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That Was Quick

Thus begins the palace intrigue:

The first sign of cracks in President-elect Barack Obama’s foreign policy team of rivals emerged on Monday as his choices for secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations visited the State Department.As Secretary of State-pick Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. envoy-choice Susan Rice separately visited the diplomatic agency’s headquarters in Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, persons familiar with the transition said that Rice wants to install her own transition team inside the department.

Such a move by an incoming U.N. ambassador is rare, if not unprecedented, because the job is based at the United Nations in New York, where Rice already has a small transition staff, the sources familiar with the incoming administration.

The push by Rice, an early Obama supporter whose position the President-elect wants to elevate to a cabinet post, is also a signal that she intends to use her influence with the new president to play a more significant role than previous U.N. envoys, they said. The transition sources spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Officials with Clinton’s transition team declined to comment on the matter, and aides to Rice could not immediately be reached. State Department officials declined to comment on issues related to the transition.

It was not clear if Clinton and Rice–who had strained relations during the Democratic primaries because of Rice’s steadfast backing of Obama–saw each other at the State Department as Clinton left the building shortly after Rice arrived.

This, by the way, is why it is a bad idea to do as Obama has done and elevate the position of UN Ambassador to Cabinet rank. Essentially, Obama now has two Secretaries of State. And each is apparently fighting with the other–sotto voce for the moment, but it will probably get louder later–to exert power and influence in the realm of foreign affairs. This despite the fact that as an Ambassador, Rice should be taking instruction from Clinton.

I suppose that all of this will be amusing to watch. But it will not do much to improve the conduct of international diplomacy.

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