WASHINGTON (AP) - At the threshold of the world stage as America's next top diplomat, Hillary Rodham Clinton is vowing to renew U.S. leadership through a "smart power" mix of diplomacy and defense.
In remarks prepared for delivery at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be secretary of state also promised to push for stronger 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."
Clinton, with daughter Chelsea in attendance, appeared set to sail smoothly through her hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, despite concerns among some lawmakers that the global fundraising of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, could pose ethical conflicts for her as secretary of state.
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 Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation," he 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."
The committee could vote on Clinton's nomination as early as Thursday. If she is approved, as expected, Clinton could be confirmed by the full Senate as early as Inauguration Day.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)