Welcome to Madam Secretary

When Hillary Clinton accepted the position of the next U.S. Secretary of State (assuming cakewalk confirmation hearings in a few weeks), a lot of folks wondered why she’d want the job. Sure, there’s the power and the prestige — not to mention the limelight — of being America’s top diplomat. But in taking over Foggy ...

590816_090104_hillaryobama2.jpg
590816_090104_hillaryobama2.jpg

When Hillary Clinton accepted the position of the next U.S. Secretary of State (assuming cakewalk confirmation hearings in a few weeks), a lot of folks wondered why she'd want the job. Sure, there's the power and the prestige -- not to mention the limelight -- of being America's top diplomat. But in taking over Foggy Bottom, Clinton not only gives up her powerful Senate seat (though waiting in line to become the top Senate Democrat likely didn't appeal), she probably forgoes another run for the Oval Office.

That said, what better way to forge a lasting legacy than repairing America's relationship with the world? Watching Hillary at the helm at State -- particularly at this moment in U.S. history -- promises to be a fascinating show. So, here at Madam Secretary, we're going to bring an obsessive eye to all things Hillary: her turf battles and policy priorities, her working relationships and job performance, her husband and even her pantsuits.

First and foremost of interest, there's the relationship with her boss. After the long and often tortuous interfamily squabble that was the Democratic presidential campaign, Barack and Hillary must now at least attempt to reconcile their past disagreements with the many foreign policy challenges at hand: a global economy in freefall, two wars, an impending climate catastrophe, a Middle East peace in tatters, an Iran with nuclear ambitions, and the critical, if sometimes testy, relationships with China and Russia. Clinton has made clear that Obama is her commander in chief, but she was also hired to offer tough assessments and honest opinions.

When Hillary Clinton accepted the position of the next U.S. Secretary of State (assuming cakewalk confirmation hearings in a few weeks), a lot of folks wondered why she’d want the job. Sure, there’s the power and the prestige — not to mention the limelight — of being America’s top diplomat. But in taking over Foggy Bottom, Clinton not only gives up her powerful Senate seat (though waiting in line to become the top Senate Democrat likely didn’t appeal), she probably forgoes another run for the Oval Office.

That said, what better way to forge a lasting legacy than repairing America’s relationship with the world? Watching Hillary at the helm at State — particularly at this moment in U.S. history — promises to be a fascinating show. So, here at Madam Secretary, we’re going to bring an obsessive eye to all things Hillary: her turf battles and policy priorities, her working relationships and job performance, her husband and even her pantsuits.

First and foremost of interest, there’s the relationship with her boss. After the long and often tortuous interfamily squabble that was the Democratic presidential campaign, Barack and Hillary must now at least attempt to reconcile their past disagreements with the many foreign policy challenges at hand: a global economy in freefall, two wars, an impending climate catastrophe, a Middle East peace in tatters, an Iran with nuclear ambitions, and the critical, if sometimes testy, relationships with China and Russia. Clinton has made clear that Obama is her commander in chief, but she was also hired to offer tough assessments and honest opinions.

And there is, of course, the way she handles herself on the world stage. Candidate Clinton was the first to trumpet her experience as a backdoor diplomat while First Lady. How she translates that experience through the front door of U.S. diplomacy will determine whether the United States succeeds in finding, as she declared when she accepted the nomination, “more partners and fewer adversaries, more opportunities and fewer dangers.”

But, just as it was in the presidential campaign, any job that Hillary takes on will be about more than just her policies and ideas. It’s about who she is and what she represents. She’s still the same Hillary who energized an electorate and put 18 million cracks in a glass ceiling. She’s the same Hillary with a husband who has a well-documented (and often complicated) relationship with many of the same issues and leaders soon occupying her day. And she’s the same Hillary who holds a certain fascination in American politics (and ire, to be sure) — by far the most high-profile Secretary of State in U.S. history.

So, welcome to Madam Secretary. Hope you enjoy the ride.

Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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