In New Role, Clinton's Former Experience Won't Help Much

When running against now President-elect Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton asked voters whom they would want in the White House answering an emergency phone call at 3 a.m.

The voters resoundingly chose Obama to be on the receiving end of that phone call. But with her nomination Monday to become secretary of state, the Democratic senator from New York will likely be the one dialing the phone and waking the president with news of an international incident.

Clinton made an effort during the campaign to portray Obama as inexperienced on matters of foreign policy while touting her own thin credentials during her time spent as first lady.

The litany of foreign trips and speeches made while she was first lady, experts told ABC, probably did little to teach her much about policymaking. Nevertheless, her proximity to the Oval Office -- having perhaps the closest professional working relationship any first lady has ever had with her husband -- gave her perspective on the kinds of information a president needs when making critical foreign policy decisions.

In addition to her eight years in the White House, Clinton has spent the past seven in the Senate, serving on the Armed Services Committee and has, in that capacity, traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But beyond foreign policy experience, Clinton brings something else to the table, said Robert Lieber, professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University -- her good name and a familiarity to the leaders of the world.

"She brings some of the goodwill foreign leaders remember from the Clinton days, and she brings the goodwill many world leaders have already expressed about Obama," Lieber said. "When world leaders meet with a secretary of state, they want to believe they're dealing with a heavy -- a person of substance who matters politically. She's got that."

As first lady, Clinton "was not a formal decision maker," Lieber said. "But the Clintons were always a team. They both are highly intelligent. Hillary brought drive and discipline, and Bill Clinton brought a sometimes unruly charisma. It's inconceivable that she wouldn't have been privy to what he was seeing and thinking."

Clinton's New Role

But as for Clinton's trips abroad, some of which she trumpeted during her run for president, and for which she was also attacked by her then-opponent and soon-to-be boss, experts said that experience would probably be of little use to the incoming secretary of state.

During the campaign, Clinton cited five specific trips she made as first lady that she said at the time proved she was "tested."

By March, in the heat of the primary and soon after she ran the 3 a.m. television spot, Clinton claimed that she had assisted in bringing peace between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland; helped to open Macedonia's borders to fleeing Kosovar refugees; visited a Bosnian war zone; delivered a speech on women's rights in China; and made public statements about the genocide in Rwanda.

Officials from Bill Clinton's administration, some of whom have been tapped to serve in the incoming Obama administration, were divided as to how much influence Hillary Clinton had as first lady.

Richard Holbrooke, a former assistant secretary of state and ambassador to the United Nations, who was on Obama's short list for the secretary of state job, said Clinton's "intense efforts" in Macedonia "contributed to saving many lives."

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