Here's New York magazine on Hillary Clinton last week:
[S]he has turned herself into Obama's greatest asset, on Capitol Hill as much as around the world, in fashioning a national-security policy ...
On the inside, Clinton has steadily accumulated power while expending hardly any political capital. For one thing, she has stirred an effective mix of politicos and diplomats into the top tiers of the State Department. ... Lew helped Hillary secure a 10 percent increase in the State Department's budget from Obama while Tim Geithner was still figuring out how to turn the lights on in his office.
Further, Clinton hasn't made mistakes. ...
Meanwhile, nobody else has developed an alternative foreign-policy power center within the administration. Obama likes Biden, but the vice-president is no match for Hillary in mano-a-mano bureaucratic combat. For example, Clinton favored sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, while Biden opposed the move. The result: "She crushed him," according to Republican Mark Kirk of Ilinois. At the same time, National Security Adviser Jim Jones has been an utter cipher; when Time's Mark Halperin graded the Obama administration, he gave Hillary an A- ("significant, powerful, worldly, respected"), but had to give Jones an "incomplete." And Obama's presidential envoys, such as Richard Holbrooke in Afghanistan and Dennis Ross in Iran, are mostly old Clinton hands who aren't about to usurp any authority from Hillary.
And so on.
And Politico's Ben Smith, today:
It is an arrangement that, by all appearances, seems to suit Clinton and the Obama White House just fine, even as it has contributed to increasing chatter in foreign policy circles about her clout.
Some close observers think she has not done enough to preserve her department's influence, in part because several key issues-the Mideast peace process, Iran and Afghanistan - are steered by high-level envoys who work directly with the White House, albeit with coordination by State.
"You've got the empire of envoys that she acquiesced in, which sent into motion these little fiefdoms," said Aaron David Miller, a former longtime Middle East negotiator. "The general proposition is that in diplomacy and strategy, all power seems to be flowing away from the State Department.
And so on.
Those two reports aren't just inconsistent; they are nearly mirror-images of each other. Which is right? Are either? I don't know. But it's a useful reminder to take these types of stories with a grain of salt.