During Hillary’s time at Foggy Bottom, Bill Clinton urged her to create a legacy of major accomplishments, such as brokering a peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israel. However, Hillary is essentially a detail person, not a big thinker, and therefore she never became a strong influence in the strategic management of foreign policy.
What’s more, Hillary had a dysfunctional relationship with the White House. The small cabal around Barack Obama—particularly political strategist David Axelrod and consigliere Valerie Jarrett—weren’t about to let Hillary make grand strategy.
“Obama’s three most important foreign policy advisers were David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism [Brennan has since been appointed director of the CIA]," said Vali Reza Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “…Whenever Hillary went on a trip to, say, Saudi Arabia, Brennan would go along, and the Saudis treated him as the person who really mattered, not Hillary.”
The current triumvirate that runs foreign affairs—Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, the former U.N. ambassador who is now Obama’s national security adviser, and Secretary of State John Kerry—are widely dismissed as lightweights by foreign policy experts. And yet, these three people are currently calling the shots in Obama’s leading-from-behind style of non-leadership.
Just before Caroline Kennedy took up her post as ambassador to Japan, she invited Bill and Hillary Clinton to lunch at her Park Avenue apartment in New York City. Caroline wanted to know from Hillary, the former secretary of state, what she could expect from the Obama administration.
“Don’t expect to get your real marching orders from State,” Hillary said. “The way the Obama government works, everything important in foreign policy comes from the White House. And Valerie [Jarrett] pretty much runs the show down there. You’ll feel Valerie breathing down your neck all the way to Tokyo. She’s going to have a lot to say about how you represent our country in Japan, and believe me, she won’t be shy about it.”
According to the Clintons, who later described their lunch with friends, Caroline was stunned by this news.
It should come as a sobering wakeup call to the rest of us.
Ed Klein is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Blood Feud (Regnery Publishing, 2014).