Through the back door, speculation about who will follow Hillary at State has begun in earnest.
First was John Kerry, the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and, in many ways, a person ideally qualified for the post by experience, temperament, and proximity to the president. He is also globally well-known after his presidential run in 2004. For several reasons his name so far has been shunted aside, in part because of the risk that the just defeated Scott Brown, who showed strength in trying to hold the Kennedy seat, might just grab the vacancy. Then, Kerry’s name surfaced again for Defense, which is strange because the same problem exists whether it is State or any other cabinet post. Perhaps Obama prefers him as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee?
Next up: Susan Rice, current Ambassador to the United Nations. Rice, however, may have deflated her own trial balloon when she went on the Sunday talk shows to carry the “official” administration line on the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. Whether or not she was purposely sacrificed to blunt problems of who knew what, when in this simmering dispute for blame purposes, the performance was an embarrassment all around and she has been beaten up pretty hard by McCain and others. The president, as he should have, aggressively came to her defense and in a manner both extraordinary and highly paternal, basically said if and when Rice became his choice for State, he would not be deterred by the loud voices. Things have calmed since, despite a recent “mea culpa” appearance on the talk shows that was roundly scorned by Republicans eager to draw blue blood after the red hemorrhage of the election, and she is looking more likely at the moment. In the meanwhile, one can hear murmurs of discontent about Rice’s age, experience, gravitas and temperament. Still, she is surely a serious candidate.
So who else? Some wish Dick Holbrook was still around. Others scratch their heads trying to come up with qualified names without falling back on the age old habit of identifying a grey/white-haired lawyer, professor, banker man. The list does not go on and on and is pretty sparse at the moment.
So why not try the purloined letter approach?
The right person is there not only under the president’s nose but virtually in the same house. That man is extremely well known and respected around the globe, outstandingly qualified and experienced in foreign affairs and has been dying for the job and probably would have swapped places with Hilary in a heartbeat, if given a chance earlier in the year. The only “problem” is that person is the vice president.
Why is that a problem? No vice president in history has served simultaneously as a cabinet officer (despite what all agree is a wealth of free time for the incumbent in the position). As far as I have been able to determine, however, there is no clear and obvious constitutional, legal or even practical reason why it can’t be done, and the best argument against it — simply that it’s never been done before — is as flimsy as Republican assertions that the administration, and not the House-imposed cuts in consulate security, is to blame for the tragedy in Benghazi. Among other smaller side benefits, such a “twofer” would save the Executive Branch quite a bit of money by combining the two jobs together. One salary, not two; one airplane, not two; probably some fewer in staff overall. A great example for the president to set!
Biden would make a superb Secretary of State. He deserves the opportunity. He would do a great job and take quite a burden off the president, except for the few occasions when the president might have to clean up some small verbal miscue.
Why not give the idea a chance to bounce around a bit? At least it might take the president off his Rice hot seat and give him an opportunity to find a better alternative, if the stodgy greybeards shoot down the idea.