Obama centralizing foreign policy in White House

There has been much conjecture regarding the future course of foreign policy during the Obama era. Supporters of a more muscular approach towards the threats emanating from the Middle East were reassured by the pick of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State who, among other steps, advocated the Palestinians remove incitement from their textbooks for children and threatened to obliterate Iran should that nation launch nuclear weapons towards Israel.

As various foreign policy posts have been filled, an uneasiness has developed. Jim Jones was chosen as National Security Adviser-he has views that some supporters of Israel find questionable regarding the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The selection of former Senator George Mitchell as special envoy to the Middle East has also raised some eyebrows based on statements he has made and the findings of a commission he headed to discover the causes of the Al-Aksa intifada.

The crux of the issue pivots off of the issue of power: who will have the President’s ear?

There have been two models that are often invoked when analyzing Presidential power in the foreign policy area: the model where foreign policy is centralized in the White House (the Nixon model, where National Security  Adviser Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon controlled foreign policy as the expense of the hapless Secretary of State William Rogers) and the more traditional model where the President devolves foreign policy responsibility to the State Department.

The Nixon model is easy to appreciate-the National Security Adviser’s office is in the White House ad he meets daily with the President. The Secretary of State’s office is way down in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington, D.C. and face time is a fraction of that enjoyed by the National Security Adviser.

Which model seems to predominate so far in the Obama era? The Nixon model, according to a report in Politico. President Obama is rapidly centralizing power in the White House :


'President Barack Obama is taking far-reaching steps to centralize decision-making inside the White House, surrounding himself with influential counselors, overseas envoys and policy 'czars' that shift power from traditional Cabinet posts. ... Pulling power close is something all recent presidents have done – and on the campaign trail, Obama spoke out against George W. Bush's attempt to expand his executive authority. But when it comes to building his own team, Obama is taking the notion of a powerful White House staff to new heights, leaving little doubt who will set policy and guide the politics of the his newborn administration.

One may also wonder how much influence or control Hillary Clinton will have or be able to exert over Susan Rice as our UN Ambassador; she has been close to Barack Obama for years-and there are no lingering resentments from the campaign

Supporters of the American-Israel relationship may have a sense of queasiness. Will Hillary Clinton be eclipsed by the influence and power of Jim Jones and George Mitchell?

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