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Friday, November 21, 2008

Senator Clinton as Secretary of State

The media are full of reports that Senator Clinton will be nominated to serve as Secretary of State in the next administration. If she accepts the job, our country will be ill served and so will she.

While Senator Clinton serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, her foreign policy experience is far from adequate. Given the natural tension between the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor, her appointment will tilt the balance of power towards the White House.

A very wise former National Security Advisor once said: "you can't run the foreign policy of the United States with a staff of one hundred and thirty - no matter how brilliant they are. The State Department has to be a fully functioning partner."

Since there is an institutional imperative for the President, and the National Security Advisor, to concentrate power in the White House, the State Department's assets (yes, there are many - along with quite a few liabilities) are marginalized. If Senator Clinton is outmatched by the National Security Advisor, then the chances that we will have a successful foreign policy are markedly reduced.

Then, of course, there is the baggage that she would bring with her in the form of her husband, President Clinton. No more need be said on that topic!

I also believe that Senator Clinton would be making a personal mistake. Her Senate service to date has suggested that she may have the talent to become a true legislator - that is, a person with the skills to reach across the aisle and help to get bills passed.

Perhaps she, and we, would be better served if she were to follow the example of Senator Edward M. Kennedy who, after his defeat in the 1980 primaries by President Carter, refocused his ambitions on legislating. While I do not often agree with Senator Kennedy's policy positions (and have much the same regard for Senator Clinton's), he has been a useful member of the Senate during the past three decades. She can be too.

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