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Never Mind the Veepstakes--Who's Next As Secretary of State?


Whoever takes over for Condoleezza Rice is likely to still have Vladimir Putin to deal with. (AP).

The news out of Moscow yesterday suggested that the next president is still going to have Vladimir Putin to contend with. So who will be advising that president how to handle an increasingly assertive, authoritarian leader of a resurgent Russia once Soviet scholar Condoleezza Rice packs up her office at Foggy Bottom?

That's the question already rippling through the foreign policy establishment in Washington. Never mind the fact that not a single vote has yet been cast to decide the nominees for president. Forget the usual veepstakes that typically follow the resolution of the primaries. Some in the professional talking class are already debating who might be the next secretary of state.

Perhaps that should be no surprise in an era when international relations seem so paramount in our national life. The next secretary of state, after all, will have some enormous challenges waiting for him or her beyond just Putin -- rebuilding American prestige abroad while confronting Islamic jihadism, tackling the intractible Israeli-Palestinian dispute, unwinding Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, stopping further bloodshed in Darfur, and so on.

And so the parlor games have begun. The most active speculators are sitting over at the Center for U.S. Global Engagement, where they have already put together a list of who they see as the leading contenders in both parties. What's more, they want you to play along -- send in your own nominations by tomorrow, the center says, and it will post the results of its survey.

For its possible candidates, the center runs through campaign advisers to the various candidates as well as unaffiliated party greybeards. On the Democratic side, it names former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, former national security adviser Sandy Berger and former Agency for International Development director Brian Atwood (all currently advising New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton); former national security adviser Tony Lake, former assistant secretary of state Susan Rice and former State Department policy and planning chief Greg Craig (advising Illinois Sen. Barack Obama ); and former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott, former senator Sam Nunn (Ga.) and former congressman Lee Hamilton, who co-chaired both the Sept. 11 investigation commission and the Iraq Study Group.

The names it floats for the Republican side include former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage (advising Arizona Sen. John McCain), former U.N. ambassador John Bolton (advising former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani), former congressman Vin Weber (Minn.), Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and former CIA counterterrorism chief Cofer Black (advising former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney) and former Senate majority leader Howard Baker (Tenn.), former assistant secretary of state Liz Cheney, Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and World Bank President Robert Zoellick

Some of those names can rather easily be crossed off the list, of course. No way Berger, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking classified documents from the National Archives and was disbarred earlier this year, ever wins Senate confirmation to anything again. And for that matter, Bolton was enough of a firebrand that he could not win confirmation as U.N. ambassador from a Republican Senate and served only as a recess appointment. It's also a little hard at this point to imagine Baker returning to public life when he would be 83 or Liz Cheney being elevated to such a high post.

Still, it's an interesting starting point. Some on the list are known to have harbored desire to be the nation's chief diplomat for a long time, such as Holbrooke, Negroponte and Zoellick. And some of the Democratic candidates now on stage with Clinton and Obama might be logical candidates. As The Trail's secretary of politics, Dan Balz, noted recently, Sen. Joe Biden (Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is asked regularly whether he is really running for secretary of state. He brushed it off when Tim Russert posed the question earlier this year on NBC's "Meet the Press," but the logic is easy to see. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador who has negotiated with some of the baddest of bad guys around the world, would be an obvious candidate as well.

On the Republican side, it's harder to envision many of the also-rans in Foggy Bottom. Some discuss McCain as a possibility and it's true he is a sharp negotiator who reaches across ideological lines in the Senate, but on the other hand, he's not especially known for being diplomatic. More people see him as secretary of defense if he does not win, although he does not seem like the sort to want to work for someone else. California Rep. Duncan Hunter's hometown newspaper speculated when he joined the Republican presidential contest that he might really be setting himself up to be defense secretary in the next administration. And our Pentagon colleague Tom Ricks last week speculated that three leading Democratic candidates for defense secretary would be former defense secretary John Hamre, former Navy secretary Richard Danzig and Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.).

None of the candidates, of course, is talking about potential cabinet selections yet. But George W. Bush in 2000 went out of his way to hint that he would pick Colin L. Powell as his secretary of state, a way of reassuring voters that he would surround himself with seasoned figures. And it's not unusual to try to build coalitions by promising top positions to defeated primary rivals. Maybe former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who has made health care such an important part of his campaign, could be secretary of health and human services. Or former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who lost 120 pounds and no longer eats food that, as he puts it, did not exist a century ago, could be head of the president's physical fitness council.

And then again, there are people running you may not ever want to see in your Cabinet or anywhere else for that matter. McCain was asked by our former colleague Jim VandeHei during a debate earlier this year if he would make Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), the anti-immigration crusader, head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. McCain had a simple and direct answer: "In a word, no."

-- Peter Baker

Posted at 10:56 AM ET on Oct 2, 2007  | Category:  Morning Cheat Sheet
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Response to:
Article 5, Section 3110 of the United States Code, however, does prohibit federal officials from appointing family members to certain governmental posts, including seats on the Cabinet. Passed in 1967, the law is apparently a response to John F. Kennedy's appointment of Robert F. Kennedy to the post of Attorney General of the United States. Thus, if Hillary Clinton is elected president in 2008, Bill Clinton will be unable to serve in her cabinet.

Bill, a great arm chair president. He is best served as the advisor to the president, if hillary is elected.

But, she'd never take his advice and he'd never be at home. He and Rodham do not get along well for more than 24 hours.

Billary is itching to be president and trying to figure out how to do get rid of Bill in the process. What a pair.

Then there is former president, run the gas prices up and let Tehran keep US citizen hostage for several months, Carter who, incidentally, sold the Panama Canal to China. Yeh, the world loves and respects these men, but most of the world does not have democracy, religious freedom, womens rights, etc. So why is the world's opinion of the US that important to us when most are the antithesis of what our nation stands for.

This same "world" is the crowd who cheered when they heard that the World Trade Center was struck on 9/11/01 as well as the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. In fact there were many who would wnat us to believe that someohow those who died in the tragic set of circumstances somehow deserved to die. What a warped sense of the value of lives.

So, if these are your heros, if these men are the best America has to offer as ambassadors of "good will," all the rest of the world will think of the U. S. is that we condone the BS these two idiots practiced and accomplished while they were in office that will long out live their life times: like Travel gate, Monica, Panama Canal, Gas Prices more than quadrupled, Iranian Hostages, the USS Cole, attempted twin towers underground bombing, Kosovo, Bosnia (done by Christmas 1996 but we are still there 11 years later), blah, blah, blah....

They are your heroes?

No thanks. I'll take our current president who keeps his pants on, doesn't sell our national interests to the lowest bidder, has integrity, loves people, believes in American ingenuity, stands up to the nay sayers when he knows he is right and doesn't apologize for doing the right thing.

He is a man of action, character, virtue, and quality.

God Bless our President!

Posted by: daniel.t.williams | November 1, 2007 8:37 AM

n2avalon | October 11, 2007 02:52 PM

Hard to believe that someone would actually believe that a bureaucratic government would be able to help it's poeple get quality health care. You said it yourself with the terms, "autopilot," "lame duck," etc, describing your beloved government. This is your government not your answer to every social problem.
Get a clue and if you are really concerned about health care vote, lobby, do something, but please do not expect the US Government to solve this issue.

APFT MAX

Posted by: daniel.t.williams | November 1, 2007 8:13 AM

I don't care much for any of the Presidential candidates. None of them have a vision of where we are or where we are going. If the voters get it wrong again and we end up with another 8 year nightmare we all lose and the world will be worse off than it is now. I personally think that no one person is smart enough to be presdent of the United States unless they are a genius and none are running. I wonder if our government is on auto pilot? Every one seems to be out on the campaign trail or fund raising or a lame duck. We will never have universal health care either reguardless of what the Hill says because the for profit insurance companies would lose money. Their scare tactics of long lines or not being able to get care should be DOA by now. I just don't get it and I'm really tired of being threatened by big money, that on our backs have big yachts and 6 month vacations, all the while crying about taxes. If we put them on the soup line or emergency rooms for health care then they would feel the real pain and not be too concerned about their bank accounts. And don't get me started on the lobbiest.

Posted by: n2avalon | October 11, 2007 2:52 PM

For State, on the basis of ability and past experience, Hulbrooke or Negroponte. Brain power, not name recognition is more important.


I would like to see Schumer as majority leader in the Senate. Or the senior senator from Illinois.

For other cabinet posts, depending on the dept, I'd consider Dodd, Kennedy, Emmanuel, and Frank.

Posted by: gltjdl_99 | October 8, 2007 8:51 PM

Sen Joe Biden is the obvious and best choice for Sec of State and Governor Elliot spitzer wiould be great as AG .. soooo many great choices to fill the cabinet and use bill clinton as a ambassador of good will to travel globally restoring the US good name that bush ran through the mud during his tenure... open the bottle of champagne because because january 20, 2009 is coming soon... a new president and a fresh start..... boy do we ever need it !!!

Posted by: delgirl27 | October 8, 2007 4:57 PM

Wow the usual suspects for the Rapublicans. Tiem to drain the swamp and change the water! Of course teh Democratic pool seems awfuly shallow too.

Posted by: Elvis1 | October 8, 2007 4:05 PM

General Clark would be the best Secretary of State; although Richardson would be a very good choice as well.

Posted by: jsquires | October 8, 2007 4:03 PM

Richardson S.of S.
Edwards H. and HS
Spitzer A.G.
What a great start!

Posted by: wgetz | October 8, 2007 3:53 PM

THE BEST' MAN FOR THE JOB, IS BILL CLINTON. OR JIMMY CARTER; THEY ARE
THE ONLY 2 MAN IN AMERICA, THAT CAN
BE BELEIVE, AFTER [ BUSH ] AND HIS
HAND MAID' MONICA RICE ] IT WILL BE
HARD FOR AMERICA TO GET IT'S RESPECT
BACK; IF OBAMA WAE ELECTED IT WOULD
BE AL SHARPTON; SO DO YOU WANT HIM
AS PRESIDENT' IF A REPUBLICAN WAS TO
GET IT' IT WOULD BE POOR OLD JOHN''

Posted by: rugman | October 8, 2007 3:01 PM

Article 5, Section 3110 of the United States Code, however, does prohibit federal officials from appointing family members to certain governmental posts, including seats on the Cabinet. Passed in 1967, the law is apparently a response to John F. Kennedy's appointment of Robert F. Kennedy to the post of Attorney General of the United States. Thus, if Hillary Clinton is elected president in 2008, Bill Clinton will be unable to serve in her cabinet.

Posted by: 2sense | October 8, 2007 2:49 PM

Federal law says a family member can not be a cabinet member, huh. Well, how about this scenario. Hillary doesn't need Big Bill once she is elected. How about a quickie divorce. She is free of the great philanderer and he is free to become a cabinet member (also free to pursue his amoral adventures)

Posted by: biteoh | October 8, 2007 2:44 PM

Bill Richardson seems to me to be the best choice at State. How about Richard Clarke at Homeland Security and Richard Holbrook at Defense? Works for me.

Posted by: leenfola | October 8, 2007 2:43 PM

If a Democrat wins then Bill Richardson or Joseph Biden would be the obvious choice. Richard Holbrooke or Sandy Berger would face confirmation problems unless the Republicans lose a lot of Senate seats in the upcoming elections.

I think Richardson has better people skills than Biden. It would be hard to imagine someone like Vladimir Putin submitting to a long-winded lecture by Biden.

Whoever wins, I don't look for them to incorporate former rivals, with the possible exception of Richardson, into their administration.

Posted by: danielhancock | October 3, 2007 10:58 PM

Secretary of State under the Democrat Candidate-Sen Joe Biden of Delaware, Secretary of Defense-Sam Nunn or Wesley Clark, Attorney General Governor Spitzer of New York-Bill Clinton for UN Ambassador, after discontinuing the position as Cabinet level.

Secretary of State under the Republican Candidate-Best Candidate is ironically,Mike Hukabee, who is developing a good image, excellent repartee for issues and has a nice folks appeal to balance any of the Republican Presidents, Most logical candidate would be Richard Luger Since I believe each of the Republican hopefuls in the lead would be their own Sec of State. Secretary of Defense-Adm Mullen-Ch of Joint Chiefs, Atty General-Arlen Spector to bring back confidence in the office.


Posted by: davidmartin01 | October 3, 2007 8:31 PM

Secretary of State John Bolton. Great. I wouldn't want the guy running my Dunkin Donuts; Rudy's willing to let him run foreign policy?

Posted by: howlless | October 3, 2007 2:46 PM

As much as the Democrats want Bill Clinton back in the White House, there is a federal law prohibiting a family member of the president to hold any Cabinet post.
State Dept is out for Old Bill.

Now if Condi Rice is the next VP in 2008, she will have the world stage to deal with Russia. (The Democrats would hate the idea of her as VP, afraid that she would take away votes from women and African-Americans in the 2008 race.)

Christopher Hill, Nick Burns, and others are career diplomats, having served during the Clinton Adm as well. Richard Holbrooke is not likely, since Hillary needs to step out of her husband's shadow and get on her own 2 feet.
Dragging Holbrooke into her White House would be like dragging Kissinger back into the "43" White House.

Posted by: dbu2709399aolcom | October 3, 2007 1:47 PM

As much as the Democrats want Bill Clinton back in the White House, there is a federal law prohibiting a family member of the president to hold any Cabinet post.
State Dept is out for Old Bill.

Now if Condi Rice is the next VP in 2008, she will have the world stage to deal with Russia. (The Democrats would hate the idea of her as VP, afraid that she would take away votes from women and African-Americans in the 2008 race.)

Christopher Hill, Nick Burns, and others are career diplomats, having served during the Clinton Adm as well. Richard Holbrooke is not likely, since Hillary needs to step out of her husband's shadow and get on her own 2 feet.
Dragging Holbrooke into her White House would be like dragging Kissinger back into the "43" White House.

Posted by: dbu2709399aolcom | October 3, 2007 1:47 PM

Joe Biden is the only choice for Sec'y of State and Edwards should be the Attorney General, if he is not the fall back Dem candidate.

Posted by: jallison1 | October 3, 2007 1:32 PM

On another note, it is interesting that this President would veto $35 billion over five years for the health of the children of the United States of America (their parents taxes); while requesting $190 billion in one year for Iraq. He must not have it. Charity begins at home - Veto Bush's war request.

Posted by: cedric.king | October 3, 2007 12:37 PM

Bill Clinton at State
Barack Obama as VP
Mitt Romney to oversee Social Security reform
John Edwards - Health & Human Services

Posted by: cedric.king | October 3, 2007 12:34 PM

Bill Clinton at State. Biden at Defense. Obama #2 on the ticket.

Posted by: Seneca1 | October 3, 2007 12:01 PM

While Shrub Bush & Darth Cheney and their neocon Zionists export 'democracy' by bloody violent illegal means to Iraq, Shrub's good buddy "Vladuhmurr" re-institutes totalitarian fascist nationalism and reignites the cold war (that never actually went away -- the repugneocons just LIED that it did).

And Condi Rice has overseen disasters and incompetencies not only there but with North Korea, the middle east, our ex-allies and worst of all, she ignored the warning signs and serious threat of Al Qaeda from the moment Bush entered the White House -- thus FAILING TO PREVENT THE PREVENTABLE: 9/11.

Yeah, she's really accomplished quite a bit alright - just nothing to be proud of.

Posted by: andfurthermore1 | October 3, 2007 10:34 AM

Many Canadians are as interested in the U.S. federal elections, as they are in Canadian elections. My wife and I sit up on election night, until the "last dog is hung".
Many Canadians that I talk to about the Presidential race agree that the best package would be Hillary and Barrack. Two terms as VP would see Barrack in line for two following terms as Pres. (Imagine..the first woman president, and the first black president...what a team).
With Condy held over (I know, she is from a different party, but...) and her multi knowledge of the people in power on the other side of the water....! Wow!

Posted by: pranson | October 3, 2007 9:17 AM

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