October 31, 2004

Biden at State?

Oh no... say it ain't so!

THE man whose presidential ambitions were destroyed when he plagiarised Neil Kinnock is set to become America’s chief foreign policymaker if John Kerry is elected President next Tuesday. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware has been asked by Mr Kerry to become Secretary of State in a Democratic administration, according to Kerry campaign aides. Mr Biden, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the past four years, ran for President in 1988. His campaign ended abruptly when it was revealed that a key element of his stump speech had been lifted directly from Mr Kinnock’s general election speeches in 1987.

But Mr Biden has since emerged as a leading foreign policy figure in the Democratic party and is expected to take the job offered by Mr Kerry unless political factors intervene. Were the Democrats to retake control of the Senate, he might prefer to remain as a lawmaker, but those who know him think that unlikely.

Mr Biden’s possible elevation is one of the thousands of permutations circulating in Washington in the final days before the presidential election. If Mr Biden does go to the State Department it will be a disappointment for Richard Holbrooke, the UN Ambassador during the Clinton Administration and the architect of the Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian war in 1995. Mr Holbrooke has lobbied hard for the Secretary of State ’s job. But in what will be seen as both an effort to conciliate the famously self-confident Mr Holbrooke, and as a signal change from Bush administration policy, Mr Kerry is likely to offer him the job of special Middle East peace co-ordinator, senior Democrats say.

Mr Kerry plans to announce both appointments soon after the election as a sign of the urgency he assigns to mending diplomatic fences.

President Bush has declined to appoint a senior level emissary to the Middle East and the Kerry move would delight European leaders, including Tony Blair, who have been urging a renewed US engagement in the region.

Other senior foreign policy positions in a Kerry administration are likely to go to three former senior officials who have been advising the senator’s campaign.

Rand Beers, who resigned from the Bush Administration’s National Security Council over the Iraq war, is likely to be National Security Adviser, although Wesley Clark, the former Nato commander, may also be considered.

James Rubin, President Clinton’s State Department spokesman and husband of the CNN star reporter Christiane Amanpour, is in line for a front line policy role, as is Susan Rice, another Clinton appointee, meaning that whoever wins next week, an African American female called Dr Rice will be a senior foreign policy figure.

One puzzle for the Democratic team is the Pentagon. Mr Kerry is understood to want his friend John McCain, the Arizona senator, to be Defence Secretary. But Mr McCain is believed to be reluctant. The confirmed maverick might fit uncomfortably even in his close friend’s administration. If the Republicans keep control of the Senate, the Arizona senator will take the powerful job of chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Another possibility is Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska senator, also a Republican. Mr Kerry is said to be intent on removing Porter Goss, who was confirmed as the head of the CIA only this month. A candidate to replace him is Bob Graham, the retiring Florida senator.

One problem with this lineup, however, for the Kerry team, is that it looks a little Senate-heavy.

Given the reputation of senators as windbags with large egos and an argumentative manner, Mr Kerry, a senator himself, may be reluctant to have former senators at President, Vice-President (John Edwards, his running mate), Secretary of State, Secretary of Defence and Director of Central Intelligence.

There is less clarity about what the foreign policy team will look like if President Bush wins, which seems odd, given that the Republicans are already in charge.

Though nothing is fixed, officials say, Colin Powell is likely to leave the State Department, as is his deputy, Richard Armitage. Both have been bloodied in the Administration’s infighting in the past four years and are not inclined to stay. But Donald Rumsfeld is eager to remain at the Pentagon and a newly re-elected Mr Bush may feel vindicated enough to keep him in place.

Possible replacements for General Powell include Condoleezza Rice, the current National Security Adviser, if she decides to stay in Washington at all, or Robert Blackwill, currently a senior director on the NSC and the man who has been in charge of Iraq policy in the past six months. Mr Blackwill is regarded as a pragmatist and problem-solver rather than an ideologue. John Danforth, the recently appointed ambassador to the UN, and former senator, is another name under consideration. There is much jockeying for the National Security Adviser post job if Dr Rice does leave. Stephen Hadley, her deputy, seems to be favourite. But other possibilities include Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence, and leading light among the neoconservatives in the Administration, Mr Blackwill if he does not get the State job, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and a key figure in administration policy in the past four years, who is also sympathetic to the neoconservative approach to foreign policy ends.

All of this is hugely speculative, of course. But a lot of it rings true which is why I've posted the whole piece. Can people in comments please point me to alternative sources on Bush II and Kerry I likely national security cabinet picks? I'm working on an analysis and need to game it with as much scuttlebutt as possible. Please post links in comments (I heard there was a lengthy National Journal article on this, for instance?) Thanks in advance for any help.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader ZH for sending in the National Journal article. Here it is. It's pretty comprehensive and well worth reading. Readers are invited to send in other sources too, however.

Posted by Gregory at October 31, 2004 01:23 PM

I can't help you regarding speculation of who gets what assignment but I would like to point out, and you probably are already aware, that Biden recently said Bush was "brain dead". I think he was speaking about foreign policy specifically. That is not exactly diplomatic, in my opinion. So I will speculate, that should Bush be reelected, he's in line to be head janitor at State. Just a thought.

Posted by: Chris at October 31, 2004 07:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If what you say about Bush's prospective cabinet is true, it sounds like moderates out, conservatives (neo- and old) in or up.

Still happy with a vote for Bush ?

Posted by: DavidP at October 31, 2004 08:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

that wasn't me writing it was gerard baker in the uk times. further, steve hadley, blackwill, danforth are not ideologues. they are well wedded to reality and will reinject more pragmatism into the policy-making process. let's not forget khalizad in kabul and negroponte in baghdad who are both performing well under hugely challenging conditions. worth noting too, if rummy goes, powell and armitage are likelier to stay on. all told, this is a pretty strong team--especially compared to a kerry team where kerry ditched holbrooke for secstate and went with biden--with carl levin at defense, say. sam nunn would be better--but appears more interested in state. i don't think lieberman would get the nod for defense either--and am not certain that would be a great pick regardless. also, the fact that people like susan rice are being talked about as potential nsc advisors concerns me. while she's smart and capable, her previous experience as an asst sec of state for african affairs doesn't merit a jump to NSC advisor (ditto jamie rubin). as the last four years have thought us, we desperately need a strong nsc advisor who can actively BROKER policy differences as btwn state and defense to get a coherent policy on tap. holbrooke wouldn't be good at it b/c he'd be so dissapointed no to be at state. and if he gets state, he would bull-doze over whoever is at the NSC and Defense (unless it someone like Nunn).

bottom line: the only cabinet member that is likely to actually TAKE a job with Kerry (i am dubious about Mccain, Hagel, Lugar etc) that i'm very impressed by is Holbrooke. The rest looks worrisome.

tell me why i'm wrong on this. and, i'll admit--on econ team i think kerry has a strong bench with people like roger altman.

a final note. paul wolfowitz, as radioactive as he's become, is probably the smartest neo-con of them all. he should not be underestimated. everyone should, btw, read the recent new yorker piece on him. it's interesting reading indeed.

Posted by: greg at October 31, 2004 09:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I really doubt Powell will stay on if Bush is re-elected, no matter what happens.

My ideal candidate for SecDef if Kerry is elected? Powell.

Posted by: Mitsu Hadeishi at October 31, 2004 11:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'll try to find the original source for my impression that with Biden as Sec. State, Holbrooke wanted or was lined up to be National Security Advisor.

Personally, I think McCain would be a walking disaster in any executive position, regardless of party. He's great where he is, and where he is at his most effective, IMHO.

Posted by: JM Hanes at November 1, 2004 01:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There's no chance of McCain being in a Kerry administration; he's been campaigning hard for Bush and he still wants to be President. I'd be disappointed but not crushed with a choice of Biden over Holbrooke. Beers isn't perfect but he's good (Condi is a living atrocity as is hadley, though you're right about blackwill). The removal of Porter Goss is a huge incentive to vote for Kerry.

"a final note. paul wolfowitz, as radioactive as he's become, is probably the smartest neo-con of them all."

Yes; he is also a deluded fool.

Posted by: Toadmonster at November 1, 2004 02:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A couple of further articles speculating about the composition of our next foreign policy team: http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,595055360,00.html

And comments:

Then there's Josh's useful analysis of what the policy will look like: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200407/marshall

Posted by: Nils at November 1, 2004 05:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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