Friday, December 05, 2008

AP: Clinton looks to loyalists for State Department staff

Clinton looks to loyalists for State Department staff
By Matthew Lee
Associated Press

WASHINGTON: Preparing for her new role as secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton is moving to surround herself with a cast of die-hard loyalists and veterans of her husband's administration to help her cope with world crises and backstage Washington power plays.

For her team of foreign policy experts, the nation's third female secretary of state is expected to draw heavily from the staff of the first, Madeleine Albright, who was an early supporter of Clinton's unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

And to deal with internal Obama administration affairs, State Department bureaucratic politics and media pressures, the former first lady appears set to tap current Senate aides and former White House ''Hillaryland'' stalwarts, whose reputation for insularity and staunch protectiveness has already set off anxiety among career foreign service officers.

State Department officials say they have been told to expect visits as early as next week from Clinton advisers who are working with President-elect Barack Obama's incoming transition team. Members of the new administration's team have been at State since mid-November, getting briefings and visiting officials there. Neither the transition team nor Clinton's office would comment.

Those officials and people familiar with the transition say most, if not all of Clinton's growing team of advisers will be tapped for senior State Department positions.

James Steinberg, President Bill Clinton's former deputy national security adviser, who was once thought a prospect to become Obama's national security adviser, is now ''a lock'' to become deputy secretary of state under Clinton, according to people close to the transition who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcements have yet been made.

On the policy side, there is strong speculation that Clinton's Senate foreign policy adviser, Andrew Shapiro, will play a leading role as will Lee Feinstein, who was her national security adviser during the campaign. Feinstein is a member of the State Department transition team and served as deputy policy planning director under Albright.

For Clinton's personal staff, names already floated include longtime confidante and 2008 Clinton presidential campaign manager Maggie Williams, attorney Cheryl Mills, personal assistant Huma Abedin, current senior adviser and spokesman Philippe Reines and Clinton's chief of staff when she was first lady, Melanne Verveer.

All are known to be fiercely loyal. The prospect of their imminent arrival in Foggy Bottom has been a hot topic of nervous corridor conversation among many in the professional diplomatic corps who fear they will be frozen out of positions of influence.

Doug Hattaway, a former spokesman for Al Gore's 2000 presidential bid who also worked for Clinton during the primaries, has been mentioned as a favorite to become the next State Department spokesman.

Albright's high-profile former spokesman, James Rubin, along with top Albright assistant Suzy George, have already been seen at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. They are working with a group that will smooth the way for the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Albright protege Susan Rice, whose defection to the Obama camp during the 2008 campaign caused a stir among Clinton loyalists. Rubin, based in New York, is advising the transition team.

A look at the Obama camp's agency review team for the State Department and its national security policy working group provides hints as to other potential appointments.

Among those who served in the Albright State Department are former counselor Wendy Sherman, counterterrorism coordinator Michael Sheehan, law enforcement chief Rand Beers, arms control expert Robert Einhorn, former ambassador to Indonesia Robert Gelbard and Mideast hands Daniel Kurtzer, Dennis Ross and Toni Verstandig. All are potential candidates for top slots.

One notable name on the list is Michael Guest, one of only two openly gay ambassadors ever to represent the United States overseas. Guest resigned from the foreign service in mid-career last December to protest the State Department's treatment of same-sex partners of diplomats.


Lemur said...

I was a bit surprised by editorial content of this alleged news story from the Associated Press. This article really feeds that image of HRC as calculating, conniving, totally self-serving and single-mindedly ambitious. While this appears to be a common view of her, there are also many who see her as genuinely interested in the welfare of the country and the world.

If you want to know which view Matthew Lee subscribes to, just look at the way things are worded in this piece: the next SECSTATE plans to "surround herself" with "die-hard loyalists" for "backstage Washington power plays." These "'Hillaryland' stalwarts" are "fiercely loyal" (to her personally, the implication being, and not to the country as a whole).

I'd like to know what are Lee's sources for the statement that these potential appointees are causing "anxiety among career foreign service officers"?

I'd also like to know if any of this is at all out of the ordinary. Aren't the positions discussed in the article almost always filled by political appointees who bring both a strong resume and a connection to the incoming administration? If so, in what way are career bureaucrats being "frozen out of positions of influence" that they never held to begin with?

In short, the entire piece seems more like an editorial than a news story to me, especially with the lack of quotes from sources (even anonymous ones).

On the other hand, it is nice to see that Ambassador Guest may play a role; I hope he will be able to bring about some much-needed changes.

Digger said...

You aren't the only one who caught the tone in that. One of my bosses commented that "regardless of the tone of the article," Senator Clinton had picked some really good folks. I agree that he seems to have an anti-Hillary bent.

The truth is that there are always political appointees...some Secretaries have more, some have less. Some put careerists who have proven particular loyalty into positions well beyond their rank (we have a group of folks referred to in the Department as baby DASes - Deputy Assistant Secretaries - because they worked with Secretary Rice while succunded to the NSC and are now in positions well above their rank. Sort of like putting a Lt. Colonel into a General's slot.

So the point is, there is nothing new here. And the ONLY anxiety I have seen in the Department is not among the career FSOs. It is among the political appointees (and some of the careerists mentioned above) who will be out of jobs come January 20.