Hillary is back

By Rufus Foshee | Aug 01, 2009

While it is true that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does fly a very big jet, once it let down in New Delhi on July 17, it was her third day before she met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Though few are as qualified as Clinton to meet with foreign officials, how like her to do a little field research on the ground before meeting with Singh. Speaking at the University of Delhi where she mixed politics, wit, and above all, self-deprecation, Secretary Clinton said, "Diplomacy must go beyond government in the age in which we live.” The two countries, she said, would pursue a “comprehensive strategic approach” that covered issues as wide ranging as education, food security and climate change.

Many who are now adults were only children when Clinton was being put through the sausage grinder by Republicans during her tenure as first lady. Now, as she goes about her job, one wonders if she ever thinks, what sweet revenge to be nine years out of the White House and one of the few powerful people in the world.

Whether that ever crosses her mind, she is so astute at what she does, one knows well that any such thinking does not cloud her mind. Her sharpness reminds one of what the old-timer, former mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, said about Barbara Jordan: "I had rather get caught in a bear trap than get in a tangle with her."

A little perspective serves well in assessing this first visit by a senior official of the Obama team. Remember that the president said as a candidate that he would approach heads of state directly. Clinton, as a candidate, countered, saying that is what the diplomatic corps is intended to do. Now that she is boss of the corps, we shall see just how this duel plays out.

It must not go without notice that the last three secretaries of state were women, each with a vastly different style. Comparing Condoleezza Rice to either Madeleine Albright or Hillary Clinton, Rice remains only a cardboard cutout standing as a symbol of what her boss may have wanted.

Clinton's advantages are eminently superior to those of either Rice or Albright. She was first lady for two terms, then surprised the world by stepping up to the plate as a carpetbagger and winning a New York seat in the U.S. Senate -- not once but twice, and with a much bigger margin the second time.

Try as they did, the Republicans lost every effort to stop Clinton. There are those who might argue that Obama stopped her. If so, how is it that she became his secretary of state? I would argue that it was a launching rather than a stopping. Others argue that Obama appointed Clinton to remove her from possibly running against him in 2012. How absurd. There is nothing that bars a sitting president and a sitting secretary of state from running in the same Democratic primary.

Clinton is fearless. She chose to stay at one of the two Mumbai hotels the Pakistani terrorists had bombed last November, killing 166 people.

The secretary did not consult with India before speaking out about her current feeling about Pakistan, saying, "In the past six months, in the course of working with the government of Pakistan, we believe that there is a commitment to fighting terrorism that permeates the entire government. And, that is what our expectation is as well. We expect it ... we talk about it at all levels of our government, military, civilian, intelligence. And I also have sent messages very directly to the Pakistani people that this is in the interests of Pakistan."

No one is more aware than Clinton that her job is to carry forth the policies of the Obama administration. In doing so she is not shy. Pure Clinton was her July 20 comment, "We have differences of history and tradition ... but what has occurred in the last 15 years between our two countries, starting with my husband, continuing with President Bush and now with President Obama, is a very exciting new approach to our relationship and to the futures we wish to build."

Those who closely watch international developments will be waiting to see how this love nesting in New Delhi goes over in China. One of Obama's and Clinton's greatest challenges is either making new friends or strengthening old ties, and at the same time not to play one ally against another. Chinese and Indian rivalry is at a peak and will continue way beyond the Obama era.

The big lingering question, during and after Clinton’s visit to India, is just what does the United States want beyond India’s help in conquering Afghanistan and Pakistan terrorists? Beyond that, what is the United States prepared to do or even suggest that it might do that will enable Democratic India to surge ahead with its galloping progress?

India will have no immediate answer. Obama is testing troubled waters in Southeast Asia where only Afghanistan and Pakistan separate both China and India from the troublesome Middle East, spelled Iran/Israel. Just south and east lie all the hottest potential hot spots that will continue to make American presidents, whomever they may be, quake for any foreseeable future.

Speaking from Bangkok, Secretary Clinton knows a hot spot when she sees one. She said, “We know that there are also growing concerns about military cooperation between North Korea and Burma, which we take seriously ... It would be destabilizing for the region. It would pose a direct threat to Burma's neighbors."

If Clinton’s elbow were totally healed and she threw a stick in any direction from where she was speaking in Bangkok, that stick would hit trouble spots like bunches of bananas.

Those who have been wondering "... where is Hillary," may breathe easily now, unless another mishap, as with her serious elbow injury, falls upon her.

Hillary is definitely back.
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