With Hillary Clinton expected to
step down sometime in 2013, Washington is abuzz with speculation about who will
be the next Secretary of State. John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice are the two most obvious
candidates, though there are whispers that National Security Advisor Tom
Donilon is also under consideration.
So far, the intrigue has been fueled
by a series of unsourced quotes from administration officials and Democratic
insiders, who appear to be forming ranks around their respective candidates.
One source quoted
by Politico who is "familiar with the circumstances," reported that
Kerry "has the inside track," having worked on President Obama's debate-prep
during the campaign.
"Kerry was a very close second the
first time around. He wanted it; he had several interviews. There was an
assumption that he would get it if Hillary said no," the source said, noting
that Hillary will soon be out of the picture. Leslie Gelb, citing insiders, made
point in Newsweek back in April,
suggesting that Kerry might get the nod because he'd log lots of miles and "interfere least with policymaking." (He
also made the case for Rice and Donilon,)
Another anonymous senior State Department
in today's Boston Globe said that
Kerry is the favorite in the "water cooler conversation" in Foggy Bottom.
"Because of the number of trips he has taken as head of Senate foreign
relations he is pretty well known to a number of people and he is very highly
regarded. So I think it would be a popular choice," the official said.
close to the president are betting on Rice. One unnamed insider quoted in the Politico article said that member's of
Obama's inner circle "think it's going to be Susan Rice." "If Obama wants to
make her secretary," the source said, "he'll get her in." The current U.N.
ambassador was perhaps the frontrunner until she went on the Sunday talkshows
to relay the administration's account of the deadly Benghazi attack on Sept. 11,
which later turned out to be inaccurate. Now, some Democrats fear she
could face difficult questions during a Senate confirmation hearing.
One anonymous advisor quoted
in the New York Times went as far as saying Rice had been
"crippled" by the Benghazi fiasco. Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-SC)
that Rice's confirmation would be "virtually impossible" has not helped the
U.N. ambassador's case.
Kerry's chances may also be looking up
now that his absence from the Senate won't cost the Democrats a majority,
though there are still questions about who would replace him on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee. A Kerry
resignation would trigger a special election in Massachusetts, potentially
opening up a place for recently-defeated Republican Scott Brown, but that would
still leave 53 Democrats in the Senate -- and 54
if the Independent Angus King decides to caucus with the Democrats.
Another reason to think Kerry could
have the leg-up on Rice is that some of his former advisors -- including the
State Department's chief economist Heidi
Crebo-Rediker and Steven
Feldstein, director of USAID's Office of Policy -- are already in the
administration, though it's not clear how much of a difference this will make.
-- and least expectedly -- the Russians
seem to be pulling for Kerry. An anonymous source in the Russian foreign
ministry reportedly told Kommersant business newspaper
that Moscow would "much prefer" the Massachusetts senator. According to the source, Rice is considered "too
ambitious and aggressive" and would make diplomatic relations between
Moscow and Washington "difficult." How much the Massachusetts senator appreciates the support from the Russians is an open question.
for his part, told the Boston Globe
in June, "I'm doing the job I love as chairman and senior senator...I'm working
hard at both, and I'm already preparing to run for reelection" in 2014.