Former Clinton Rivals May Get Foreign Policy Posts With Sen. Hillary Clinton as the nominee for secretary of state, the question now is who will get key foreign policy positions. Clinton's foreign policy advisers clashed with Obama's during the presidential campaign.
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Former Clinton Rivals May Get Foreign Policy Posts

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and early advocate of the war, says he is an unlikely choice for a policy-level job because "I was so critical of Obama's Iraq policy during the campaign." Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images hide caption

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Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and early advocate of the war, says he is an unlikely choice for a policy-level job because "I was so critical of Obama's Iraq policy during the campaign."

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Washington's foreign policy establishment is in the midst of a guessing game about who will win top political spots in the Obama administration's State Department. It's a task made trickier by President-elect Barack Obama's choice of his former rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, as his nominee for secretary of state.

Some of the top candidates for State Department jobs have clashed in the past as advisers to the Obama and Clinton presidential campaigns.

"I can't imagine that Hillary would have taken this job if Barack Obama had insisted on stocking the State Department below her," says David Edelstein, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. "She wouldn't have accepted if she was not going to be able to choose the people working for her."

Who Holds The Power?

It's widely thought among State Department-watchers that the Obama transition team would like Clinton to choose James Steinberg as her second in command, the deputy secretary of state. Steinberg was a foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign and now co-directs the transition team.

Paul C. Light, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, says Steinberg could find himself frustrated as deputy. The job of the deputy varies from administration to administration, ranging from being the secretary's top policy adviser and alter ego to a more managerial role.

"But deputy secretaries aren't what they used to be," Light says, in part because they may be supplanted by advisers who are closer to the secretary of state.

Light, who studies the workings of the Washington bureaucracy, says the department's organizational chart barely even shows some of the most influential positions, because they work directly in the secretary's office. They include her chief of staff and deputy chief, as well as policy and legal advisers.

"The White House does play a very significant part in appointing second-level nominees," Light says, "and secretaries have responded to that by choosing their own mini-Cabinets."

Still, Light says the bureaucracy at the department is relatively "flat," meaning that there is less of a midlevel hierarchy separating the secretary from the assistants who deal with global hot spots, such as the Near East or East Asia. The midlevel in that case is the undersecretary for political affairs, traditionally a career foreign service officer who has come up through the ranks of ambassador and assistant secretary.

That job, the third-ranking position in the State Department, is currently held by William J. Burns, a former ambassador to Russia and Jordan who once worked for Condoleezza Rice at the National Security Council. As a career officer, Burns could stay on as undersecretary, at least for a transitional period.

The Legacy Of The Campaign

As far as other political jobs go, it's not clear how well the foreign policy experts who advised Clinton's presidential campaign will mesh with Obama's advisers after a hard-fought election. The Wilson Center's Edelstein says there's a lot of curiosity among department-watchers as to whether advisers such as Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon, "who were seen as Clinton supporters and fairly radioactive as far as the Obama campaign was concerned," can make their way back in.

Pollack is a former CIA analyst who served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration. He wrote a book advocating the invasion of Iraq at the time when then-Senate candidate Obama was opposing the war. O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was also an early advocate of the war. He and Pollack co-authored an article in The New York Times supporting the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq in 2007.

In an e-mail exchange, O'Hanlon says he is not even relevant to the discussion because "I was so critical of Obama's Iraq policy during the campaign that I'd be a special case."

Edelstein thinks O'Hanlon could be a good candidate for director of policy planning, the State Department's internal think tank. He notes that the job has been very influential in the past, and that it depends on the director's having a strong rapport with the secretary of state.

Another example of a potentially controversial name that has been circulated as a candidate for the policy planning job is that of Samantha Power. The Harvard professor lost her job with the Obama campaign after calling Clinton a "monster." Power is now working on the Obama transition team's group reviewing the State Department.

Could Power work closely with a Secretary of State Clinton? The Associated Press recently quoted an official close to the Obama transition team as saying that Power had "made a gesture to bury the hatchet" with Clinton and that it had been well-received.

Others say that Power, a former journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book on genocide, might be less controversially employed on the National Security Council.

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