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January 27th, 2009
12:29 PM ET

Clinton: “Great exhalation of breath around the world”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets staff members during her first day of work last week at the State Department.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets staff members during her first day of work last week at the State Department.

Jill Dougherty
CNN State Department Correspondent

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at the State Department Tuesday that there has been a “great exhalation of breath around the world” with the new approach to diplomacy introduced by the Obama administration.

The short, informal and off-camera visit to the working media area of the State Department came after Secretary Clinton had breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden. Asked whether the president’s team of strong personalities responsible for foreign policy and national security issues could create dissension, the Secretary said that the Vice President, Defense Secretary, national security adviser and she have already worked out a “collegial, effective working relationship.”

Calling Biden an “old and dear friend,” Clinton said “I don’t think you can really conclude anything other than this is a united effort.” She added “There is a lot of damage to repair” (from the previous administration.) She qualified that criticism, however, saying “this is not a repudiation or indictment of the last eight years.”

On Iran, Secretary Clinton said that President Obama retains “the right to engage in whatever way he deems best and whatever time he chooses” to further U.S. interests. Asked how the administration can judge when Iran is ready, as the president said, to “unclench its fist,” she said this is a “clear opportunity for the Iranians to demonstrate their willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community.” Whether or not their fist in unclenched, she said, “is up to them.”

On the Mideast, Secretary Clinton said special envoy George Mitchell has been given the opportunity to “listen and bring back his impressions.” The president chose him, she said, because of his knowledge but also because of his “political ear.” Asked about the possibility of moving on negotiating track with Syria, she said the focus right now is only on the Israeli/Palestinian track.”

Asked to comment on statements by the new Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, that China is manipulating its currency, she said “We need a comprehensive dialogue with China.” The “strategic dialogue” of the Bush administration turned into exclusively an economic dialogue but that, she said, is not the only focus. “We want a more comprehensive approach” with China which is a “regional player” with which there are “many opportunities to cooperate.”

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    I am so glad Hillary is Secretary of State. Knowing how hard she works and how high she aims I feel like for the first time in about a decade that we will get back to serious diplomacy and actually rebuild our image and our friendships around the world. It will be nice to be thought of as a friend instead of a pariah.

    January 27, 2009 at 9:20 pm |
  2. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Mike in Syracuse-Amen.

    And after that sigh of relief came laughter that we really were that dumb. It's far better to be hated and safe than stabbed behind the back by fair weather friends.

    January 27, 2009 at 5:39 pm |
  3. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    There has been a “great exhalation of breath around the world” with the new approach to diplomacy introduced by the Obama administration. You maybe able to change international behavior--but no one will be able to change an international culture-–good luck.

    January 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm |
  4. Julie San Diego, CA

    Jill,

    What are the chances of using that half a million dollars worth of new dinnerware the Bushes purchased just before leaving office being put to good use to host some state dinners?

    For an administration that didn't engage socially with leaders from other countries, they sure bought a lot of chinaware at the last moment – has Halliburton gotten into dinnerware too?

    Michelle looks like an excellent dinner party hostess. What better way to show the world "it's ok, you can like us again" than by inviting them to the White House for dinner and pleasantries?

    Don't quote me on this, but I heard a report that said the Bush administration held only a handful of state dinners in their 8 years in office. Maybe that's part of the problem.

    January 27, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  5. Ayse - London

    This is a dream team + the only failure will be of their own making.

    January 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  6. sgt soulia

    I'm so glad that someone with the political clout and keen intellect of Hillary Clinton is taking over as Secretary of State, the skillset she brings to the table will go a long way towards enhancing Americas image globally. President Obamas Interview with ElArabia (?) was a perfect lead-in for Sec. Clinton to begin the long and arduous task of re-establishing American policy intentions after eight years of "because I said so" under the previous administration. I am confident that working together with the new UN Ambassador, many doors will re-open for us in the world, and help to bring us back on track as the beacon of freedom and prosperity we strive to be. Her brief comments on China show her diplomatic abilities, providing a hint of intention to negotiate, without tipping her hand, I wish her great good fortune for her new role, and thank Mdm. Secretary for her continued service to our Nation.

    January 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm |
  7. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at the State Department Tuesday that there has been a “great exhalation of breath around the world”

    Yep, terrorists have heaved a sigh of relief.

    January 27, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  8. Heather,ca

    I congratulate her. I just cant believe the our country is prepared to negotiate with Iran the country that literally sponsors terrorism. I also cant believe we are going to talk to a known terrorist the current mouth piece of Iran. He was a participant in the hostage crisis of our embassy. He has been identified by former hostages. So we are no going to negotiate with terrorists? So basically its world peace and negotiate and the world will be perfect. I dont think so. I also dont Mitchell realizes that negotiating in the Ireland peace plan is in no way the same as in the Middle East. Different culture,different history.

    January 27, 2009 at 12:52 pm |