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Clinton Calls For Smart Power


From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris. And first this hour, the most widely anticipated confirmation hearing of the day .

Senator HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Appointee, Secretary, U.S. Department of State, Barack Obama Administration): It is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning as President-elect Obama's nominee for secretary of state.

BLOCK: Hillary Clinton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mrs. Clinton promised to, as she put it, fire on all cylinders and put a new face on American diplomacy. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, it was a polite hearing, despite concerns about conflicts of interest with the fund-raising activities of Clinton's husband.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Former President Clinton was not in the room, but his presence was felt as senators raised concerns about the donations his foundation has received from foreign countries. The ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, said he doubted this issue would get in the way of Hillary Clinton's confirmation, but he encouraged her to make sure it doesn't get in the way of her work.

Senator RICHARD LUGAR (Republican, Indiana): The only certain way to eliminate this risk going forward is for the Clinton Foundation to foreswear new foreign contributions when Senator Clinton becomes secretary of state. I recommend this straightforward approach as the course most likely to avoid pitfalls that could disrupt United States foreign policy or inhibit Senator Clinton's own activities as secretary of state.

KELEMEN: Most senators chose to press this issue in private in written questions, but David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, and Senator Lugar did try to get Mrs. Clinton to consider tougher rules. The secretary of state-designate said she thinks the arrangements that have been put in place already go above and beyond what the laws and ethics rule require.

Senator CLINTON: My career in public service is hardly free of conflict, senator. So I have no illusions about the fact that no matter what we do, there will be those who will raise conflicts. But I can absolutely guarantee you that I will keep a very close look on how this is being implemented.

KELEMEN: That was about as tough as the questions got for Hillary Clinton, whose daughter, Chelsea, sat behind her for support. The secretary of state-designate spoke broadly about her plans for a smart power approach to the world and would not get pinned down on what exactly she's going to do about Iran, for instance.

Senator CLINTON: We don't want anything I say today or anything the president-elect says to take our friends and allies by surprise. So, we cannot tell you with specificity exactly the steps we will take. But I think it's fair to say that the president-elect, as recently as this weekend, has said that we're going to be trying new approaches because what we've tried has not worked.

KELEMEN: She did not take military options off the table and said a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. Clinton also promised to carry out tough negotiations with North Korea and follow up on what the Bush administration has done on that front. A few anti-war protestors from the group Code Pink sat silently during the hearing, holding signs that read, Invest in Peace and Cease-fire for Gaza Now.

Secretary of State-designate Clinton brought up the conflict in Gaza, saying it increases her determination to seek a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Senators on both sides of the aisle praised her. Lugar called her a big leaguer, and Democratic Chairman Senator John Kerry said Clinton has the right qualities for a tough job ahead.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts; Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee): Hillary Clinton has shown the intelligence to navigate the complex issues that we face, the toughness and the tireless work ethic that this job will require, the stature to project America's world leadership and the alliance-building at home and abroad that will be vital to our success in the years ahead.

KELEMEN: Kerry is asking the committee to decide on her candidacy on Thursday, the same day that it will hold a confirmation hearing for President-elect Obama's choice for U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice. If all goes as planned, the full Senate could vote on Clinton soon after Mr. Obama's inauguration. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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