The critical pick: secretary of State
The next secretary faces huge challenges. McCain and Obama must choose carefully.
As the party conventions draw near, there has been a flurry of media speculation about the McCain and Obama choices for vice president.Skip to next paragraph
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Yet an arguably more important choice is the next secretary of State.
For the most part, the vice presidency is a kind of understudy-in-waiting job, charged with a few ceremonial chores.
To be sure, Dick Cheney has wielded considerable influence and power behind the scenes as VP. But it is doubtful whether either Senator McCain's or Senator Obama's No. 2 would exert the same kind of authority. Mr. McCain is a confident practitioner of politics and foreign policy. Mr. Obama is a superstar who keeps his advisers under tight control. Neither man will seek a VP likely to upstage him.
The world the new president will confront is a restless one. India and China are ascendant. Russia, as we have seen recently in Georgia, seeks renewed territorial influence. Islamic lands simmer. Iran threatens.
That's why the secretary of State – the individual who has the president's ear on foreign policy, and who implements it – is so important to the next administration.
Who might fill this vital role?
Obama has assembled in his presidential campaign a team of several hundred foreign policy advisers.
They include such experts as Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of State for African affairs; Dennis Ross, a skilled negotiator in Middle Eastern affairs, who served the first President Bush and President Clinton; Tony Lake, national security adviser in the Clinton administration; and seasoned politicians with international expertise such as former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, and former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton.
As perhaps befits someone more confident in the arena of foreign affairs, McCain has a smaller team of advisers.
They include Richard Armitage, a former assistant secretary of State and Defense official; Robert Kagan, a conservative scholar with the Carnegie Endowment and a prolific writer of articles and books on foreign affairs; and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz.