Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The 67th SecState Sweeps – Part II

I'm ahead of the mainland by several hours. So with no electoral votes to track as of yet, I'm up to my old favorite game of reading tea leaves on who will be the next Secretary of State.

Rumor has it that if Senator Obama wins, we could hear something about his cabinet as early as November 7. The name-game is fast and furious now. Four names seem to be standing out within traditional expectations. I’m excited about one or two, but still also wonder about the outside the box candidate that might be sprung upon us. Here’s Richardson, Kerry and Lugar. I’ll do a separate post on Hagel and Zakaria later.

Bill Richardson The Freelance Ambassador

Time magazine called him "beefy, cigar-chomping," a man whose "addiction to winning over people is almost as legendary" as President Clinton's. He's been likened to good friend Clinton in his gregariousness and ability to spin a tale. The NYT says that Richardson is known not for his ideas but for his energy and political instincts. He enjoys wheeling and dealing, enjoys steering toward consensus and getting to yes. He has successfully won the release of hostages, soldiers and prisoners in Iraq, Cuba, the Sudan and North Korea. He reportedly set the Guinness World Record for most handshakes in a day—nearly 8,500; and also held more than 2,000 town meetings during his 14-year congressional career. Oh. My.

Steve Clemons over at the washingtonnote is not ubber crazy about Bill and writes:

"I agree with many of his views -- but I want someone who is going to build the capacity and morale of the Department of State and make the case for other kinds of 'soft power' deployment. Richardson has yet to do the things that I think he needs to do to assure someone like me -- who has known him over the years -- that he will make his next job about the cause, about America's interests, and not his own whims and personal obsessions. He's mercurial, rough to work for -- and doesn't tend to treat his staff in ways that I think his excellent staff deserves. I have written about this before -- and until Governor Richardson reaches out and assures those of us commenting on his role and those who might put him in charge of thousands of staff members who work hard for the interests of this country under tough conditions, then I find it tough to be enthusiastic about his potential appointment.”

Plus (+): He is Hispanic and we’ve never had a Hispanic Secretary of State before, so he may be attractive in terms of breaking that kind of ceiling. He endorsed Senator Obama at a crucial time during the race. He was in Senator Obama’s 30-minute infomercial. He has had some results as freelance ambassador to here and there in the last few years. He has executive experience as Governor of New Mexico and has previously served as Secretary of Energy and Ambassador to the UN.

Minus (-): I have an utter dislike about empty numbers whether they be handshakes, townhalls or miles traveled. I feel like – so what? Does it mean anything? Did it accomplish anything of substance? But that’s just me. The Wen Ho Lee case happened during his watch at the Energy Department, which might complicate his nomination. And State needs not only a morale boost and a boost in funding, but also a strong leader with a vision that would complement the president’s worldview. I don’t see Bill Richardson filling in these shoes that well.

John Kerry Did You Know He Was a Foreign Service Brat?

John Kerry was born on December 11, 1943 at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. His father was a Foreign Service Officer in the Eisenhower administration and John Kerry traveled a lot when he was young. He served in Vietnam and for his leadership, courage, and sacrifice under fire, he was decorated with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts. At 27 years old, John Kerry sounded a call to reason when he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and posed the powerful question, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" He also began a lifelong fight for his fellow veterans – joining with other vets to found the Vietnam Veterans of America to fight for veterans’ benefits, for extension of the G.I. Bill for Higher Education, and for treatment of PTSD. In 1984 he was elected to the United States Senate and he has won reelection three-times since. He is now serving his fourth term, after winning again in 2002 by the largest margin in Massachusetts history.

A source close to the Senator who asked for anonymity when discussing the senator's political aspirations, says the Foreign Relations Committee's third-ranking Democrat (and 2004 presidential runner-up) is keen to be the nation's top diplomat. He has endorsed Obama and has campaigned for him.

Plus (+): He was a Foreign Service brat but I don't know how much time he spent overseas and how much of that experience has shaped his worldview. He has a foreign born wife like one third of our diplomats. Years before September 11th, John Kerry wrote The New War, an in-depth study of America's national security in the 21st Century. Which shows what? That he is a thinking man who has attempted to imagine the future. He serves in the SFRC’s Committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs. He knows Washington but would that help him secure needed resources for State?

Minus (-): He made the run for the top job in 2004, unsuccessfully. Would he really be happy as top diplomat? How well can he push back against Joe, The Biden, who will not be shy about foreign affairs? He is the junior senator from Massachusetts. Given Senator Kennedy’s health, is he willing to trade off his Senate seat with four years as Secretary of State? I don’t have any strong feelings about Senator Kerry and I guess that is my problem. I have nothing against him but I just can’t get excited about him as the 67th SecState!

Richard Lugar The Elderly Statesman

This fifth generation Hoosier is the longest serving U.S. Senator in Indiana history. He is the Republican leader of the Foreign Relations Committee and a member and former chairman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976 and won a sixth term in 2006 with 87 percent of the vote, his fourth consecutive victory by a two-thirds majority.

On the day of the final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, Lugar gave a lengthy speech at the National Defense University, and weighed the benefits of talking to foreign leaders, including U.S. enemies, against other actions, such as military force.

Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher said the senator is not a foreign policy adviser to Obama’s campaign. But he also noted that Lugar has served 30 years with Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

His former chief of staff says:

“Dick Lugar has a better ability to connect the dots than any human being I’ve ever known,” Morris said. “I think he loves being a U.S. senator. It would take an awful lot. I couldn’t imagine he’d leave his Senate seat. But he will be there to help any president, any secretary of state. “There’s not many like him.”

Plus (+): He made an unsuccessfully run for the Republican nomination in 1996 and not since then. So he’ll be paying attention to this job, not that one. He is well respected from both sides of the aisle. He knows the characters in the domain of foreign affairs based on his long history with the SFRC. In 2005, when Obama was a Senate freshman, Lugar was chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. He invited Obama to join the committee because Obama had made elimination of weapons of mass destruction a major plank in his Senate campaign platform. They have since worked together on proliferation, arms control and energy issues.

Minus (-): He has enormous influence in the Senate, would he exchange that for four years as Secretary of States? He is also 76 years old and some have questioned whether given his age he would welcome the globe-trotting that comes with being the country’s top diplomat? As much as I would like him at State, I also recognize that we need a steady hand in the Senate who knows international affairs like the back of his hand.

Update: On November 6, CQ Politics reports that Senator Lugar is not interested in becoming the 67th Secretary of State.

* * *

I hope that the President-elect will pick the right man for the right job. Of course, I don't have a say on this, but let's say for a moment that I have, and the choices are Richardson, Kerry and Lugar - I would certainly pick Lugar. But - if Chuck Hagel is also in the running, I would much rather have him as Secretary of State and have Lugar remain as the wise elder at the SFRC.

Unless, of course, we get a chance to pick an outside the box candidate. If that happens, I would place my bet on Fareed Zakaria, who really has a beautiful mind. He would be exciting as Secretary of State. And not just because he is the Indian Cary Grant. Really.

Related Posts:


KennyB said...

I'm surprised that Susan Rice is not being mentioned as a candidate to be Secretary of State. She was Obama's principal foreign policy spokesperson during the campaign. I would also expect to see Richard Holbrooke, Anthony Lake, and Dennis Ross on any list of candidates or is picking an experienced diplomat just plain silly?

DS said...

Thanks KennyB. I think Susan Rice has been mentioned for NSC or UN ambassador. Although as senior adviser she probably has wider options that these. As to experienced diplomats - Holbrooke, Lake and Ross have all been with State. But except for Larry Eagleburger, who was Secretary of State for a couple of months, we've never had a career diplomat as Secretary of State.

Holbrooke is considered a dark horse in the sweeps, but he was an original Hillary supporter. It might matter, it may not. Lake had issues with his prior nomination, though that may not matter very much in a Democratic Congress. Ross, I have not seen his name floated around.

If Lake or SRice is picked though, we can be sure that they have the ear of the new president.