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Early Thoughts On Hillary

Two quick impressions of the confirmation hearing so far (with the caveat that I've watched most, but not all, of it). 1.) She really did read all those briefing books--as usual, she's incredibly well prepared, down to the most obscure detail. 2.) The Republicans seem to be going easier on her than expected (not that we expected a bloodbath). For example, this Politico piece suggested some apprehension in the Clinton camp about Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker. But I mostly saw softballs from Corker. His first question was about how Hillary intended to manage the vast State department bureaucracy while still overseeing U.S. foreign policy, which she easily addressed by invoking Jack Lew, who'll be deputy secretary of state for management (a post that's been vacant under Bush). It seemed to get easier from there.

Update: One other more substantive point (with the caveat that I may not know what I'm talking about--though why start pointing that out now): I get the sense that Hillary is going slightly out of her way to draw contrasts with the Bush administration. Now, obviously, most incoming admininistrations of the opposite party would have differences with their predecessor, particularly after eight years widely regarded as a foreign policy disaster. But my sense is that Hillary's doing more than just laying out a different vision--she isn't hesitating to take shots at the Bushies, sometimes explicitly sometimes implicitly. For example, as the WaPo's Glenn Kessler notes (via Ben Smith), she slapped former Bush Under Secretary John Bolton for "degrad[ing]" the country's arms control and nonproliferation apparatus. She talked about using "smart power" in the Middle East, particularly with respect to Syria and Iran, which she hoped would become "constructive" actors in the region. (Presumably as opposed to Bush's "dumb" attempts to isolate these regimes.) If I remember correctly, she also talked about the problems with outsourcing of various USAID functions, something Bush's State department accelerated.

Again, it's a subtle thing. It's hard not to draw contrasts with your predecessor when you're laying out a different vision. But I get the sense she and Obama are twisting the knife in just a little for domestic (and for that matter foreign) political consumption. Maybe even partly for the benefit of liberals somewhat dismayed (wrongly in my view) over Gates staying on at the Pentagon.

--Noam Scheiber