The 67th US secretary of state was active in politicas from an early age [Gallo/ Getty]

Hillary Clinton's acceptance of the secretary of state post in US president Barack Obama's new administration marks a stunning turnaround in the New York senator's political fortunes, and in the two Democrats' often frosty relationship.

The pair spent months in an often bruising battle for the nomination, and although Clinton went on to lend her support to Obama in his battle against John McCain, the former Republican candidate, many felt there was little love lost between the pair.

The decision to hand Clinton, Obama's former rival for the Democratic nomination, has left some questioning whether Obama's promise of "change" in the White House is now ringing rather hollow.

Detractors point to Clinton's hawkish positions on many foreign policy issues, particularly her harsh words about Iran on the campaign trail and her firm support for Israel, as problematic.

But others note her experience on the international state and knowledge gleaned both as senator and as a former first lady to her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

Political beginnings

Born Hillary Rodham in the Midwestern US state of Illinois in 1947 to a politically conservative family, Clinton was an excellent student and active in politics from an early age.

The New York state senator was active
politically from an early age [GALLO/GETTY

Initially a Republican who campaigned for presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and president of the Young Republicans group at Wellesley College, where she majored in political science, Clinton later switched to the Democratic party.

She trained as a lawyer at Yale University, worked for child advocacy groups, supported women's rights and campaigned on behalf of several Democratic politicians, including Walter Mondale, the former Democratic presidential candidate.
It was at Yale that she met fellow law student Bill Clinton, whom she later married in 1975 in his home state of Arkansas.
She became first lady of the southern state following her husband's successful bid for the state governorship in 1978, holding the position for more than 10 years. Her only child, daughter Chelsea, was born in 1980.

Following her husband's leap to national politics and entry to the White House in 1992, Clinton was appointed by her husband as head of a task force aimed at an ambitious overhaul of America's beleaguered healthcare system.

However, the task force's recommendations were ultimately rejected by the US congress after Republicans and health professionals criticised the proposals.

In addition to the sting of public failure following the healthcare plan collapse, Clinton also faced a constant struggle against the traditionally perceived role of the first lady, once commenting acerbically that she did not just want to stay at home and "bake cookies" while her husband ran the country.

From scandal to senator

Bill Clinton, left, has been criticised for
his role in Hillary's campaign [AFP]

Successive scandals during her husband's two terms in office, culminating in his unsuccessful impeachment for a liaison with intern Monica Lewinsky, also took their toll on her public image.

Clinton weathered the so-called Whitewater property scandal, but her husband's liaison with Lewinsky proved harder to ignore.

Clinton later admitted in her autobiography, Living History, that the revelations of her husband's infidelity wounded her deeply.

In 2000, after the Clintons left the White House, she successfully ran for the US senate for New York state, despite criticism that she had never previously resided in the state.

Foreign affairs

Clinton's decision to support the US invasion of
Iraq proved damaging [Reuters]

Once she declared her intention to run as president in January 2007, Clinton's move to the centre of the Democratic party was seen by political analysts as a calculated move to appeal to as broad a base of voters as possible.

However, once on the campaign trail several of her previous political decisions would come back to haunt her, most specifically, her decision in 2003 to vote in favour of the Iraq war, a vote she later distanced herself from but that proved highly damaging to her campaign.

Clinton was also heavily criticised for hawkish comments on Iran in which she said that, if made president, she would "totally obliterate" Iran should it ever attack Israel.

And there were further foreign policy gaffes on the campaign trail - claims of coming under sniper fire in Bosnia which were swiftly disproved, leading to an embarrassing climbdown, and forgetting the Russian prime minister's name.

Ultimately, Obama, largely seen as untainted by any scandal or any vote for the Iraq war, garnered a momentum that Clinton simply could not overcome.

Nonetheless, Clinton's elevation to arguably the most powerful - and certainly most high profile - position in Obama's administration could prove politically adept, both domestically in winning over disgruntled Clinton fans angered she lost the nomination, and internationally, in handing the role to someone who is internationally known and respected.

Clinton is now overcoming the missteps over her primary campaign and uses the political acumen that has taken her so far to become an able secretary of state.

Source: Al Jazeera