HILLARY Clinton looks like she's struck gold with her likely appointment as the US Secretary of State – but the reality is that this post promises her little more than the occasional sip from a poisoned chalice.
Officially, she will be the face spearheading Barack Obama's new "engaged" foreign policy. Yet the fact is she will have almost zero influence on foreign policy. US relations with the rest of the world are forged in the White House, as Britain's are made in Downing Street, and the best a Secretary of State can hope for is to be part of the president's inner team. Mrs Clinton, plainly, is not.
Officially, the Obama camp insists she will have as much input as anyone else. "Hillary Clinton is a demonstrably able, tough, brilliant person," said Mr Obama's former campaign chief, and future White House senior adviser, David Axelrod.
But the truth is that Mrs Clinton has little foreign policy experience, a quality in plentiful supply elsewhere in Mr Obama's Cabinet.
Mr Obama's foreign policy mentor is Susan Rice, an academic who served on the National Security Council in Bill Clinton's presidency – and who denounced Mrs Clinton's lack of experience in the Democratic primary campaign. Then there is the vice-president, Joe Biden, who has more than 30 years of foreign policy experience in the Senate. Meanwhile, the hot tip for National Security Advisor is a retired Marine Corps general, James Jones.
It is this triumvirate that Mr Obama will turn to for advice, leaving Mrs Clinton as little more than a charismatic ambassador-at-large.
And a Machiavellian streak is evident in Mr Obama's job offer. Mrs Clinton is a popular figure in the Democratic Party and thus had to be given something. But the foreign policy role isolates her from domestic issues, and also divorces her from her power base, making any primary challenge to Mr Obama in the 2012 primaries much harder.
So, given that she will be little more than a glorified ambassador, some wonder if Mrs Clinton will accept the job. If she does, it will be a recognition that with Mr Obama now running the party and the government, this job is the best she can hope for.
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