Just a moments after Barack Obama finished his victory speech and moved to the backstage to celebrate with closest team media attention was shifted towards other important issues and one of them is Hillary Clinton successor at the State Department. For months Secretary Clinton at home and during her travels around the world and talks about intention to step down as soon as her successor is confirmed by US Senate. Since then she did a whole range of world wide visits sending conciliatory messages, also sending some kind of farewell messages at the end of long term career in which she occupied some of the most important state and federal positions. While I’m inclined to be suspicious about her intentions not to continue working at the State Department, due to her previous flip-flops on possible runs and early retirements, here are few of my thoughts on possible candidates to replace her.
So far just three of them come up, on so called short list, with their advantages and disadvantages to be named to the position of the Secretary of State. US Ambassador to UN and close friend to the President, Susan Rice, long-term US Senator and a friend to the Vice-President Biden, John Kerry and latest addition to this list is former Ambassador and Gov. John Huntsman.Let’s just say that Huntsman is good candidate, would be sign that Obama wants to work across the party lines, but it’s really unlikely that he would be chosen or placed on the short list. All above are more than qualified to be named to the top US diplomatic position, but each of them has a specific reason why should not be named at it.
Susan Rice: Open, experienced and stubborn
Obama’s envoy to the UN is well known as very open straightforward diplomat who already served in Clinton’s administration as part of the National Security Staff. She’s very close and confident friend to the President and was one of the crucial members of his team during first presidential run. Today while she works at the United Nations many are supportive to her efforts to move ahead Syrian case, praising her work during the Arab Spring events as part of positive elements of her work. Also the White House staff and people close to Obama foreign policy team are describing Rice as one of the strongest Obama advocates on the very important issue of Iran and its nuclear program, and crippling sanctions against Khamenei’s regime in Tehran. One of her advantages could be devotion to resolution of problems in front of her and will to work tirelessly until those are not put away.
On the other side she’s in media trouble due to very badly holding of Benghazi situation and first reactions on it. While many in US administration are expressing positive opinions about Ambassador, foreign representatives are not so positive or let’s say eager to see her in State Department headquarters. Rice is widely known as stubborn and unmoving, often very personal in discussions with her fellow UN colleagues. It’s widely remembered her discussion with her Russian counterpart, UN veteran, Vitaly Churkin during Libyan crisis and search for resolution of Gadhafi future which didn’t left much space for positive cooperation in future. Almost as soon as her name emerged as one of possible candidates Russian diplomats spoke to media and basically send message to Obama that if he wants to keep and improve relations with Moscow to chose someone else not Rice.
John Kerry: Rich, fighter, respected
Kerry would be probably the best choice to be named to replace Secretary Clinton because he has extensive military, political and foreign affairs experience, also one run for US President when he lost to G.W. Bush. He’s one of the richest people in US and he’s richest US Senator, who sits at the Foreign Relations Committee as chairman since 2009 when his friend and then chairman Joe Biden become Vice-President. For last quarter century Kerry represents state of Massachusetts in US Senate showing his ability to work with different people and political views due to large voter Republican population in his home state while he’s representing Democrats.
Kerry is well known as anti-war Senator, someone who often come in fight with Republican colleagues on issues of Iraq, Libya, and one of the longest disputed regarding Af-Pak region. Over that time he established good relationship with foreign representatives and in moments when you need a strong candidate to replace a strong Secretary of State Kerry would have easiest task to continue good work. Some Russian and other officials openly asked Obama to think about Kerry and name him as his nominee.
Problem for him is not on the foreign side of affairs, its at home in US Senate or better in his home state of Massachusetts. Well known fact is that during last Senate race his Democratic colleague Elizabeth Warren won and got elected more with luck than with clear political advantage ahead of fmr Sen. Brown. Naming Kerry to the position of Secretary of State would weaken Democrats in Senate, and would open a space for Republicans to have experienced voice as fmr Sen. Brown back at the floor. So in a case of Sen. Kerry Obama will have a really hard job to decide either to have another big worry regarding legislature side or to have a strong Secretary of State. And even bigger trouble would be to find enough experienced Senator to replace him as the chairman of Foreign Relations Committee which is one of the most influential and important parliamentary committees in the world, well able to shape future foreign policy of US and to have impact on partners world wide.