‘Hillaryland’ is reborn at the State Department

By Carol Eisenberg

May 18, 2009 at 6:58am

Hillary Rodham Clinton may have reinvented herself as secretary of state, but she hasn’t exactly started with a blank slate.

The former New York senator has taken along some of her most loyal staffers from “Hillaryland,” the nickname given to the tightknit group that coalesced around her in the White House, and which advised and supported her as she charted her own political career.

For starters, there’s Melanne Verveer, who was chief of staff to First Lady Clinton, and who is now the nominee for a new State Department post - ambassador at large for global women’s Issues. It’s a natural stepping stone for Verveer, now the CEO and co-founder of an international nonprofit called Vital Voices Global Partnership, which grooms women for leadership roles around the world.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton

There’s attorney Cheryl Mills, counsel to Clinton’s ill-fated 2008 presidential campaign, who has been reincarnated as her new chief of staff.

Mills is best known for defending former President Bill Clinton during his 1999 impeachment trial, when she was deputy White House counsel. After that, she took a breather from politics, working as an executive at Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen Media and at New York University.

There’s the glamorous Huma M. Abedin, who started with First Lady Clinton as a college intern in 1996, and who moved up to become her “body” person, adviser and close friend, and who has now inherited the title of senior adviser to the secretary.

Abedin, who was the subject of a 2007 Vogue profile, is famous for her style, and shares an unusually close, almost sisterly relationship with Clinton.

While critics have questioned Abedin’s foreign policy experience, her supporters note that she is a fluent Arabic speaker who grew up in Saudi Arabia, and who has been a trusted Clinton adviser on the Middle East.

“Abedin has the energy of a woman in her 20s, the confidence of a woman in her 30s, the experience of a woman in her 40s, and the grace of a woman in her 50s,” Clinton wrote in an email to Vogue. “She is timeless, her combination of poise, kindness, and intelligence are matchless.”

Abedin is dating Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who is a possible 2009 New York City mayoral contender.

Other longtime Clinton loyalists joining her in the State Department include:

  • Judith A. McHale, a longtime Clinton friend and donor, and former president of Discovery Communications, who has been nominated as undersecretary for public diplomacy. After two decades building Discovery, McHale, the daughter of a foreign service officer, helped found the GEF/Africa Growth Fund, a private equity fund that makes investments in consumer goods and services in Africa.
  • James Steinberg, President Bill Clinton’s deputy national security adviser, who has been nominated as deputy secretary. Steinberg, whose articles criticizing the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption became a rallying cry for Democrats, brings experience as a former White House and congressional military policy adviser.
  • Lissa Muscatine, a speechwriter, erstwhile book collaborator and “walking catalogue of everything the candidate has ever said about anything,” who was tapped as chief speechwriter at State.
  • Andrew Shapiro, who advised Sen. Clinton on defense and foreign policy issues, who was nominated assistant secretary for political-military affairs.
  • Philippe Reines, her Senate press secretary, who is reprising that role at State.
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  • #1.   Stacy 05.18.2009

    Of course she will bring people she knows and trusts with her and what the article doesn’t mention is all the new people at State she has on her team.

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