Sen. Hillary Clinton appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today for a hearing on her nomination as Secretary of State.
Clinton fielded an array of non-contentious, often friendly, questions from Democrats as well as Republicans, signaling the likelihood that she will be confirmed swiftly.
Highlights from the hearing:
The New York Observer points out Iran's prominence in the hearing. Clinton said that when it came to preventing a nuclear Iran, all options are "on the table":
Judging from the order of questions Hillary Clinton received at today's confirmation hearings, it is clear that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee thinks the gravest concern facing the United States is Iran's apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In his first question to Clinton, Kerry asked what carrots and sticks the Obama administration was thinking of with respect to Iran's nuclear program. Clinton said that she couldn't get too specific, because she didn't want to take the country's allies by surprise, but that she would use all of the nation's instruments to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
She said she and Obama "have no illusions" that their new administration's effort to engage Iran would yield immediate results and that all options were "on the table." She stressed that the administration would make the case to the world that "a nuclear-armed Iran is in no one's interests."
Clinton expressed sympathy for Palestinians in her confirmation hearing, a rare and tricky move for American politicians. "The suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians," Clinton said, "... must only increase our determination to seek a just and lasing peace agreement."
Questioned on her history of poor management skills, Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she won't actually run the State Department -- deputies will.
"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.
Addressing her Senate confirmation hearing, Clinton also promised to push for stronger U.S. alliances around the globe.
"We must build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries," said the woman that President-elect Barack Obama took for his administration's leading diplomatic job.
"America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own," Clinton said, "and the world cannot solve them without America."
Borrowing a phrase meant to signal a move away from the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, Clinton said, "We must use what has been called `smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal," she said. "With `smart power,' diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy."
She credited Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with stimulating debate about the role of diplomacy and other civilian institutions' role in fighting the global war on terror, endorsing his call for providing the State Department with more resources and a bigger budget.
She assured the committee that if confirmed, the State Department "will be firing on all cylinders" -- applying pressure when needed and looking for opportunities to advancing U.S. interests.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the committee, said in opening the hearing that he welcomed Clinton's nomination, calling her "extraordinarily capable and smart."
In his opening remarks, Sen. Richard Lugar, the panel's ranking Republican, praised Clinton, calling her "the epitome of a big leaguer" who is fully qualified for the job and whose presence at the State Department could open new opportunities for American diplomacy, including the possibility of improving the United States' image in the world.
But Lugar also raised questions about the issue of Bill Clinton's fundraising work and its relation to her wife's new post. Lugar said that the only way for Clinton to avoid a potential conflict of interest due to her husband's charity is to forswear any new foreign contributions. The Indiana senator said the situation poses a "unique complication" that requires "great care and transparency."
The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman is liveblogging the hearing.
In remarks prepared for delivery, Clinton promised to use "smart power" and push for more U.S. partnerships around the globe.
"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."
Borrowing a phrase meant to signal a move away from the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, Clinton said, "We must use what has been called `smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal. With `smart power,' diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy.
A team of roughly ten advisers helped Clinton prepare for the hearing, from deputy designates Jim Steinberg and Jack Lew, Wendy Sherman, and campaign policy aide Jake Sullivan to her Senate foreign policy staffer, Andrew Shapiro.