Position: Secretary of State
The Secretary of State is the president's highest level advisor on foreign policy, and responsible for carrying out that policy through diplomacy and treaties.
Relevant Professional Background: Clinton, a lawyer by training, was serving as a junior senator from New York at the time of her nomination. Before her election in 2000, she served as First Lady, as the wife of President Bill Clinton. She played an active role in politics while in that typically apolitical role. These roles, as well as her campaign for president in the 2008 election, have made her an important symbol throughout the world.
Positions: Clinton has consistently maintained an internationalist, rather than isolationist stance, on the American position in the world. Her advocacy of greater understanding and involvement by Americans with foreign peoples and cultures are likely to serve her well in her new position.
Goals: Shortly after the announcement of Clinton's appointment, she was reported to be positioning herself, and making contact with others, to achieve goals such as:
- Raising the budget of the State Department
- Creating a collection of special envoys to various world trouble spots (including, potentially, her husband)
- Heightening the profile of the State Department
Challenges: Clinton inherits serious challenges from the previous administration. Among the most profound is making the State Department more influential in shaping U.S. foreign policy and effecting it around the world. In order to do this, Clinton will have to recalibrate the balance of power between the State Department and the Department of Defense, since this balance swung heavily to the DoD during the Bush Administration. Africa, where the U.S. has stood up a new military command, is a case in point. Whether the approach to political and humanitarian relations will be dominated by diplomatic or military priorities remains to be seen.
Clinton will also have to face the substantial degradation of world opinion. The United States has lost much good will due to the Iraq War and the generally militaristic and unilateral tone set in recent years. The United States must demonstrate that it can play nicely with others in the world sandbox again.
There are multiple specific relationships that are either deteriorating or extremely delicate, facing the Secretary of States. These include relations with Russia, with which there is substantial low-level animosity, and areas where the U.S. has an active military presence: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. The ubiquitous Israeli-Palestinian standoff awaits resolution.