table."
I have to depart for Secretary Clinton's speech soon, but before I leave I just want to bring to your attention Tina Brown's provocative Daily Beast piece, "Obama's Other Wife," in which she calls Clinton Obama's "great foreign-policy wife" and says Clinton has "an office wifehood of the Saudi variety."
The second paragraph declares:
It’s time for Barack Obama to let Hillary Clinton take off her burqa.
Brown praises Clinton, stating:
She has always cared more about the substance of work than its status trappings.
Policy is her meat and drink. On her State Department plane, Hillary is always eager to throw off her well-groomed public look and sit up front with no makeup, wearing sweats and her bookworm glasses, as she crunches her way through a big fat file of foreign-policy memos.
You could say that Obama is lucky to have such a great foreign-policy wife. Those who voted for Hillary wonder how long she'll be content with an office wifehood of the Saudi variety.
Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Obama is in Ghana today -- without Clinton. In his first foreign trip as president, he went to Canada -- without Clinton. In April, he went to Turkey -- without Clinton. That same month, he went to Mexico -- without Clinton. Last month, he visited Saudi Arabia, Germany, and France -- without Clinton.
When it comes to foreign trips, President Obama is "making a habit" of not taking Secretary Clinton along, asserts an Asian News International article ahead of Clinton's trip to India next week. The article says that "according to Fox News," it's customary for the secretary of state to accompany the U.S. president when he travels overseas. Apparently, however, Obama has spent far more time traveling without his secretary of state than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did at the same points in their four terms.
In all fairness, Clinton's broken elbow kept her from traveling to Russia with Obama. But, could there be other factors at play? The article cites analysts who say Obama might be concerned that his former rival's "star power" could turn the spotlight away from him. It also quotes an unnamed high-level State Department official from the Bush administration as saying, "It seems that (Clinton has) had a bit lower profile over the past couple months as opposed to when she entered office." He also said Clinton began her job with the "widest public recognition" of any secretary of state, but has since faded into the shadows.
Perhaps Obama just has a different style when it comes to traveling overseas (he's all about "change," isn't he?). Plus, Clinton has taken her own solo trips (such as when she went to China and Haiti, for example).
But it's hard to ignore all the talk that Clinton is "in the shadows." Conservative commentator William Kristol recently wrote, "Hillary Clinton -- remember her? Barack Obama's increasingly marginalized secretary of state … ."
I guess all this talk is part of the reason why Clinton's giving her major foreign-policy speech next week.
Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
If Secretary Clinton had been president, the United States would have been talking tough about Iran at least two days earlier.
Clinton -- known for laying the smack down verbally -- spent two whole days urging President Obama to talk tough on Iran before he finally did, reports the Washington Times. And then when he did condemn the violence, he did so without telling her first, making it look like the State Department was "out of sync" with the White House.
According to the article, Clinton originally agreed that the U.S. response should be somewhat restrained to avoid creating the impression that the United States was meddling in Iran's internal affairs -- and because the U.S. government would most likely end up having to deal with Ahmadinejad later on regarding nuclear weapons.
But after 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan was shot on a Tehran street on June 20, Clinton decided it was time for tough talk (a position you all supported in last week's poll). She spent two days urging Obama to speak out, but he resisted. Then on June 23, without informing her first, he announced, "I strongly condemn these unjust actions."
Of course Obama is the president and doesn't need Clinton's permission to speak, but as the Washington Times article states, his tough words made the State Department look "out of sync" with the White House. Until an hour before Obama's news conference, the State Department was still speaking in restrained terms (saying it was "deeply concerned," etc.)
Maybe Obama will listen to Clinton's foreign-policy advice more carefully next time -- or at least give her a heads-up about any unexpected moves.
Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
London's Sunday Times ran an article this weekend saying that Democratic insiders are worried that U.S. first lady Michelle Obama might end up with a "Hillary Clinton-style debacle" as she ventures out of her White House vegetable garden "in search of a meatier political role."
From the article (with my emphasis in bold):
Despite denials from White House officials that Michelle Obama is suffering from "Hillary-itis" -- a burning desire to help her husband run the country -- her long-running interest in healthcare has raised painful memories of 1994, when Hillary Clinton presided over a political debacle as her health reform proposals collapsed in Congress.
Healthcare reform is badly needed in the United States, so whatever the first lady -- a former hospital administrator -- might attempt, I hope it leads to outcomes that help the uninsured and underinsured get the healthcare they need at prices they can afford. Meanwhile, at least she's pushing the veggies.
Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Here's a ridiculous piece by Dick Morris, former advisor to U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Bill Clinton: "The Incredible Shrinking Clintons."
Morris -- who clearly has something personal against the Clintons -- argues that President Obama brought Hillary and Bill Clinton into his "inner circle" in order to marginalize them. He explains the logic by quoting former President Lyndon Johnson: "I'd rather have [my rivals] inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in."
Granted, there might be some truth to this logic, and Secretary Clinton might appear less "marginalized" if she spoke on some of the Sunday morning talk shows. However, Morris's piece is filled with hyperbole.
For example, it states, "Hillary is reduced to announcing foreign aid packages for Pakistan while [Richard] Holbrooke does the heavy lifting." Yes, Clinton (the e-diplomat) has asked people to text "swat" to help Pakistanis, but she's also the bold woman who laid the smack down and declared that the Pakistani government was "abdicating" to the Taliban.
Morris also says about Secretary Clinton:
She doesn't look like a president in waiting; she's more like a senior staff member hoping to rise in the bureaucracy. No longer at the head of a movement or the symbol of rising women all over the world, she has faded into the State Department woodwork.
If Clinton is no longer the "symbol of rising women," then why did Vital Voices honor Clinton with its Global Trailblazer award this March?
Bizzarely, the piece says, "Bill Clinton has been asked to be a special envoy to Haiti. Yes, Haiti. … Obama gives him Haiti." From what I can tell, Bill Clinton is the United Nations special envoy to Haiti. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -- not Obama -- named him for the position. Plus, anyone who has advised Bill Clinton ought to know that the Clintons have a special place in their hearts for Haiti.
Strangely, Morris also writes, "Bill can't even make money" (due to restrictions on his activities because Hillary is secretary of state). The New York Times Magazine just reported, however, that the former president is jetting around the world, picking up six-figure fees for his speeches.
"Shrinking Clintons"? Whatever. They're a 21st-century power couple.
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Britain's Telegraph newspaper opines that the "good cop, bad cop" style of a "non-confrontational" Obama and "tough-talking" Clinton is sending out "dangerously ambiguous messages." While acknowledging that the style is risky, the Telegraph says the risk is "one many would see as worth taking if, in the long run, it delivers results."
My colleague Laura Rozen over at The Cable posted a quote from a "plugged-in Washington Middle East hand" saying that the White House won't let Secretary Clinton on Sunday morning talk shows. Referring to Clinton and White House senior advisor David Axelrod, the post reads:
"The White House won't let her on TV on the Sunday morning talk shows," a plugged-in Washington Middle East hand observed. "Who is talking about foreign policy on those shows? Axelrod. Who is showing up at the meeting with Obama-Peres? Axelrod. They are controlling the message."
"They've never even had her even on Charlie Rose," he added. "You have not really seen the secretary of state in the U.S. media; you've seen her in the international media. Who is their main messenger on foreign policy?"
(An aide confirmed Clinton hadn't been on the Sunday talk shows since the campaign.)
An update to the post says:
White House and State Department officials wrote to strongly dispute that Clinton was being kept off the Sunday news talk shows. A White House official said Clinton is an "absolutely critical voice" in the effort to develop and communicate the administration's foreign policy.
The "plugged-in Middle East hand" also noted that the Obama administration did not send Clinton to the AIPAC conference. Instead Vice President Joseph Biden was sent. Steve Cohen, president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development, said:
"Biden is the person who is perceived as a very experienced foreign-policy hand who has a very solid relationship with Israel, but that relationship is solidly based on American strategic analysis," Cohen said. "And not affected so much by the Clinton experience of being a [former] New York senator."
(In the photo at top, Clinton, then a Democratic presidential hopeful, performs a comedy sketch with U.S. television personality Stephen Colbert during the taping of his comedy show The Colbert Report in Philadelphia on April 17, 2008.)
Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary Clinton and President Obama decided to take things outside -- quite literally -- last Thursday, April 9. The two held their 4:15 p.m. meeting outdoors at a picnic table next to the Obama daughters' swing set, installed in March. The full-size image of the encounter is over at The Root.
Meanwhile, though it's not foreign-policy-related at all, I couldn't resist posting a photo of Malia and Sasha's swing set, with picnic table at left, seen here March 4.
Photos, top to bottom: thumbnail image from Dayo Olopade/ TheRoot.com, Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images
As some of you know, President Obama and Secretary Clinton received a "3 a.m. phone call" (OK, it was actually 4:30 a.m.) in Prague on Sunday morning after North Korea launched a missile. (An April 6 Congressional Quarterly article I accessed on Nexis confirms that both received the call.)
Now here's an interesting nugget from an Associated Press analysis piece, "Hillary Warned There'd Be Days Like This." The article states:
In all fairness, Obama was working the phones too, consulting his top aides, but it looks like when the 3 a.m. calls come ringing, Clinton is right there, too, doing 3 a.m. diplomacy.
Clinton, now Obama's top diplomat who no longer hawks the 3 a.m. campaign line, was traveling with the president. She worked the phones, and Obama issued the expected words of condemnation. Calls went out for the U.N. Security Council to convene.
Some of you all might be interested in checking out this recent New York Times article, "Lower Profile for Clinton, but Her Influence Rises."
A couple of quotes:
The administration's hierarchy was also on vivid display last week, when Mrs. Clinton flew home from Mexico late Thursday, so she could stand wordlessly behind Mr. Obama at the White House as he presented his Afghanistan policy on Friday.
Mrs. Clinton will be at Mr. Obama's side for the next few days … . Aides say it is entirely possible she will not utter a word in public during any of Mr. Obama's appearances.
Interestingly, the article mentions that Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen gave Clinton a large bouquet of "Hillary Clinton tulips," a variety named for the former first lady in 1994.
By and large, both the British and German papers today are delighted that Secretary Clinton's meetings with British Foreign Minister David Miliband and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier seem to herald a new day for transatlantic relations.
WIth Miliband, the agenda was largely the "special relationship" between the US and UK, Iran's nuclear ambitions, and peace in the Middle East.
The Guardian loves the fact that Britain scored a diplomatic coup:
The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, lavishly praised the "special relationship" between the US and Britain after discussions in Washington yesterday with David Miliband, the first foreign minister to meet her in the new job....
British diplomats had played down the importance of whether Britain, France or Germany would be first to speak to the new administration but they were yesterday celebrating twin coups: Gordon Brown was the first European leader Obama called and Miliband became the first foreign minister to visit Clinton.
The Independent detected "bittersweet moments":
The two top diplomats gushed over each other, with Mr Miliband declaring he was "delighted" to be meet with Mrs Clinton exactly three months after Mr Obama was elected, two weeks after his inauguration and one full day after Mrs Clinton was formally sworn in. Whew. Their talks were "detailed, substantive and friendly", Mr Miliband recounted.But was there a hint of regret that Hillary wasn't in the White House? As far as the Foreign Office is concerned, Barack Obama, is an inspiring but essentially blank sheet of paper.
And the Times seemed relieved that Clinton reassured Miliband that the U.S. wouldn't act rashly toward Iran:
Hillary Clinton offered David Miliband assurances yesterday that plans to re-engage with Iran would proceed one step at a time - and only after heeding concerns from Britain.
With Steinmeier, the agenda focused on Afghanistan, Iran, and Germany-U.S. ties.
Deutsche Welle seems giddy about the fact that Steinmeier is on a first-name basis with the Secretary:
They already call each other by their first names.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, looking forward to a warmer era of diplomatic relations with the United States under President Barack Obama, called the new top US diplomat "Madame Secretary Hillary" or simply, "Hillary," a sign of friendship for Germans, who often call each other by their last names even after decades.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reciprocated by calling her German colleague "Frank." Indeed, the pair have known each other since the 1990s, when she was US first lady and Steinmeier was chief of staff to the previous German chancellor.
Der Spiegel, on the other hand, reported that Steinmeier's enthusiasm for the new administration (in juxtaposition to Angela Merkel, who has been noticeably more reserved when it comes to Obama) is a product of his desire to be Germany's next chancellor, and that yesterday showcased a bit of campaigning on this side of the pond:
The foreign minister, who is also the chancellor candidate for the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in this year's German national election, waited no longer than the inauguration before making plans for his first visit with the new administration. Steinmeier, after all, is trying to mount a campaign in Germany that he hopes will help him cash in on Barack Obama's win and America's shift to the left. He wants to position himself with German voters as the country's chief Atlanticist and a passionate friend of the new American government....
During their joint press conference at the State Department, Steinmeier addressed his counterpart as "Dear Hillary" and spoke for a very long time -- a lot longer than she did. Steinmeier praised what he described as his "visit with friends" and said trans-Atlantic cooperation must not be suffocated by "routine." Later he raved about a "new freshness, a curiosity, a preparedness to discuss new issues." Clinton played along.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Full day for Secretary Clinton today:
SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON:
8:00 a.m. Breakfast with Congressman Howard Berman.
10:15 a.m. Meeting with Defense Secretary Gates and General Jones.
11:50 a.m. Meeting with President Obama and Special Envoy George Mitchell.
12:45 p.m. Town Hall Meeting for employees, in the Dean Acheson Auditorium.
3:30 p.m. Meeting with Tony Blair, Quartet Envoy.
6:00 p.m. Host Reception for Chiefs of Diplomatic Missions.
This morning, Hillary Clinton attended a White House ceremony to watch Barack Obama sign his first bill into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. That act reverses a 2007 Supreme Court decision that narrowed the statute of limitations on filing pay discrimination suits.
Hillary Clinton was one of the initial co-sponsors of the Senate legislation (later blocked by Republicans) that sought to change this decision and, in one of her few official acts before being confirmed as Secretary of State, signed on as an original co-sponsor again this year. She appeared with Lilly Ledbetter to rally for the legislation, spoke about the act on the floor of the Senate, and proclaimed its importance during her speech at the Democratic National Convention. She's no doubt delighted at the bill's success. Also in attendance: Nancy Pelosi and Michelle Obama.
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Wasting no time in responding to Hillary Clinton's statement yesterday (and Barack Obama's the day before) that Iran needs to "unclench [its] fist" before the United States will talk to Tehran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fired back, suggesting the United States needs to apologize first and end its support for Israel. Ahmadinejad wants Obama to apologize for the 1953 coup and the 1988 downing of an Iranian airliner -- as well as a repudiation of U.S. support for Israel -- before he'll talk to us. Good luck with that, Mahmoud.
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Madam Secretary is an obsessive blog about all things Hillary Clinton. From her policies to her pantsuits, Madam Secretary delivers up-to-the-minute news, analysis, and gossip about America's top diplomat.