Sen. Clinton joins Obama's team of rivals
Mon, 01 Dec 2008 22:46:18 GMT —
The woman who wanted to be president stepped up to a podium too tall, turned the microphones down and began by addressing the man who defeated her: "Mr. President-elect."
With her words on Monday, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who in the Senate emerged from the long shadow of her husband, stepped into a supporting role for another man, this one her former rival.
And while it's hard to see the position of secretary of state as anything but the highest honor, Clinton appeared somber as Obama introduced her and the rest of his foreign policy team.
"Her face was very set, she looked very serious," said Maxine Fiel, a behavioral analyst and body language expert in New York. "She didn't look extremely relaxed or happy or appreciative. In fact, she looked very grim."
Perhaps that's to be expected when the subject at hand is national security, more so when a team of rivals comes together. Clinton entered the Democratic presidential primary as the clear front-runner, and after a marathon battle she is now working for the junior senator who defeated her.
Some insiders have questioned whether Clinton is too independent and ambitious to serve Obama as secretary of state. She said Monday that her Senate seat had prepared her for the task: "After all, New Yorkers aren't afraid to speak their minds and do so in every language."
But in the Senate, Clinton was one of 100. As secretary of state, she has just one boss, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
"I've studied and watched Hillary Clinton for a long time. I don't think Hillary Clinton spends a lot of time living in the past," she said. "I think she moves on and moves forward. And I think the interesting question is, relatively, where could she make the greatest contribution given her interests?"
Anyone who expects Clinton to hold a grudge or compete for attention should look at her actions in the Senate, where she stayed out of the limelight, attended committee meetings and made friends with Republicans who had impeached her husband, Jamieson said.
And about that husband: Clinton had scarcely finished speaking when the former president issued a statement in support of her nomination, suggesting that he hasn't entirely disappeared from the spotlight.
Still, the notion that Hillary Clinton might feel like second fiddle strikes former adviser Doug Hattaway as sexist.
"Hillary Clinton has spent two decades traveling the world, advancing American ideals and interests," he said. "I don't think she would be viewed as standing in anyone's shadow so much as a highly valued partner of the president."
She is motivated by service to others, Hattaway said, not service of her ego. "She's very much a team player and in my experience has always been focused on doing what's right to help people," he said.
At the news conference on Monday, it was Obama who answered questions about how Clinton felt, explaining that each felt the other was ready for the job.
"I think she is going to be an outstanding secretary of state. And if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have offered her the job. And if she didn't believe that I was equipped to lead this nation in such a difficult time, she would not have accepted," he said.
Clinton nodded from the sidelines, so much so that Fiel said she resembled "a bobblehead."
"She was standing there looking very serious, a little bit teary, but she was affirming with her head everything that he's saying," she said.
And with that, the former rivals walked offstage, each with a hand on the other's back.