Clinton Vows Smart Mix Of Diplomacy & Defense

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Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed Tuesday to renew U.S. leadership through a “smart power” mix of diplomacy and defense.

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Addressing her Senate confirmation hearing, Clinton also promised to push for stronger U.S. alliances around the globe.

“We must build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries,” said the woman that President-elect Barack Obama took for his administration’s leading diplomatic job.

“America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own,” Clinton said, “and the world cannot solve them without America.”

Borrowing a phrase meant to signal a move away from the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, Clinton said, “We must use what has been called `smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal,” she said. “With `smart power,’ diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy.”

She credited Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with stimulating debate about the role of diplomacy and other civilian institutions’ role in fighting the global war on terror, endorsing his call for providing the State Department with more resources and a bigger budget.

She assured the committee that if confirmed, the State Department “will be firing on all cylinders” — applying pressure when needed and looking for opportunities to advancing U.S. interests.

Clinton, with daughter Chelsea in attendance, appeared set to sail smoothly through her hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, despite concerns among some lawmakers that the global fundraising of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, could pose ethical conflicts for her as secretary of state. Her husband was not present at the hearing.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the committee, said in opening the hearing that he welcomed Clinton’s nomination, calling her “extraordinarily capable and smart.”

In his opening remarks, Sen. Richard Lugar, the panel’s ranking Republican, praised Clinton, calling her “the epitome of a big leaguer” who is fully qualified for the job and whose presence at the State Department could open new opportunities for American diplomacy, including the possibility of improving the United States’ image in the world.

But Lugar also raised questions about the issue of Bill Clinton‘s fundraising work and its relation to her wife’s new post. Lugar said that the only way for Clinton to avoid a potential conflict of interest due to her husband’s charity is to forswear any new foreign contributions. The Indiana senator said the situation poses a “unique complication” that requires “great care and transparency.”

“The Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation,” he said. “It also sets up potential perception problems with any action taken by the secretary of state in relation to foreign givers or their countries.”

However, Lugar indicated that he would accept the alternative approach proposed by Clinton and the Obama transition team. Lugar said their plan — which relies on State Department ethics officials to review the donations — would be more complex and require stringent oversight.

It should be considered the minimum standard to ensure overseas donations do not propose a conflict of interest for Clinton as the nation’s top diplomat.

“We should be clear that this agreement is a beginning, not an end,” Lugar said. “It is not a guarantee against conflict of interest or its appearance. For the agreement to succeed, the parties must make the integrity of U.S. foreign policy their first principle of implementation.”

From the moment it became known that Obama was considering nominating Clinton, questions arose about her husband’s charitable work and whether it might pose a conflict of interest for her as secretary of state.

Lawmakers have asked for more details on an agreement she and Obama worked out after the election. As outlined in a Jan. 5 letter from the former president’s lawyer, ethics officials at the State Department will be allowed to review overseas contributions made to Bill Clinton‘s charity. The State Department also will be able to assess in advance the former president’s consulting work and speaking engagements.

The committee could vote on Clinton’s nomination as early as Thursday. If she is approved, as expected, Clinton could be confirmed by the full Senate as early as Inauguration Day.

In advance of the hearing, Hillary Clinton reached out to individual senators through telephone calls and face-to-face meetings, including an hourlong session with Lugar.

On Monday night, outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley hosted a dinner for Clinton and Hadley’s successor, retired Gen. James Jones, at the State Department, officials said.

Clinton, 61, intended to emphasize areas of foreign policy in which she and Obama think alike, including their conviction that in order to make gains abroad the United States needs to strengthen its domestic economy, the official said.

Republicans are not expected to try to block the nomination and have even been generous in their praise of Clinton.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Clinton expresses herself well and won’t make any “rookie mistakes.”

Clinton, who entered the Democratic presidential primary race as the front-runner but lost to Obama, is primed to take over a State Department wrestling with a vast array of diplomatic challenges, from the crisis in Gaza and stalled peace efforts in the Middle East to nuclear worries in south Asia.

In significant respects, the Clinton and Obama views on foreign policy are compatible.

Like Obama, Clinton has said the U.S. should make a more focused commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan and pushing Pakistan to eliminate the havens al-Qaida terrorists have found on its territory.

Both favor closing the prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Both support the continued expansion of the Army and the Marine Corps, and they share the view that the Bush administration undervalued international diplomacy.

Carlos Pascual, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said in an interview Monday that Obama and Clinton both look at key issues in their global context — the spread of nuclear know-how and materials, the wide impact of economic reversals, the international reach of terrorist networks and the transnational impact of disease and poverty.

The Senate is also holding four confirmation hearings Tuesday for other Obama choices for Cabinet and top White House positions. Appearing will be Peter Orszag, his choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, and Robert Nabors II, for deputy director of OMB; New York housing official Shaun Donovan, to be secretary of housing and urban development; Steven Chu, to head the Energy Department; and Arne Duncan, as education secretary.

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