Friday, November 21, 2008


"I covered a secretary of state, one of the best, James A. Baker III, for four years, and one of the things I learned during those years was that what made Baker an effective diplomat was not only his own skills as a negotiator — a prerequisite for the job — but the fact that his boss, President George H.W. Bush, always had Baker’s back. When foreign leaders spoke with Baker, they knew that they were speaking to President Bush, and they knew that President Bush would defend Baker from domestic rivals and the machinations of foreign governments....

Our current president never cared about this, so neither of his secretaries of state were particularly effective. Rather than having Colin Powell’s back, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delighted in stabbing Powell in the back, particularly when he was on the road. But being close to the president is not enough. Condoleezza Rice had a close relationship with Bush, but Bush had no coherent worldview to animate her diplomacy, so all her travels added up to less than the sum of their miles. The two most impactful secretaries of state in the last 50 years were Baker and Henry Kissinger. Both were empowered by their presidents, and both could candidly talk back to their presidents".

"Madam Secretary?" by Thomas Friedman, 18 November A. D. 2008, in

Thomas Friedman, who I will openly admit I do not like very much, nor have a very high opinion of, for once gets it about right. And, while I do not have as high an opinion of the junior Senator from New York's talents as he appears to do, we both agree for once, that she would not make the best pick for Secretary of State. And, who you might ask would? Well, I would say that probably the best qualified individual for the position is of course Richard Holbrooke. As I have made clear on another of occasions. Followed in no particular order by Strobe Talbott, Richard Armitage, Robert Zoelleck, Nicholas Burns. It is not that I necessarily agree with everything that these gentlemen do, have done in the past, nor may do in the future. I just believe that based upon their track records, they possess the requisite skill base, talents, and experience to be the very next Secretary of State. Senator Clinton, unfortunately does not come even close. No doubt she is better, then professional Congressional windbags, like Richard Lugar and Joseph Biden. She is probably not as qualified, nor be as good at the position, as say former or current Senators as ex-Vice-President Albert Gore or Senator John Kerry. The upshot of any tenure by Clinton as Secretary of State will be something all to akin to the last three, none too impressive holders of the office: Albright, Powell and Rice. All came to the position with considerable public renown and acclaim (known today unfortunately by the vulgar expression as 'star power'). None of them can be said to have done particularly well in the office, much less enhanced their reputations. With the key difference that whoever will occupy the position knows (or should know) that, the USA is in a much weaker position today than in either 1997, 2001 or 2005. Hardly a situation in which to appoint someone whose practical experience of diplomacy and foreign relations is practically nil.

The only rationale for foisting the junior Senator from New York on the rather slender necks of the American foreign service is that: a) the incoming American administration wants a potentially dangerous critic, out of the way and effectively neutralized; b) by giving her the far from easy, foreign policy assignment, the ex-junior Senator from Illinois, may perhaps be thinking of allowing his former rival to shoulder all of the many potential pitfalls and problems which it would appear that any incoming American Secretary of State will have to deal with. Rather than have a political eunuch, like say Anthony Lake, who everyone will know is merely the creature of the man in the White House, making Senator Clinton Secretary of State will obviously eliminate this danger entirely. However in the latter case we will have someone who attitude towards her underlinings in the department will consist in: "she will role in with a coterie of aides and tyrannize the place" ("Yes She Can", by Jacob Heilbrunn, 19 November 2008, in

Perhaps I am a bit old-fashioned, but, I do not believe that the once august office of Secretary of State, is something to be used as a consolation prize, or alternatively a booby trap for ones political enemies. Unfortunately, I appear to be rather isolated in my opinion of this matter.


At 11:26 AM, Anonymous GregRLawson said...

I agree with your sentiment about Richard Holbrooke being the most qualified person for the position of Secretary of State. Senator Clinton is talented and may prove more successful than might appear at first blush, but it does appear as a bit of a surprise.

I would be curious as to your thoughts on my blog as well as I believe we share similar interests and views...


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