Opinions Mixed About Clinton As Secretary of State

President-elect Barack Obama has all but named Sen. Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. But what's the world saying about this choice? We look at the response to Obama's choice in three regions. First, NPR's Alex Cohen talks to David Rennie of The Economist magazine, Rami Khouri, editor of The Daily Star in Beirut and Mark Magnier, Beijing correspondent for The Los Angeles Times.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

Terrorism in India, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, genocide in Darfur. These are the sorts of issues that Senator Hillary Clinton will face should she take on the role of secretary of state in the Obama administration. To get a sense of how the world feels about the prospect of Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state, we called up several journalists around the world. We begin in Brussels with David Rennie. He is the European Union correspondent for the Economist. He said Europeans have mixed feelings.

Mr. DAVID RENNIE (European Union Correspondent, Economist Magazine): Well, I think it has to cut both ways. There is tremendous excitement about President Obama and the idea that he's new and represents this dramatic change. So you could say people will be disappointed to see something that is from the past, and also the fact that Senator Clinton did support the Iraq war, which was the big central bust- up(ph) between the Bush administration and Europe. On the other hand, Europe, in common with every other foreign block that has to deal with America, is at the most basic level flattered that a big star seems to be getting the job of dealing with foreigners. It would be insulting and worrying if someone rather obscure, or perhaps not that important, was given this job. But this sends a signal that foreigners are going to count for this new administration.

COHEN: You mentioned her support of the war in Iraq. There has been some tension between Europe and the U.S. over that issue. So how do you think Hillary Clinton as secretary of state would help repair some of that tension?

Mr. RENNIE: Well, that is the kind of - the big, million-dollar question for everyone, I guess, and probably in America, too, is will this be a Hillary Clinton foreign policy, or will she sincerely and accurately represent the foreign policy of her new president? Clearly, Europeans are slightly closer to some of the positions on certainly the Iraq war, but also on the need to have dialogue with Iran. When President Obama said that during the campaign, that resonated very well in Europe. So that's the kind of policy position that will go across well. I am inclined to think that the actual person who holds the job as secretary of state doesn't at the end affect the macro view that Europeans would have of American foreign policy. And the proof of that, in a way, is, Colin Powell was Europe's kind of secretary of state. He was our kind of guy. But at the end of the day, he had to deliver the foreign policy of the Bush administration, and the first-term Bush administration was as unpopular as it got.

COHEN: One of the other issues she will likely have to deal with is Russia. And the U.S.'s relationship with Russia has grown a bit tense, especially after the skirmish with Georgia. What advice would you give her to deal with Russia?

Mr. RENNIN: Well, don't expect unity from the European Union. The name does not say what it says on the tin. We are not united on Russia. There are two huge schools of thought as to whether we should engage or whether should we - we're pretty skeptical of Russia and think of it is a friend or a fairly aggressive and worrying neighbor. And she will be disappointed if she expects a common view from Europe.

COHEN: David Rennie of the Economist, thank you so much.

Mr. RENNIE: Thank you.

COHEN: To China now. Hillary Clinton has condemned China's human rights record, and she's warned about American economic dependence on that country. So what do the Chinese have to say about Mrs. Clinton? Joining us now is Mark Magnier. He's Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. Welcome to the program, and tell us a bit about what you've been hearing about how the Chinese people feel about Clinton's probable appointment.

Mr. MARK MAGNIER (Beijing Bureau Chief, Los Angeles Times): Generally, I think they're positive on the prospect of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, with a couple of the caveats that you mentioned. One of the things, I think, in this part of the world, and particularly in China, is that they put a lot of stock in long-term relationship and continuity and someone they know. The Clintons have been on the scene for quite some time. They liked Bill, he's multilateral. He was generally quite respectful of the Chinese and seen as a moderate relative to the Bush administration.

COHEN: You mentioned Bill Clinton. When he was in office, he was quite the ally to China, and he paved the way for its entry into the World Trade Organization. Do you think that that puts Hillary Clinton in a bit of a bind in terms of getting tough?

Mr. MAGNIER: I think the Chinese sort of see them as a little bit of a pair - that it's a brand, if you will, the Clinton brand. But there is concern, which I think you mentioned at the top, about some of the things she said on human rights. During the campaign, she criticized President Bush for not being strong. She called on him to boycott the Olympics opening ceremony, which is very, very important, huge face for the Chinese over the Tibet issue. I think it is very much a mixed picture.

COHEN: And how might Hillary Clinton as secretary of state affect how the Chinese feel about a President Barack Obama.?

Mr. MAGNIER: I detect a little bit of concern, that they're wondering just how close she would be to Barack Obama, whether there would be tensions there and how that might play out in the foreign policy arena.

COHEN: Mark Magnier is the Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times. Thank you.

Mr. MAGNIER: Thank you.

COHEN: In the past, Hillary Clinton has stressed the need for peace in the Middle East. Here now with his thoughts on the role she might play in achieving that goal is Rami Khouri. He's editor-at-large of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut. Thanks for joining us, Mr. Khouri. One Arab diplomat summed up Mrs. Clinton this way: She's not incredibly popular in the Arab world, but she is a known quantity. How do you think she might fare as secretary of state when it comes to affairs in the Middle East?

Mr. RAMI KHOURI (Editor-At-Large, Daily Star, Beirut): People have mixed feelings about her personally for various reasons. Her background in the Senate. Her very, very pro-Israeli positions have generated a lot of criticism, but people understand in New York that's the way things are and in Washington, that's the way things are. They also remember her speaking about the Palestinians positively years ago when she was the wife of the president and did not have an official position and was not subjected to electoral pressures. So people have mixed feelings about her, but they understand that the secretary of state doesn't make policy. The government makes policy. And so we will judge her, I think, pretty much by the policies that she represents and her tone, her emphasis in her talk, her body language will make a difference, perhaps, and that remains to be seen.

COHEN: An editorial in your newspaper recently noted that, given all of the other situations going on in the world that the U.S. has to deal with, that it might be difficult to bring attention to your region of the world. So, how do you think you can make the Middle East one of the future secretary of state's priorities?

Mr. KHOURI: I think by pushing the United States to think logically and sensibly, and not ideologically. To look at the Middle East in a cold, calculated, rational way, to understand the real dangers that emanate from this region, continuing on its trend of conflict and tension and stress. And looking at the real problems in the Arab-Israeli issue and Iran and internal Arab situations, really identifying the core issues and addressing them rather than letting Middle East policy be driven by special-interest groups or lobbies or foreign influence.

COHEN: You mentioned earlier that her gestures, her tone of voice, everything will be watched. What do you think people are looking for?

Mr. KHOURI: I think people are looking for a sense that the United States is committed to the equal and simultaneous rights of the Israeli and Arab-Palestinian people, that no side has greater rights than the other side. If that can come through, that tone can come through, I think that will be a huge factor for positioning the U.S. again in a way that it can be a credible mediator.

COHEN: Rami Khouri is the editor-at-large for the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon. Thank you, Mr. Khouri.

Mr. KHOURI: Thanks for having me.

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