Hil(l)arious 2

You thought Hillary Clinton was not doing a great job as Secretary of State? You’ve noticed that she has not achieved diplomatic successes with Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, Britain, Honduras, Colombia, Brazil, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Czech Republic, Poland, Georgia, Pakistan, India, or anyplace in Africa? Or, in sum, any foreign country wheresoever?

Ah, but she’s done wonders with Foggy Bottom.

The Washington Post reports in a tone of admiration:

A little over a year into her tenure as secretary of state, allies and detractors alike say Clinton has made a vigorous effort to widen her circle, wooing and pulling into her orbit the agency’s Foreign Service and civil service officials, many of whom said in interviews that she has brought a new energy to the building.

“We have had other secretaries of state who have cared deeply for the institution,” said Patrick F. Kennedy, undersecretary for management and a senior Foreign Service officer. “None who have done as much internal outreach.” …

It is well known that Clinton has long placed a high premium on loyalty, some say too high, leaving her open to criticism that she values it over job qualifications. And at State, she is still surrounded by advisers from her days as a first lady and a senator — often referred to as Hillaryland. In addition, her vast network of former White House, Senate and campaign aides, as well as some supporters, permeates every floor of the building.

But before she was confirmed, Clinton was expanding Hillaryland: She asked two popular Foreign Service officers — Kennedy and William J. Burns, undersecretary for political affairs — to stay on. She has approached this new constituency of 60,000 worldwide like a seasoned pol trying to shore up support.

Those interviewed inside and outside the agency say Clinton has done a good job of heading off the historical tensions between career employees and quadrennial political newcomers by relying on the counsel of senior Foreign Service operatives and reaching out in general.

She has walked the halls and popped into offices unexpectedly, created an electronic “sounding board,” and held seven internal town hall meetings to listen to gripes about everything from policy to cafeteria food to bullying in the workplace. She installed six new showers that joggers requested, is taking steps to remedy overseas pay inequities and instituted a policy that allows partners of gay diplomats to receive benefits. She became a heroine to the Foreign Service when she went to bat to get funding for 3,000 new Foreign Service positions for State operations and the U.S. Agency for International Development — the first boost of this magnitude in two decades.

Posted under Commentary, Diplomacy, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, March 12, 2010

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