Hillary Clinton's Test at State: How She'll Work with Obama

It would be no surprise, then, if she chose to begin her tenure as secretary of State with a "listening tour" around the globe, especially to hear from allies in Europe and elsewhere who have complained about what they see as a penchant for unilateral action by the Bush administration.

She also has other ideas in her pocket.

During a trip last year to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Clinton met separately with then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, each of whom expressed suspicions of the other. She asked each if it would be helpful for the United States to appoint a special envoy to work with leaders of the two countries. They said yes.

On her return to Washington, she called White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley to pitch the idea, but to no avail. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe says the White House did look into her suggestion but decided it wasn't feasible because the administration, while also working on tensions between Musharraf and Karzai, was focused on a governmental transition in Pakistan and the need to name a new U.N. representative for Afghanistan.

As secretary of State, Clinton would be in a position to put her ideas into action.

From bellicose to 'brilliant'

As they competed for the Democratic nomination, Clinton portrayed Obama as naive in his approach to rogue leaders around the world.

Obama, meanwhile, questioned her judgment in voting to authorize the Iraq war and cast her as unnecessarily bellicose toward Iran. He and his top aides — including Susan Rice, set to be named United Nations ambassador — mocked the idea that Clinton's work as first lady amounted to substantive experience.

Now, associates of both describe their differences on foreign policy as overblown in the heat of battle. They say Clinton's public campaigning for Obama during the general election and their private conversations in the four weeks since he won have helped mend fences and begin a budding partnership. Obama strategist David Axelrod now calls Clinton "able, tough, brilliant."

Even so, no appointment Obama has considered has generated as much chatter as the choice of the New York senator.

Some leaders of anti-war groups are dismayed that Obama, whose national ambitions were launched by his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, would give such a key role to someone who supported it.

"One of the ways in which he separated himself from Hillary Clinton during the primary season was to remind people that early on he was opposed to the war in Iraq, was opposed to her position, which was always quite supportive of war," says Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of anti-war groups.

She calls the prospective nomination of Clinton "quite disappointing" but says the "real question" will be the policies Obama himself sets.

Then there are the potential complications of choosing the spouse of a former president who continues to pursue his own initiatives on AIDS and other issues around the world. Will foreign leaders assume Bill Clinton speaks for the White House? And what happens if he disagrees with a step the president and secretary of State decide to take?

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