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July 13, 2009
Fault lines forming on Obama foreign policy
Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post:
Even though they were not part of Obama's campaign team, they have adapted quickly to his rigorous style of managed communication, which is policed by an inner circle of Obama intimates: Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and Denis McDonough, who are the most influential message commissars at the White House. That circle decides who gets interviewed on national television, when and pretty much what they say (not very successfully in the case of Vice President Biden, but nobody's perfect). It was no accident that Clinton did not appear on a Sunday television talk show until June 7 -- almost five months into the administration -- when the secretary of state was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week."
Convinced that Obama is a unique American communicator, the White House did not want anyone else diluting his aura as spokesman to the world. And, surprise, surprise, this approach maximizes the close-in advisers' clout.
Their first-among-equals standing is also on display in quiet ways during the president's frequent overseas travels and leadership meetings, such as his trips to Russia and the Group of 8 summit in Italy last week. Officials abroad are struck by Obama's reflexive reliance on Emanuel, his chief of staff, even on foreign policy issues in these meetings. And one diplomat was surprised to learn that Axelrod, Obama's top political adviser, had been thoroughly briefed by Obama after a one-on-one meeting with the diplomat's president before Jones or Clinton were.
Hillary Clinton does seem more than a bit out the loop....though she does try to curry favor at times with strong statements that she certainly refrained from making as Senator from New York.
David Axelrod-campaign strategist, now transformed into the President's senior policy advisor (qualifications, please) seems to enjoy being higher up on the Presidential pecking order (after all, who meets with foreign policy leaders, who appears on TV talk shows) than Hillary Clinton. He does enjoy proximity to power - his office is steps away from the Oval Office (it adjoins the Presidential study which is next to and connects to the Oval Office).
Hoagland believes "Tensions will emerge instead between the close-in advisers and the Cabinet secretaries who have been chosen to sell and implement policies more than to decide them." If that resentment is fed by constant powerplays, cabinet officials like Hillary Clinton may not be long in their jobs.