Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Who should be Obama’s Secretary of State?

Posted by sanityinjection on November 7, 2008

I think Obama has made good choices with his two staff picks so far – Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff and Robert Gibbs for press secretary. I personally loathe Emanuel (and there are Democrats who do too) but he’s extremely capable, and he will undoubtedly be as loyal to Obama as he was to the Clintons when he worked for them. Gibbs comes from Obama’s Senate Office and was the official in charge of Obama’s campaign plane; he knows Washington, knows the reporters, and can be trusted. His nice-but-firm demeanor plays well with the press.

Now speculation is focusing on perhaps the most prominent appointment a new President makes. The position of Secretary of State is considered the most powerful in the Cabinet, though that’s not always the case.  It’s an especially significant position for Obama’s Administration given his lack of experience in foreign affairs.

Politico.com speculates on a number of possible candidates whose names are being tossed about. I don’t think any of them is the best choice, for a number of reasons. First of all, the last thing Obama wants to do is diminish the Democrats’ majority in the Senate. For this reason, I think that he is unlikely to name any Democrat Senators as appointees, unless they were going to retire anyway. That should rule out Senator John Kerry as well as Senator Jim Webb. Nor do I think he is likely to choose a Republican legislator such as Dick Lugar or Chuck Hagel. To the extent that Obama has common ground with these men, they can be more helpful to him in the Senate, again looking to build toward a filibuster-proof majority coalition of 60 Senators.

Richard Holbrooke is an experienced diplomat with a strong reputation in the international community. But as the article notes, he was a Clinton supporter, and when you recall the “3 AM phone call ads”, it’s hard to see a cozy relationship developing there.

I think the most likely choice of those mentioned in the article is Governor Bill Richardson. Richardson was quick to back Obama when his primary race was still very much in the air, and it’s almost certain he will be rewarded with some sort of appointment. He’s been Ambassador to the United Nations and served in the Clinton Cabinet as Secretary of Energy. My main objection to Richardson is that he’s a slimeball who won’t hesitate to say that 2+2=5. But that may not be a disadvantage at the State Department. Fundamentally, though, Richardson is the consummate insider which doesn’t fit in with Obama’s “change” mantra.

Another person Obama may look at is Colin Powell. Although Powell served as Bush’s first Secretary of State, it’s clear that after endorsing Obama he’s a RINO (Republican in Name Only.) I think, though, that Powell is too closely associated with the drive to go to war in Iraq – his appointment would infuriate Obama’s left-wing base.

The irony is that the best candidate for the job would be Senator Joe Lieberman, but clearly there is no chance of that happening. Thus, I think that the best choice for Obama for Secretary of State would be General Wesley Clark. Although I don’t like Clark, he has a lot of experience dealing with our European alllies during the Bosnian war. His anti-Iraq war bona fides are fuzzy, but good enough. He was a Clinton supporter, but he campaigned for Obama after the primary was over. I think Clark represents the ideal combination of experience without being seen as a Washington insider. Still, I bet Richardson or Holbrooke will get it.

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5 Responses to “Who should be Obama’s Secretary of State?”

  1. sanityinjection said

    Alternatively, Obama could also tap Clark for Secretary of Defense. I think he’s unlikely to retain current Secretary Robert Gates despite the excellent job he’s done, again because of the need to show “change”. The ideal SecDef for Obama would be Senator Carl Levin, but again Obama needs every Democrat he can get in the Senate.

  2. MAWC said

    Selectingg Kerry would not deminish the Democratic majority in the Senate. Mass. is Democratic and the Governor could easily change the rules to allow him to appoint another Democrat. And, even if there was an election a Republican really wouldn’t stand a chance against any Democrat.
    Richardson is ok, but he really came on board late, did a lousy job in the Presidental debates when discussing foreign policy and just isn’t as strong a candiate as Kerry would be.
    I think it should be Kerry who has the most well rounded resume and has a close friendship an shares the same opinions on foreign policy as Obama does.

  3. sanityinjection said

    Now the buzz has turned to Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. I actually think Hillary would make a very capable Secretary of State – she’s smart and is not prone to gaffes, and knows how the game is played. However, I don’t know why the Dems would want to put a Senate seat up for grabs right now. Obama also doesn’t want a Cabinet member who could potentially outshine him. So I’m betting against the Hill-meister.

  4. Vigilante said

    Sanityinjection, it’s not considered politically correct to put ex-military in as Sec. of Defense. Wes Clark was my favorite Veep candidate, which I blogged about into oblivion, so it’s natural that I favor him has Secretary of State.

  5. sanityinjection said

    Good point, Vigilante. However, given that Obama, as Commander in Chief, has zero military experience, I don’t think most people would be concerned that civilian control of the military is likely to be threatened under an Obama Administration. If anyone could get away with breaking this taboo, it would be the candidate of “Change”.

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