Clinton's State Department

The New York Times is reporting that Senator Clinton if confirmed as the nation's 67th Secretary of State will seek "to build a more powerful State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with global economic issues at a time of crisis." A more robust State Department is certainly a welcomed change and the idea of special envoys is also a good one because it engages dialogue above normal channels but it is concerning that Clinton's State Department may be expanding into a domain traditionally held by the US Treasury Secretary. To a degree, some clarification of the role Mrs. Clinton is hoping to carve out is required.

Mrs. Clinton's push for a more vigorous economic team, one of her advisers said, stems from her conviction that the State Department needs to play a part in the recovery from the global financial crisis. Economic issues also underpin some of the most important diplomatic relationships, notably with China.

In recent years, the Treasury Department, led by Henry M. Paulson Jr., has dominated policy toward China. Mr. Paulson leads a "strategic economic dialogue" with China that involves several agencies. It is not yet clear who will pick up that role in the Obama administration, although Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is frequently mentioned as a possibility.

Under President Bush, the Treasury Department has been largely a forgotten player. Both Paul O'Neill and John Snow were effectively on the outside looking in when it came to setting to economic policy. Hank Paulson has fared somehow better in this regard and in fact it was widely reported that when he was approached on the vacancy, Mr. Paulson actually demanded that he have a role in the Administration's economic policy making. He wasn't there just for show.

Still, Timothy Geithner deserves a chance to run a revitalized Treasury. It bears pointing out that when it comes to global financial markets, clarity is important. There is little doubt that Senator Clinton will be a formidable Secretary of State, certainly the most powerful since James Baker and perhaps since Henry Kissinger. And there is little doubt that Senator Clinton can and should speak to global development issues where relevant but she should leave the complexities of global financial markets to the professionals at the Treasury Department. Global financial markets spook easily and clarity is paramount. If by an expanded role, Mrs. Clinton means greater coordination, that's fair but there should be no question that when it comes to economic policy it's the Treasury Department that should take the lead.

As president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Mr. Geithner worked with Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson in putting in place a stunning array of emergency measures to prop up the financial system after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Still, the decision to let Lehman fail was a blunder but that misstep wasn't Mr. Geithner's alone.

Mr. Geithner is talented and capable, but he is certainly no match for Clinton's star power. It's important that she not eclipse him and let him shine on his own. After faltering under the Bush Administration, it is doubly important that we restore the Treasury Department to its previous higher standing in the Cabinet and not further dilute its authority.


Tags: Hillary Clinton, State Department, Treasury Department, US Foreign Policy (all tags)

Comments

13 Comments

Re: Clinton's State Department

We need to start seeing, as the Chinese and Europeans do, that economic power is the name of the game in international power. So, I tentative agree with Clinton. In the last 8 years, while we were busy trying to prove how much military might we had the Chinese have been making business deals across the planet.

by bruh3 2008-12-22 09:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton's State Department

The US has always significantly controlled the finances of less powerful countries we interacted with through intermediaries in the World Bank. Why not be more explicit about who's really pulling the strings?

Anyway, as bruh3 also suggests, economic policy isn't all about domestic palicy.

by Natasha Chart 2008-12-22 09:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton's State Department
"We're looking to have a State Department that has what it needs." Mrs. Clinton's push for a more vigorous economic team.
Lisa11
delaware drug rehab
by Lisa11 2008-12-23 12:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton's State Department

I think she should make it into a fourth branch of government. ;)

In all seriousness, I'm confident a relationship as significant as China will be managed exactly as the President wants it to be, which is to say I don't think anyone has to worry about Clinton muscling out Biden behind the scenes or anything like that.  The division of responsibility is up to Obama and I don't see any reason to sweat it.

by Steve M 2008-12-23 03:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton's State Department

" It's important that she not eclipse him and let him shine on his own." --Charles Lemos

I guess its Burka wearing time Mrs. Clinton.  Your own special Clintonized  Miranda warning have been issued by Lemos, you know how it goes:  You do not have the right to speak. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion....

Alas Timothy Guithner's[sp] star power has little to do with Clinton and more to do with Guithner's[sp] own ability to keep the US financial system viable enough to continue attracting foreign investment. America's fate does not rest on duck taping Clinton but on the health of the dollar.

by superetendar 2008-12-23 04:44AM | 0 recs
I give this a 6 out of a 10

I did like the immediate attempt to make this misognyistic, but Miranda warning-denying my free speech attempt was really poorly played.

Looks like a newbie just trying what they learned from the true masters of the art.

Most of ST history is lacking the kind of fire power we expect from our Sock-puppets, loaded with cliches, swithing idioms too many times.

Also, what's with not taking a shot at Obama someplace in there?  

Superetendar needs to get some extra classes in at Sock-Puppet University, this over-reaction was strictly underwhelming...

by WashStateBlue 2008-12-23 06:00AM | 0 recs
Re: I give this a 6 out of a 10

The comment you're talking about didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but I thought the Miranda warning bit was hilarious, intentionally or not.

by Denny Crane 2008-12-23 06:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Since we are playing the rating game

Way too many words, you're tripping all over your critique.  I do like the enthusiasm though.

by superetendar 2008-12-23 07:09AM | 0 recs
Re: I give this a 6 out of a 10

Kudos. I like this method of troll hunting much better than the standard hide-rate-every-comment-this-poster-ever -makes-from-now-on method that is the norm around here. Let the word go forth: trolls will not be banned, but they will be graded!

by itsthemedia 2008-12-23 11:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton's State Department

Charles, you do not seem to place much faith in Obama's management skills in this piece. As SteveM mentions above, it is Obama's job to make sure everyone knows the scope of their jobs, and to clarify the division of authority where there are overlaps, and then to provide whatever is needed to enable his people to succeed. That is what a good manager does.

If we were talking about a GW Bush cabinet, you might have a point. Bush was a very weak leader - he basically went whichever way the wind blew among his insiders, almost all of whom were chosen more for their personal loyalty to him than their skill at running a government. As a result, there was a very destructive and endless power struggle among the OVP, State, Defense, Treasury, and NSC over any foreign policy where Bush did not have a personal interest. (That is, any policy that had to do with something besides killing Saddam Hussein.)

by itsthemedia 2008-12-23 11:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton's State Department

Actually, faith in President-elect Obama's management style I do have.  What I don't want to see is a distracting turf war over who owns which policy.

The key line in the post is

To a degree, some clarification of the role Mrs. Clinton is hoping to carve out is required.

Perhaps I should have made this point stronger. Mrs. Clinton has a strong voice and will be a powerful advocate. That's not a bad thing obviously and she will be a key player in rebuilding the US image abroad but Geithner shouldn't be overshadowed when it comes to economic policy. That's my point.

The comment about burka wearing is rich given that I supported Mrs. Clinton for President. Just to be clear I wouldn't want any Secretary of State overshawdowing a Secretary of the Treasury when it comes to the economy. One of the problems of the Bush years is that we haven't had any leadership at Treasury. I think President Obama will remedy that, in fact, I think he already has started on that path.

by Charles Lemos 2008-12-23 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton's State Department

Turf wars happen when the boss has not adequately set the limits, or is not paying attention. That was my point about Bush. The turf wars raged in his administration because it quickly became clear to insiders that he cared about cutting taxes, deregulating everything, and killing Saddam Hussein. On all other subjects, he really did not care much one way or another.

Obama has his priorities, to be sure, but he is intellectually curious, and will stay engaged on all fronts to some degree. If he has not already privately received "clarification of the role Mrs. Clinton is hoping to carve out", and how it affects Geithner, I expect he will do so before long.

I guess I am agreeing with you that the boundaries need to be set, just saying that I don't think you should worry about it. There will be no power vacuum at the top level of the Obama administration.

by itsthemedia 2008-12-23 09:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton's State Department

By the way, the comment about burka wearing was silly, and not mine.

by itsthemedia 2008-12-23 09:06PM | 0 recs

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