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Clinton, Obama Need A Unified Front

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Clinton, Obama Need A Unified Front

Politics

Clinton, Obama Need A Unified Front

Clinton, Obama Need A Unified Front

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/97327779/97332029" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

On the campaign trail, Sen. Hillary Clinton often found herself defending her foreign policy credentials from attacks by the Obama campaign.

Some of the same people who are likely to be in high-level positions at the White House and State Department questioned her claims that as first lady she worked closely on a peace deal in Northern Ireland and helped refugees from Kosovo make it to Macedonia.

"There is no doubt that I played a major role in many of the foreign policy decisions," Clinton told NPR during an interview on the campaign trail. "I represented our country in more than 80 countries, and I know that people are nitpicking and raising questions. That's fair. That's in a campaign. But compare my experience, even after the nitpicking, with Sen. Obama's. I mean, let's, you know, let's look at this objectively here. And I think my experience is much more preparatory for the job that awaits."

While some still question her experience in foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is widely respected for her role in promoting human rights and for a speech she made in China in 1995, as she recounted in an NPR-hosted primary debate:

"The Chinese didn't want me to come. And they didn't want me to make a speech, and when I made the speech, they blocked it out from being heard within China, where I stood up for human rights and in particular women's rights, because women had been so brutally abused in many settings in China. And I think you do have to call them on it."

On policy issues, Clinton and President-elect Obama had some memorable clashes over who is more prepared for that 3 a.m. wake-up call during a time of crisis and whether or not it is naive to sit down with the leader of Iran.

But from now on, she will have to learn to keep those disputes private, according to Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center who has advised six secretaries of state. Miller cites the words of one of the people he advised, Republican James Baker III.

"Baker described himself as the president's man at the State Department, not the State Department's man at the White House," Miller recalls. "[Clinton] needs to look at the situation much the same way for this to work. It doesn't mean she can't push back privately, and she should. [Obama] doesn't need a team of rivals. He needs a team that is prepared to offer him judgment."

Miller says that the most effective secretaries have to be close to the president they serve and they have to be good negotiators. Though he is not sure how Clinton will measure up to those standards, he says the former first lady does have other qualities that will be key, including a strong public persona.

"When a secretary of state walks in a room, you want people on the edge of their seats, and she clearly has that," Miller says. "I mean, she fills up and lights up a room, there's no question about it. And second, I believe she's tough enough."

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