Hillary Clinton's test at State: How she'll work with Obama

Clinton's schedule abroad included hundreds of photo ops and sightseeing expeditions, but she also routinely held meetings on such substantive issues as the political empowerment of women, equal opportunities for girls and the availability of health care.

After a 1995 trip to India, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, she delivered a presentation at the State Department of what she found that Talbott calls "stunning" in its analysis of the region's importance and its challenges. He says it laid the groundwork for President Clinton to visit India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2000.

On that trip and others, Hillary Clinton spotlighted the emergence of "microcredit" programs that offered small, unsecured loans to give the impoverished a path to self-sufficiency.

"When Hillary Clinton says something, the whole world listens," Mohammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, told reporters after she sat down in the remote village of Moishahati with a group of Bangladeshi women who had benefited from the bank's microcredit loans.

After she was elected to the Senate in 2000, Clinton sought a seat on the Armed Services Committee, a step that would bolster her credentials as a potential commander-in-chief. Since then, she has regularly traveled abroad, making three trips each to Iraq and Afghanistan and two to Israel as well as visits to Pakistan, Kuwait, Canada and Europe.

Clinton remains determined to focus on such issues as maternal health and the education of girls. She argues there is a direct link between those "soft" issues and the stability of governments, and with that U.S. security interests.

"Typically, governments (including that of the U.S.) limit their foreign policies to diplomatic, military and trade issues, the staple of most treaties, pacts and negotiations," Clinton wrote in her memoir. "Yet it was clear to me that in the new global economy, individual countries and regions would find it difficult to make economic or social progress if a disproportionate percentage of their female population remained poor, uneducated, unhealthy and disenfranchised. …

"Issues affecting women and girls should not be dismissed as 'soft' or marginal but should be integrated fully into domestic and foreign policy decisions."

Still, it is on such traditional "hard" issues as authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq and dealing with the nuclear program in Iran that Clinton has clashed most with Obama. Those questions and others — including the perilous situation between India and Pakistan — will be among the new secretary of State's most pressing challenges.

"For the Obama administration, foreign policy is not going to be easy," says Lindsay, a former National Security Council aide. "Their inbox is filled with lots of intractable problems."

Reported by Susan Page, USA TODAY

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