To the outside world, all this laying low has made Clinton look like less of a player. But the reality is almost exactly the opposite. From the outset, Hillary recognized that she could only exercise influence inside the administration if she were trusted by Obama and the people close to him. And although the president himself and Emanuel never had much doubt that she could be a team player, many others in the Obamasphere were supremely skeptical. But no longer. “In terms of loyalty, discretion, and collegiality,” says a senior White House official, “she’s been everything we could have asked or hoped for.”…

Playing the inside game works to Clinton’s advantage in other ways as well. It’s no coincidence, I’d argue, that her popularity has sharply risen in these months when her profile has been lower, when she’s been perceived as selflessly working on behalf of her boss. Hillary’s greatest political vulnerability has always been the sense among many voters that she is ambition incarnate. That she’s forever shimmying up the greasy pole. That everything she does and says is all about her own advancement.

But now Obama has put her in the perfect position to play the good soldier. To say with (almost) a straight face that she’s looking forward to retirement, that her White House aspirations are behind her. That all she cares about is doing a good job and serving her new master. And as she does, her approval ratings seem to climb by the day.