Next to guessing whom Mitt Romney will pick as his running mate, there’s no more delicious fruit on Washington’s tree of gossip than the identity of the next secretary of state. It remains a position of transcendent importance, especially in a new world where everyone seems to live and throw garbage in everyone else’s backyard.
Obama’s list centers on John Kerry
, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice
; and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon
. According to insiders, Obama is thinking Kerry would travel a lot and successfully, and interfere least with policymaking. Susan Rice’s blend of soft and hard line sits well in the Oval Office. Donilon is regarded as the wisest policy and political head.
The Republican contingent is somewhat elusive, because Romney’s attention has been on the primaries, and because his international experience mainly revolved around his key role in the 2002 Winter Olympics held in exotic Mormon Utah.
At seminal moments in American history, the secretary of state stepped forward to formulate the nation’s strategic path. The memorable strategists include George Marshall for President Truman, Henry Kissinger for Nixon, James Baker for George H.W. Bush. But for almost two decades now, policymaking power has been concentrated increasingly in the White House–under George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney and today very much in the controlling hands of Barack Obama. The secretaries do the diplomacy and the execution, but the policy is made in a very centralized manner in the Oval Office.
In fact, the American cognoscenti should be focusing much more on who will be the next treasury secretary than next secretary of state. In 21st-century international affairs, GDP counts more than military might in most situations. (Gelb, The Daily Beast)