Hillary’s Moment

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TIME’s Massimo Calabresi files this report:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations today laying out the case for America’s continued authority in the world. “The complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new American moment,” Clinton said, uncorking the speech’s theme. “A moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways, a moment when those things that make us who we are as a nation — our openness and innovation, our determination and devotion to core values — have never been more needed.”

Coincidentally, it’s looking increasingly like Hillary Clinton’s moment these days: her leadership on foreign policy is beginning to take shape after 18 months, her name is being bandied about for various important next jobs, and the hard work of her first 18 months is beginning to pay off even as the rest of the administration, and especially the White House, is struggling domestically.

Clinton spent her first year as Secretary of State much as she did her first years as Senator: quietly getting on top of her brief. In the meantime, she was overshadowed by an active White House foreign policy operation, and particularly by Joe Biden, whose busy travel schedule, background in foreign policy and closeness to the president gave him particular swat.

Now Clinton is taking the lead on Middle East peace talks just as she is being bruited as a possible replacement for Bob Gates at the Pentagon, and even as a (very unlikely) vice presidential replacement for Biden in 2012. Clinton smirked and shook her head when Council president Richard Haass said there was precedent for such a career path in Martin Van Buren and Thomas Jefferson–and that “it worked out pretty well for the two of them” (both went on to be president afterwards).

All things are ephemeral in politics and Clinton’s moment may soon pass, especially if the peace process falters. But the contrast between her emergence this September and the agonies of the administration elsewhere is noticeable.