02/13/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Clinton Confirmation Hearing: Deputies Will Manage State Department

Hillary Clinton sought to assuage senators on Monday about her ability to manage the sprawling State Department by saying that she won't actually be running it.

The biggest obstacle between Clinton and confirmation as Secretary of State may not be her husband's conflict of interests. Instead, there is often a deep, if rarely spoken, concern about her management skills, stemming from both the botched healthcare rollout in the early '90s and her famously chaotic and back-biting presidential campaign.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) gingerly broached the subject by noting that management is not her "greatest strength" and asked how the Senate could be comfortable that she would sail the ship in the direction she intended.

Clinton was ready with an answer, clearly anticipating the challenge. "This is to me one of the most important questions," she replied. "I decided to fill a position that had not been filled although it had been created ten years ago, and that was the deputy for resources and management."

As secretary, Clinton said, "you get consumed by the crisis of the moment." Even "with the best intentions to deal with management," she said, the secretary routinely spends her time on more immediate concerns, "on Gaza, or Iran, or on Russia and the Ukraine pipeline."

Clinton said she had called on Jack Lew, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget, to fill the position. James Steinberg, she said, had agreed to leave the deanship of the Lyndon Baines Johnson public policy school in Austin, Texas, to help manage the department as well.

Lew would also be empowered to represent the State Department before Congress and with the president during budget negotiations, Clinton said.