Clinton begins new chapter with State job

CHICAGO Mon Dec 1, 2008 7:05pm EST

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Obama shares drinks and shoots pool during a stopover in Denver.  Slideshow 

CHICAGO (Reuters) - She may not have the title she sought, but Hillary Clinton still got what she wanted on Monday: the opportunity to "clean up" after President George W. Bush on the world stage.

Clinton, the one-time Democratic White House hopeful, became the face of President-elect Barack Obama's foreign policy, putting aside any lingering doubts about her former rival as she accepted his offer to be secretary of state.

It will mark a new chapter for one of the most tenacious figures on the U.S. political stage.

The former first lady, who made history by winning a U.S. Senate seat from New York in 2000 and then running her own nearly successful presidential campaign, brings her own political base and ambitions to the job.

As if to underscore the special nature of the appointment, Obama made a departure from his previous news conferences last week, too: he let his nominees speak.

"Before I take questions, I'd like to invite my team to say a few words. And I'm going to start with my dear friend, Hillary Clinton," he said.

Clinton, who spent the first part of Obama's news conference nodding and smiling, pledged her commitment to work by his side.

"If confirmed (by the Senate), I will give this assignment, your administration, and our country my all," she said after taking over the podium. "Thank you for this honor."

The moment drew a final curtain over a dramatic battle that ended with one historic candidate in the White House and the other pondering her future.

Clinton campaigned hard for Obama after her primary loss and has said she is unlikely to run for president again. She told reporters she decided to take on the secretary of state job because she felt she could best serve the country there.

TOUGHER TALK

On the campaign trail Clinton talked tougher than her new boss, once saying she would "obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel. She also criticized as "naive" Obama's call for direct presidential-level engagement with foes like Iran and North Korea.

But both she and Obama took pains to put their differences behind them on Monday, exiting the news conference in a sustained half-embrace.

For his part, Obama said Clinton would have his complete confidence.

"I believe that there is no more effective advocate than Hillary Clinton for that well-rounded view of how we advance American interests," he said when pressed about the differences the two had debated during the primary contest.

When asked during the campaign why she should follow her husband Bill Clinton as the next Democratic White House occupant, Hillary Clinton said often that it had taken a Clinton to clean up after President George H.W. Bush, so it would take another one to clean up after his son.

With an emphasis on diplomacy, Clinton signaled that change on Monday.

"By electing Barack Obama our next president, the American people have demanded not just a new direction at home but a new effort to renew America's standing in the world as a force for positive change," she said.

"We must pursue vigorous diplomacy using all the tools we can muster to build a future with more partners and fewer adversaries, more opportunities and fewer dangers for all who seek freedom, peace, and prosperity."

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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