There Was Never Any Room For Hillary In Obama's Inner Circle

Clinton obamaKevin Lamarque/ReutersUS Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to US President Barack Obama speak during a meeting with members of his cabinet at the White House in Washington November 28, 2012.

In this excerpt from Clinton, Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding Of A Political Machine, Daniel Halper, a political writer and online editor at The Weekly Standard, compiles candid interviews with former Clinton administration aides, friends, and enemies to reveal the hardened relationship between Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

As Hillary, the pragmatist, had demanded before taking the job, she did have regular “one-on-ones” with the president. For Clinton this offered the visual, at least to the Washington press corps, that she was an integral player.

To Obama it was a chance for respectful listening and making sure that Hillary personally felt looped-in to the happenings at the White House. But it never seemed to stop him from doing whatever he wanted to do once she left the room.

Hillary clintonShannon Stapleton/ReutersUS Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens as President Barack Obama speaks about Afghanistan policy at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, December 1, 2009.

“As secretary of state I think that her relationship with the president was cordial, but never close,” says Senator John McCain, who served as the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and observed her up close.

McCain’s a foreign policy hawk — one more aligned with Hillary than Obama, so it is with a tinge of regret the former Republican presidential nominee makes this observation on morning in his Senate office.

“I don’t believe that when crucial decisions were made that she was necessarily in the room … [W]hen it came to some crucial decisions I don’t think that Mr. Donilon (national security adviser to Obama) was swayed by her opinion. I’m not saying she wasn’t consulted, but I think it’s very well known she was not in the inner circle of decision makers on national security.”

Obama clintonJason Reed/ReutersUS President Barack Obama walks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deliver remarks following the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens and others, from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, September 12, 2012.

“I think she had very little interaction” with the president, says veteran State Department employee. “A lot of this was, you know, she would go to meetings of the NSC (national security council) when she was in town and called, but it was a very distant relationship.”

The NSC sidelined Clinton at every turn — as it did other cabinet secretaries from Gates to his successors at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel. “They would send [the defence secretary] to someplace like Botswana while they crafted North Korea policy at the White House,” one former Defence Department official says.

“Obama brought her into the administration, put her in a bubble, and ignored her,” says a former high-ranking diplomat. “It turned out to be a brilliant political manoeuvre by Obama, making it impossible for her to challenge him, unless she left the administration, and not giving her an excuse that she could resign in protest. So she was stuck.”

Obama clintonJason Reed/ReutersUS Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks on from behind US President Barack Obama during the ASEAN-US Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, November 18, 2011.

Once she realised she would never really be a major player in Obamaland, Hillary Clinton did what she always did: adjusted her course. “She kept her head down on large issues,” says a former Obama administration official.

“She did a nice job of tamping down any tension between her and the White House.”

And she focused on her own future. With Clinton taking to the skies and travelling the world, her post at the State Department became a platform for the United States and Hillary Clinton.

Excerpted from Clinton, Inc: The Audacious Rebuilding Of A Political Machine, by Daniel Halper, (HarperCollins Publishers, 2014). Excerpted with permission by Daniel Halper and HarperCollins Publishers.

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