Is Hillary Clinton an also-ran in the Obama power structure? John Heilemann says no. She’s just adopting the same “workhorse, not a showhorse” attitude that served her well when she first entered the Senate:
To the outside world, all this laying low has made Clinton look like less of a player. But the reality is almost exactly the opposite. From the outset, Hillary recognized that she could only exercise influence inside the administration if she were trusted by Obama and the people close to him. And although the president himself and Emanuel never had much doubt that she could be a team player, many others in the Obamasphere were supremely skeptical. But no longer. “In terms of loyalty, discretion, and collegiality,” says a senior White House official, “she’s been everything we could have asked or hoped for.”
The unfolding debate over Afghanistan is maybe the most conspicuous example of Hillary’s adroitness at working the inside game. Compared with Joe Biden and General Stanley McChrystal, her position has been opaque. But now comes word that Clinton and Gates are lining up on the same side in favor of a middle course in the region — not the full-blown troop surge that the general advocates nor the bare-bones approach that the V.P. favors. By all accounts, the likeliest outcome is that Obama will wind up pursuing the Gates-Clinton split-the-difference. And while no one will ever call it the Hillary doctrine, it will be the kind of quiet win that leads to greater internal power for her in the future.
I think Hillary has another edge as well: staying power. My guess is that a few years from now Jim Jones will be gone, Robert Gates will be gone, and McChrystal will be gone. But Hillary Clinton will be Secretary of State until the day Obama leaves office, and she’ll accumulate influence and intimacy the entire time. By the time it’s all over, my guess is that she’ll be widely regarded as one of the most consequential secretaries of state in the postwar era.