Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Next Secretary of State: The Guessing Game Continues

The poll we have here on the next Secretary of State is running at 58% for Bill Richardson, 16% for Fareed Zakaria, 8% each for Lieberman, Negroponte and no opinion on the matter, and 0% for Lake and Holbrooke. But – I must say that when it comes to the search ranking at Diplopundit, Zakaria for Secretary of State is by far the most popular search term this past couple of weeks. I suddenly have more traffic from all over India. But in the universe of Washington, D.C. the chatter may have reached a crescendo this week with the released of what is purported to be a transition flowchart (PDF). In case you’re interested - for State, the flowchart lists Kerry, Holbrooke, Hagel, Nunn and Colin Powell, in that order.

Flowchart or not, I frankly don’t think we’ll get Richardson or Zakaria as 67th. And I’ll tell you why.

The reports that “the battle for America's top diplomatic post spilled into view Tuesday, as some Hispanic leaders made a public push to have President-elect Barack Obama name Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, as his secretary of state.” It further reports on the efforts of the NHLA:

“The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, an umbrella organization of 26 Hispanic groups, called on Mr. Obama to select Gov. Richardson, who endorsed Mr. Obama in March after dropping out of the Democratic race for president in January. Gov. Richardson, a Mexican-American, is a seasoned diplomat, having served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton. "By all accounts, Latinos were a key part of President-elect Obama's historic victory," said John TrasviƱa, the NHLA chairman, who is also general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Now, "Latinos have the talent and expertise to play a major role in governing at the cabinet level and throughout the federal agencies."

Of course, Richardson is not the only candidate listed in our SecState Sweeps who has very public supporters. Since September this year, the Draft Fareed! Helping Fareed Zakaria Become the Next Secretary of State website has been live, collecting signatures for a petition to the incoming president to hire Zakaria as the 67th Secretary of State.

The problem with this public petition or appeal is no one wants to be perceived as having capitulated to an external pressure, most especially the new leader of the free world. If you were in his shoes, would you like to appear as if your arms were twisted?

Whether the petition or appeal has any real impact is immaterial. The fact is perception is reality. If you are pushing your candidate really hard, you might think about backing off a bit. I think the surest way of killing your candidate’s chances of getting the keys to the 7th Floor is for this battle to get really public.

This was a campaign that ran and won on the platform of change. If the new administration bows to the Hispanic pressure or to any other group pressure in staffing the Secretary of State slot, wouldn’t that be payback just like the old days? And if a particular group succeeds in putting their candidate in office through a very public lobbying effort, what kind of payback would they expect from their chosen Secretary of State? See why that is problematic? I’m not saying that Obama’s election is going to put a stop to all these, after all this has been the practice in political horse-trading. But I’m looking forward to being surprised in November … or December…

Update of Diplopundit Poll (closed 11/15): Final results here as follows: Richardson 60%, Zakaria 17%, Lieberman, Negroponte, Can't Say at 7% each, Lake, Holbrooke, 0% each.

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T. Greer said...

The folks over at Real Clear World have their list up as well:

~T. Greer, with links

DS said...

Thanks TG.