Can Hillary Clinton really be subordinate to Barack Obama? asked Beat Ammann in Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The U.S. president-elect this week officially named as his secretary of state the one person in the world “who enjoys just as much star status” as he does. In fact, world leaders already know Clinton far better than they do her boss. So is that a good thing or not? Optimists say yes, because Obama can trust that Clinton won’t need to waste time learning on the job. But pessimists—and there are apparently far more of these—fear that the appointment “could lead to the implosion of the Obama administration.”
The danger, said Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, is that Clinton could easily promote “her own foreign policy on the side,” rather than Obama’s. We know that she is more hawkish than he, and that she supported the Iraq war while he did not. Still, Clinton brings considerable strengths to her new role. “Faced with the Putins and Ahmadinejads of this world, Hillary Clinton will be no softy.” With her smarts and her experience as First Lady and as a U.S. senator, she has the potential to build a foreign policy “that takes into account the great changes in the world” that have occurred in the past eight years.
At first, I hadn’t “been wild about the idea” of Hillary Clinton in Obama’s Cabinet, said Michael Tomasky in Britain’s The Guardian. U.S. diplomacy tends to flounder whenever a secretary of state is perceived around the world “not to have any real juice with the White House.” Recent case in point: Colin Powell, George W. Bush’s first secretary of state. But Clinton assuaged my fears when, in accepting Obama’s nomination this week, she argued convincingly that when she spoke, “she would be speaking for President Obama” and not for herself. “The two of them together, with their star power and moral authority in the world, can accomplish a lot.”
Such a strong voice at the U.S. State Department is vital to “shake the Europeans out of their torpor,” said Jean-Claude Kiefer in France’s Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace. Europeans have long “dreamed of a more multilateral world,” but they may not rejoice at finally getting one. If the U.S. under Obama relies more on its allies, that will mean Europe “will have to face up to its responsibilities.” For instance, Europe has long brushed off Bush administration pleas for more troops in Afghanistan. It will be up to Clinton to “convince the Europeans” that a stable Afghanistan is in their interest, too. “It won’t be easy.”