Another World

As a respected foreign policy thinker in a job coordinating Obama's vast domestic policy agenda, Mona Sutphen embodies the way this administration blurs the line between the two.

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The corridors of the West Wing are narrow enough that the entourages of visiting Cabinet officials cause the occasional bottleneck. On a recent afternoon, Mona Sutphen, the White House deputy chief of staff for policy, ran into an eddy swirling around Kathleen Sebelius, secretary-designate of the Department of Health and Human Services, who extended her hand with a smile.

"We've never met," the Kansas governor began, "but I've heard your name quite a bit."

Sutphen is perhaps the least well known of the Obama administration's senior advisers, but for years she has worked alongside the most influential members of the Democratic foreign policy establishment. As a respected foreign policy thinker in a job coordinating President Obama's vast domestic policy agenda, she embodies the way this administration blurs the line between the two, believing that issues such as public education, regulatory reform and economic recovery no longer stop at the water's edge.

Within an inner circle comprising many veterans of Obama's presidential campaign, Sutphen is something of an outlier. She decided early in the election season to endorse Obama, and worked on East Asian foreign policy for the campaign -- a role, as she put it during a pair of recent interviews in her West Wing office, "on the fringe" of the experiences shared by most of the president's senior advisers.