Sunday, August 17, 2008

Secretary of State Sweepstakes

As Sunday talk shows are flooded with possible VPs for both tickets, political junkies start the next round of speculation--about the best Secretary of State to help the US repair its relations with the rest of the world.

In the Christian Science Monitor, its former editor John Hughes, who served as an Assistant Secretary under Reagan, gets the ball rolling with a rundown of possible choices for an Obama or McCain Administration.

After owning up to a prejudice for his former boss, George Shultz, now 87, Hughes gets more realistic by touting Robert Gates, the current Secretary of Defense as "an advocate of a strong military supplemented by vigorous 'soft power,' or public diplomacy, and economic aid. Remarkable for a secretary of Defense, he has argued that the State Department is under-budgeted and understaffed."

Runners-up are Dick Lugar and, raising some doubts about Hughes' judgment, Condoleeza Rice.

For Obama, if they don't get the VP nod, Joe Biden and Sam Nunn head a list that includes foreign policy advisors Susan Rice, Dennis Ross and Tony Lake, all with high-level State Department experience.

But perhaps the most intriguing possibility is former Rep. Lee Hamilton, 77, who earned bipartisan respect as co-chair of both the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group, one of the most universally admired politicians of his generation.

Once Dick Cheney vacates the VP office, the Secretary of State may very well revert to being the most influential member of an Administration facing challenges in every part of the world. Voters won't get to make that choice, but it's worth keeping in mind when they pick someone who does.

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