Starting her confirmation hearing this morning to become secretary of state, Hillary Clinton won effusive praise from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's new chairman.
Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts said Clinton knows leaders around the world and will send the message that "America is back."
Kerry said there is a new era in American diplomacy and he looks forward to charting that course with Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama. In an op-ed piece in today's Boston Globe, Kerry outlined his priorities as the committee's chairman.
Clinton, meanwhile, has the experience as first lady as well as in the Senate. A story in today's Globe outlines the unfinished business from the Clinton administration and what an Obama-Clinton foreign policy might look like.
Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the committee, while praising Clinton, also called for more restrictions and more transparency on foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, run by Clinton's husband, the former president, to avoid any conflicts of interest.
The foundation disclosed many of its donors as part of the deal leading to Clinton's nomination, and revealed that significant chunks of money came from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia.
"The Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation," Lugar said. "It also sets up potential perception problems with any action taken by the secretary of state in relation to foreign givers or their countries."
Clinton said she would answer any questions the committee members have on the foundation.
Opening her testimony, Clinton said it is a time of great danger and great possibility around the world.
Sitting at a table next to New York's other senator, Charles Schumer, and with her daughter Chelsea Clinton sitting just behind her in the packed hearing room, Clinton promised to consult with the Congress and to bring back bipartisanship to foreign policy.
She called for reinvigorating US influence in the world with "smart power" putting diplomacy "at the vanguard of foreign policy."
"America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America," she said. "I believe American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted."
While the United States must emphasize diplomacy, there will be times military action will be needed, Clinton said, listing the sweep of foreign policy challenges facing the new administration.
She also signaled the extent of the break with the Bush administration, including the end to the Iraq war and the renewed prominence of human rights.
"America must be an exemplar of our values," she declared.
Clinton was particularly outspoken about women's rights, an issue that she carved out in a dramatic 1995 speech in Beijing as first lady.
She told the committee that there could be no peace and prosperity in the world so long as women are being subjected to discrimination and violence. She vowed that the United States will do all it can to end wage and sex slavery. And she declared that the treatment of women is not the result of cultural differences or custom, but is criminal.
Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll released today found that Clinton's favorability rating is at 65 percent, the highest in nearly a decade.
Gallup says that Clinton's rating had not exceeded 60 percent since late 1999, ranging from a low of 44 percent in March 2001 to 58 percent in February 2007. Her favorable numbers were the highest during the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to the impeachment of her husband, the then-president, reaching 67 percent immediately after the House vote to impeach.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.