Who should be the next Secretary of State?

Introduced: November 07 2012

If Secretary of State Clinton keeps her resolve to step down, who do you think President Obama should select?


Note From IWD: "Weigh-Ins" are no longer an active feature on IWD. Our members expressed a preference for longer dialogues. The content of the previous Weigh-Ins remains on the site for your enjoyment and enlightenment. 

Member Responses

Note from IWD: Before we report results of the weigh-in on the NEXT Secretary of State, we think it's fitting to mention that the CURRENT Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has just received an all-time favorability rating from Americans. In a Washington Post/ABC poll released December 5, 66% of Americans approve of her job performance. IWD members have commented on Secretary Clinton in the past, noting her capabilities, her perseverance and her work ethic. If you're interested in reading more, use these links.



In the Post/ABC survey, 66% of women, including 75% of those under 50, say they would like to see her run for President in 2016. So, we shall see...


Here are the people IWD members mentioned for Secretary of State, listed in order according to how many times each person was named:

Senator John Kerry

Ambassador Susan Rice, United States Ambassador to the United Nations

Jon Huntsman, former Ambassador to China, former Governor of Utah, former Republican Presidential candidate.

Tom Donilon, current National Security Advisor

Former President Bill Clinton

Samantha Powers, Senior Director at the National Security Council.

Chuck Hagel, Former Nebraska Senaor

Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and retired four-star general

William Burns, currently Under Secretary of State

Donald Trump (this has to be a joke, right?)

Note from IWD: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears adamant about her decision to step down when her current term ends in January, yet she is working to the very end. The situation in Syria and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict have her traveling and negotiating at full strength. Since taking on responsibilities as Secretary of State, she has visited at least 111 countries and traveled millions of miles representing our country.

Some of your comments about possible successors:

The natural choice is John Kerry. He’s chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, as such, has played a very active role in traveling abroad and meeting the leaders of many countries. He’s been especially involved as a special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. I’ve read that a possible concern (political) is that if he vacates his Senate seat, a special election will be called and if Massachusetts elects a Republican to that seat, it reduces the number of Democrats in the Senate.

At the time Secretary Clinton was appointed, there was talk that John Kerry would have been named if she had refused. He’s been a good soldier and served well in his capacity representing the U.S. when asked to do so, and this may be his time.

John Kerry. Why would Obama pass over such an obvious choice? – well-qualified and non-controversial.

If a country that causes us trouble wants someone to be appointed – should that be a vote for them or against them? A  source in Russia’s foreign ministry supposedly expressed a preference for John Kerry over Susan Rice, saying that Rice is “too ambitious and aggressive.”

If we didn’t know much about Susan Rice before the Benghazi event, we certainly are familiar with her now. I would be interested in knowing more about how she performed as U.N. Ambassador. Is she skilled in global relationships – or is she merely a trusted and longtime ally of our President?

Note from IWD: Before becoming a senior foreign policy adviser to the Obama election campaign in 2008, Susan Rice was the senior director of the National Security Council’s Africa desk in the Clinton White House and became the top State Department official for Africa. Significant steps she has taken in the U.N. include persuading China and Russia to agree to Security Council sanctions against North Korea, pushing for the U.S. to rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council, and setting a tone of engagement. She graduated from Stanford and attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She is married to Ian Cameron, a producer of the TV show This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and they have two children.

An article describing her career in more detail http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/27/politics/susan-rice-profile/index.html

More information about her life and career and a live interview http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ambassador-susan-rice-benghazi-secretary-state-nominee-powerful/story?id=17821774#.UL4RRVKhBak

An article on Susan Rice written before the Libyan controversy http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/22/world/22rice.html?ref=susanerice


With so many in Congress who are uncomfortable with the way Susan Rice handled briefings after the death of Americans in Benghazi, can’t President Obama find another suitable person? Sometimes the spirit of bipartisanship starts with respecting the views of others – and trying to find a win-win solution in another direction.

It seems that everybody in public office has baggage. Tom Donilon acquired a a lot of experience through his post as the Secretary of State’s chief of staff under President Bill Clinton. For example, he played a major role in negotiating the agreement that ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  But he also served as in-house counsel to Fannie Mae. According to Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s Wars, Donilon was previously passed over in consideration for deputy secretary of state because Obama’s advisors thought he might have confirmation problems. Elephants never forget and neither do donkeys.

William Burns is not well-known, but he has good credentials. He’s the highest ranking career foreign service office and has been Ambassador to Jordan and Russia.

The Secretary of State has to be well-recognized throughout the world. The prestige of the U.S. often begins with the person representing us. Unfortunately, for well qualified, but little known people, they have to start almost from scratch.

Note from IWD: This opinion has been expressed by others, including Andrew Schwartz, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who said, "Star power is important in this position. It's very difficult to follow someone as well liked and capable as Hillary Clinton with the kind of presence she has globally.”

Former President Bill Clinton is back in the game. In fact, he never left. He has managed to stay involved at the highest level and to become a dominating presence on every stage – domestic and worldwide. Would he ever do it if asked? It is even legal for a former President to assume a position that, in the case of very unlikely circumstances, could put him back in the White House?

Note from IWD: That’s a question with a complex answer and probably still open to interpretation. According to the 22nd Amendment, Bill Clinton is ineligible for election to a third term as President. But he is elegible to serve as Secretary of State. The laws of succession state that, if the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and President pro tempore of the Senate all become incapacitated, the Secretary of State is next in line. However, the Presidential Succession Act says that Cabinet members who are, for whatever reason, ineligible to serve as President, should be bypassed in the succession line-up. That means the presidency would skip to the Secretary of Treasury.

I would have proposed General Davie Petraeus…but not now.