- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008

When Barack Obama becomes president and fulfills his promise of talking without preconditions to leaders of rogue nations, a one-time rival who mocked the idea as irresponsible likely will be holding the first discussions.

In nominating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be his secretary of state, Mr. Obama is elevating a frequent critic of his foreign policy ideas to be the country’s top diplomat. Mr. Obama’s former Senate colleagues say it is a bold move that shows the president-elect is confident in Mrs. Clinton’s ability to spread his message abroad.

On Monday morning in Chicago, Mr. Obama will announce that he has chosen Mrs. Clinton as the next secretary of state and she will stand at his side as he names his national security team.

He will keep President Bush’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates; appoint retired Marine Gen. James Jones as his national security adviser; and name foreign policy adviser Susan Rice as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

He will announce Eric Holder as his choice to be attorney general and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary, rounding out a team that drew praise from top Republicans on Sunday.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama had similar foreign policy voting records despite his early opposition to the Iraq invasion and her vote to authorize the war.

A major sticking point in the Democratic presidential race stemmed from Mr. Obama’s response during a debate in which he said he would meet with leaders such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions. Mrs. Clinton characterized that position as “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Democrats involved in the protracted primary battle now say that both campaigns were aiming to exploit minor differences and that Mrs. Clinton, in her new role, would be tasked with implementing a policy of talking with U.S. enemies.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama sparred regularly over foreign policy during the campaign. He sometimes mocked her suggestion that experience as first lady prepared her for the presidency.

“What exactly is this foreign policy experience?” he asked. “Was she negotiating treaties? Was she handling crises? The answer is no.”

When they argued about meeting with rogue leaders, Mr. Obama suggested that Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy amounted to “Bush-Cheney lite.” His top aides, including Miss Rice, said that being married to the president does not provide enough experience to be commander in chief.

In one of its fiercest attacks, the Clinton campaign released an ad suggesting that Mr. Obama was too inexperienced to respond to a crisis if the White House phone rang at 3 a.m. He responded by saying he had better judgment than Mrs. Clinton because of his opposition to the Iraq war.

In February, Mrs. Clinton challenged Mr. Obama, saying: “The American people don’t have to guess whether I understand the issues or whether I would need a foreign policy instruction manual to guide me through a crisis, or whether I’d have to rely on advisers to introduce me to global affairs.”

But she tripped up in the spring when she inaccurately told voters she remembered landing under sniper fire in Bosnia.

Mrs. Clinton visited more than 80 countries during her years as first lady, some of those trips alongside Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright, one of her closest confidantes. Mrs. Clinton remains popular abroad for her speech in the late 1990s insisting that women’s rights are human rights that must be respected and protected.

Story Continues →