WASHINGTON — Even before taking office, Hillary Rodham Clinton is seeking to build a more powerful State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with global economic issues at a time of crisis.
Mrs. Clinton is recruiting Jacob J. Lew, the budget director under President Bill Clinton, as one of two deputies, according to people close to the Obama transition team. Mr. Lew’s focus, they said, will be on increasing the share of financing that goes to the diplomatic corps. He and James B. Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration, are to be Mrs. Clinton’s chief lieutenants.
Nominations of deputy secretaries, like Mrs. Clinton’s, would be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The incoming administration is also likely to name several envoys, officials said, reviving a practice of the Clinton administration, when Richard C. Holbrooke, Dennis Ross and other diplomats played a central role in mediating disputes in the Balkans and the Middle East.
As Mrs. Clinton puts together her senior team, officials said, she is also trying to carve out a bigger role for the State Department in economic affairs, where the Treasury has dominated during the Bush years. She has sought advice from Laura D’Andrea Tyson, an economist who headed Mr. Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.
The steps seem intended to strengthen the role of diplomacy after a long stretch, particularly under Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in which the Pentagon, the vice president’s office and even the intelligence agencies held considerable sway over American foreign policy.
No one has forgotten Powell’s plea for the rush to War at the UN while holding up a vial of faux yellow-cake for the camera. Showmanship has always been a Powell strength mainly used for residual credibility for the public’s consumption. Powell is the Forrest Gumperism of the Bush dynasty. Take him out of moth balls and you don’t know what to expect.
Given Mrs. Clinton’s prominence, expanding the department’s portfolio could bring on conflict with other powerful cabinet members.
Mrs. Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama have not settled on specific envoys or missions, although Mr. Ross’s name has been mentioned as a possible Middle East envoy, as have those of Mr. Holbrooke and Martin Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel.
The Bush administration has made relatively little use of special envoys. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has personally handled most peacemaking initiatives, which has meant a punishing schedule of Middle East missions, often with meager results.
“There’s no question that there is a reinvention of the wheel here,” said Aaron David Miller, a public policy analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “But it’s geared not so much as a reaction to Bush as to a fairly astute analysis of what’s going to work in foreign policy.”
Hardly- No one is reinventing the wheel here. What Mrs Clinton mission is, is replacing the wheels fallen off and left by the wayside since 2000.