There was a time when United States Secretaries of State were front and center in foreign policy making and implementation. Our first Secretary of State was Thomas Jefferson, and other historical luminaries included John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, William Jennings Bryant, and George C. Marshall.
In more modern times, names such as Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, James Baker, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Condolezza Rice loom large in our psyche and history.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Who? Possibly the most marginalized Secretary of State in modern times.
Barack Obama has not permitted Hillary to participate in a central manner in any of the major diplomatic events, including the upcoming Moscow summit from which Hillary will be notably absent. Obama doesn’t act alone in foreign affairs, but he certainly doesn’t act through Hillary.
If the federal government were, say, the City of Chicago, Hillary’s status would rate about as high as the Director of the Department of Tourism. Sometimes seen, occasionally heard, but almost never consulted. Sure, Hillary is nice enough, but, being nice enough only gets you so far.
It didn’t always appear that it would turn out this way. When Hillary was appointed, with great fanfare, it seemed that she would take a leading role. But the fox was out-foxed.
The treatment of Hillary Clinton by Obama to date amounts to a slow drain of Hillary’s political persona. The fearsome tiger now is a pussycat. She missed the Iran crisis because of a broken elbow. Now admittedly, I’ve never broken my elbow, so maybe I am misinformed. But there doesn’t appear to be a reason why Hillary couldn’t have talked on the phone with foreign ministers, and done all the other things a Secretary of State does.
If Hillary’s loss in the primaries was a body blow, being Secretary of State is like being bled by leeches. Hillary seems to know her political persona is being bled dry, but she feels no physical pain.
And Hillary clearly is not having fun. Has anyone seen Hillary laugh in the last five months? Oh, how I long for that cackle. Hillary can’t even bring herself to fake it anymore.
Want a good measure of how bad it is for Hillary? Click on the screen shot (above right) from a Google News search for “Hillary Clinton” taken on July 5, 2009, covering the prior month. Nothing of substance, although I did learn that Chelsea is getting married (Congrats! That should keep Mom busy) and Bill is appearing at a fundraiser.
Sarah Palin gets more hits than Hillary even though the search was for “Hillary Clinton.”
UPDATE: Similar thoughts from Tina Brown at Daily Beast:
It’s time for Barack Obama to let Hillary Clinton take off her burqa….
It becomes clearer by the day how brilliantly Obama checkmated both Clintons by putting Hillary in the topmost Cabinet job. Secretary Clinton can’t be seen to differ from the president without sabotaging her own power. And ex-President Clinton has been uncharacteristically disciplined about not threatening the careful political equilibrium his wife is trying to maintain….
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.