Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama's Secretary of State

                                           Secretary of State Clinton

On the journey to and from Ohio, we listened to 'Team of Rivals' which is now the zeitgeist book of the political cognoscenti. When I first backed Obama in October 2006 I argued that at worst he would be Reagan (gifting us a transformed electoral map - check), he could well be Kennedy (and inspire a new generation to public service - looking good) and at best he could be Lincoln (let's talk in 50 years).

Obama as Lincoln is possible, but is Hillary really Seward?

Lincoln's Secretary of State was his greatest rival for the 1860 Republican nomination was indeed a New York Senator once thought as destined for White House who was eclipsed at the eleventh hour by a come-from-nowhere Illinois rival. I can already hear Doris Kearns Goodwin's shorthand scribblings!

I have some serious concerns about Senator Clinton in the position of senior cabinet officer: her management record during the campaign was horrific, her gaffes were often foreign policy related (from landing under fire to bringing peace to Northern Ireland) and the Bill factor in terms of deeply dodgy Kazak deals and dubious donations (albeit for great causes) should in and of itself provide pause for grave reflection.

Still, perhaps she would shine in a position that gives her a spotlight, removes her from domestic politics and allows her to genuinely broker peace deals and face down tyrants - I don't think anyone doubts who would win an Ahmadinajad/Hillary show down! She's also a better choice then Richardson who gave exemplary service as global envoy and UN Ambassador (if ever there was a man made for the haggling of international diplomacy at the world's greatest bazaar it was Bill) but his 'running' of the Energy Department and Ryan Lizza's primary season character assassination should rule him out.

Kerry would be a decent choice. "Knows the game" (as Halberstam might have said), respects Obama, is respected in turn by many international leaders. Al Giordano makes a strong case for him as the 'no drama' choice. He'd also be a worthy successor to Secretary Rice in sartorial terms.

Still, my own preference is for Dick Lugar, senior Senator from Indiana and ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Lugar and Obama have a strong relationship. Lugar and Biden have a strong relationship. Lugar has the right instincts on matters of America's moral leadership role, nuclear proliferation and Darfur. What's more, a Republican at State would probably mean a Democrat at Defence - especially as I worry about the wisdom of keeping Gates on in even a short term capacity (more on that soon).

So, to sum up, I'd like Lugar best although I doubt it'll be him. I'd prefer Kerry over Hillary but would settle for Hillary over Richardson. That said, I think now it will be Hillary and so Doris' scribblings shan't be in vain.

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