With the presidential election over, the parlor game on who will be the next secretary of state has officially intensified with Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), current chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Susan Rice, current US Ambassador to the UN as front-runners. They are not the only ones mentioned but Kerry and Rice appears to be the the names that fuel the most media speculation. “Unnamed officials” and “sources” are also working their media contacts, obviously with “inside” information highlighting their candidate’s prospects in this run for Foggy Bottom.
Senator John Kerry
One source quoted by Politico who is “familiar with the circumstances,” reported that Kerry “has the inside track,” having worked on President Obama’s debate-prep during the campaign.
Jezebel notes that the US hasn’t had a white male Secretary of State since 1997 and asks, “Is America ready?” It writes that “John Kerry’s tenure as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been remarkably free of in-chamber shootings,” and concludes that “any testosterone-producing, low emotion man is a ticking time bomb.”
James Traub over at FP asks, Would John Kerry do a good job of filling Hillary Clinton’s shoes? Traub writes that “the same restraint and reserve which made him such an unsatisfying presidential candidate have also made him the kind of consummate diplomat whom the White House has counted on to soothe troubled waters in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and elsewhere. [… If anyone can talk those guys off a ledge, it’s Kerry. [...] Kerry has shortcomings. Who doesn’t? But I can’t think of anyone who would be better for the job.”
Hey! Even the Russians have a pick: “An unnamed source in the Russian foreign ministry told the Kommersant business daily that Moscow would “much prefer” to see Mr. Kerry take the post.
Yesterday, WaPo reported that President Obama is “considering John Kerry for job of defense secretary.” Apparently, Senator Kerry is surprised about the buzz that he is being considered as possible SecDef.
Ambassador Susan Rice
James Traub who wrote the “Secretary Kerry” piece over at FP explains why Ambassador Rice may not be the best choice: “Susan Rice is a pugnacious team player who, like Donilon, is more insider than outsider, and is notably deficient in that unctuous fluid which issues from the pores of professional diplomats.”
New York Times cites one administration characterizing Rice as “crippled” having been a favorite Republican target since she provided the administration’s initial accounts on the Benghazi attack.
Bloomberg News claimed she had emerged as the odds-on favorite blaring, UN Envoy Susan Rice Is Top Candidate to Succeed Clinton. She is reportedly emerging as the “favored candidate” even with her baggage on Benghazi: “Six current or former White House officials, who all spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Rice remains close to President Barack Obama and shares many of his views on foreign policy.”
Today, the NYT also reports that “Ms. Rice, an outspoken, ambitious diplomat with close ties to Mr. Obama, has emerged as the clear favorite.”
WaPo adds that “senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.”
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon
According to Traub’s FP piece, the current U.S. National Security Advisor “is a highly competent administrator who would die of impatience halfway through an interminable lunch with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.”
Now we can’t have that, can we?
The National Interest reported that “…in 2008 Donilon was considered for deputy secretary of state, but the Obama team thought that his previous role as in-house counsel to Fannie Mae was “toxic” and that he “might have serious problems in a Senate confirmation.”
Other names mentioned though not as loudly:
Bill Burns – currently Deputy Secretary of State, a respected career diplomat but not an Obama insider.
Chuck Hagel—the former Nebraska Senate Republican and co-chairman of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
Jon Huntsman – former Obama ambassador to China and GOP presidential primary contender 2012
Dick Lugar – Outgoing senator and soon to be former ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Moderate Voice writes: “Lugar would need no on the job training to become State secretary. He’s an old pro on the international stage and knows his way around Washington as well. He could take up the reins at the State Department with confidence. As a marathon runner who participated in one of the 26.2-mile races just a few weeks ago, he has the physical stamina for the job of chief US diplomat despite advancing years.” Senator Lugar is 80 years old.
Howard Berman – Outgoing chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. LAT writes that Berman who is 71, “has worked closely with the White House over four years on sensitive issues such as Iran and is known as competent and discreet, traits much prized by President Obama.”
How about a Colin Powell comeback?
George W. Bush’s first secretary of State has been speculated as a possible SecDef. What about a comeback at State? He endorsed President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. Secretary Powell got the “The president would like to make a change” conversation eight days after George W. Bush’s second term reelection. Don’t know if he would have stayed for the second term without that conversation but we know that he was mindful of the lasting blot on his record after that UN speech. Another term as a secretary of state might help repair that damage?
But not a comeback for Condi Rice
Don’t call her maybe. Condoleezza Rice already said she wouldn’t be interested in succeeding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, even if asked to do so by President Barack Obama.