Tossing out the first pitch of the baseball season and signing
autographs are antics usually associated with press-the-flesh
vote-stumping, not the rarefied, gray-suited arena of international
But in her four months in office, Secretary of State Madeleine
Korbel Albright has often acted as if on the hustings. She revels
in crowds that greet her on her domestic travels, sports
head-turning headgear, and maintains a "Reaching Out to Americans"
site on the Internet, in which she exhorts ordinary folk to
e-mail her their opinions on foreign policy (email@example.com).
Combine all this with her status as the highest-ranking female
public official ever to serve the country, add the attention won by
revelations of her Jewish heritage, and stir in a pinch of
chat-show verve. What comes out is a recipe for approval ratings
higher than those of her boss, President Clinton.
Some followers of international affairs are unimpressed. To
them, Ms. Albright's conduct is proof that her appointment has
brought a change in style, but not substance, to Clinton
second-term foreign policy. Where, they ask, are the new
initiatives and geostrategic ideas?
Says Josh Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute, a
conservative Washington think tank: "She is much more process than
Others disagree. They say it is too soon to assess Albright. She
is yet to be tested by a major international crisis and has been
hamstrung in filling top State Department vacancies by delays
stemming from a White House order to intensify FBI background
Moreover, many policies over which she presides she inherited
from Mr. Clinton's first term. She is, however, getting some credit
for helping to win Senate ratification of a global ban on chemical
weapons in April and for her role in forging the NATO-Russia
charter signed this week.
As for her penchant for limelighting, these experts fault her
They concur with her view that the nation's diplomatic corps,
after years of budget cuts, requires fresh resources at a time when
the country faces new threats and grows ever more reliant on
foreign trade for domestic jobs. The first step in reversing that
trend is reawakening popular support for foreign policy, they say.
"She made a conscious decision ... to pay early and considerable
attention to shoring up the base of Clinton administration foreign
policy," says Casimir Yost, director of the Institute for the Study
of Diplomacy at Georgetown University in Washington, where Albright
once taught. "That base was eroding and eroding badly."
That erosion began with the end of the cold war. It was
exacerbated by the low priority afforded foreign policy by Clinton
in his first term and the secrecy in which it was shrouded by
Albright's colorless predecessor, Warren Christopher, experts say. …