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After Hillary: Who Will Be the Next Secretary of State?

by Kymberly Bays, published


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to step down from her post in January, regardless of who wins November's presidential election. Her departure comes at a time where she is overwhelmingly popular at home. Her approval ratings have never been higher and while no one knows her future plans, many speculate about her staging a run in 2016. Regardless, after four years of relentless travel, most bets are on Clinton taking some time off to rest.

So, who will take her spot as the next Secretary of State at the State Department? Columnists and political watchers have already compiled short lists of candidates, they say, in the running for the future vacancy. Obviously, there are two scenarios come January: one with President Obama appointing the head diplomat, the other with newly inaugurated President Romney assembling an entire presidential cabinet.

Here are three main names to know in contention for the next Secretary of State on each side of the aisle.

Obama Administration

1) John Kerry: According to Daily Beast columnist and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb, Sen. John Kerry is a frontrunner for the Secretary of State position. Gelb says Obama insiders believe Sen. Kerry "would travel a lot and successfully, and interfere least with policymaking." Sen. Kerry is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004. In recent years, he has been an important envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

column. Regarding the 1994 Rwandan genocide, while serving in the Clinton administration Rice reportedly said, "If we use the word 'genocide' and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election?"

2) Susan Rice: Currently the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. She also served on the National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Her "blend of soft and hard line sits well in the Oval Office," says Gelb in his Daily Beast

3) Thomas Donilon: National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon "is regarded as the wisest policy and political head," of those on the Obama short-list, says Gelb. He apparently also volunteered Rice's name as a World Bank president replacement, now that Bob Zoellick (see below) stepped down.

Other potential appointees: Samantha Powers, Senior Director at the National Security Council.

Romney Administration

1) Bob Zoellick: This former World Bank president is currently serving as Romney's "national security transitions chief" and is the closest to the candidate. Foreign Policy magazine points out, simply serving on the campaign of a presidential hopeful is no guarantee of a position, but says Zoellick is lobbying for the spot.

2) Sen. Joe Lieberman: Picking independent Sen. Joe Lieberman would be a bold choice for Gov. Romney. Sen. Lieberman was a contender to be Sen. John McCain's running mate and endorsed him as president at 2008's Republican National Convention. He will retire from the Senate in January. He currently serves as Chairman of Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

3) William Burns: Currently Under Secretary of State, a Career Ambassador and the highest-ranking career foreign service officer. If appointed as Secretary of State, he would be just the second career foreign service officer in history to hold the position. He previously served as Ambassador to Jordan and Russia, as well as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Other potential appointees: Current CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, retired diplomat Nicholas Burns (no relation to William Burns), Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, and Stephen Hadley, national security adviser under George W. Bush.


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