Editorial: What Trump needs in a Secretary of Statte

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

President-elect Donald Trump is now embarked on the process of choosing his Cabinet. Among these choices, one of the most important is that of secretary of state, the person who will help him develop and carry out foreign policy, a matter of critical importance in a world awash in conflicts. Here are a few guidelines to consider.

The first is that, given the stature of the position, he can ask anyone to take the job, man or woman, Republican or Democrat, regardless of the person’s previous or current position, profession or status. A former presidential candidate and senator, John Kerry, is just now completing four years on the job.

Second, given that the voters, in their choice of Trump, have appeared to underline the wisdom and their support of his pledge to drain the Washington, East Coast swamp, it would make sense for Trump not to fish out an old, scaly denizen of that bog and make that person secretary of state. (The travel alone would kill some of the people who apparently want the job.)

Third, it is better not to put someone in the position who might, down the road, intend to run for president. A cold-eyed comparison of the performance of Kerry and Hillary Clinton as President Barack Obama’s two secretaries of state make it clear that Kerry got more done, in no small part because Clinton did not want to get her fenders scratched as a future presidential candidate by taking on the really tough foreign affairs issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian and India-Pakistan scraps.

Fourth, whomever Trump chooses should have some foreign affairs background already. This is no time for amateur hour. The 192 countries of the world, the plethora of public and private international organizations, and the long, complex history of the issues that present themselves all make it extremely difficult for someone to take it on starting from scratch. The Vladimir Putins, Xi Jinpings and Angela Merkels of this world would eat him or her alive without background.

There is no one person obvious who meets these criteria, but the world of Americans involved deeply in foreign affairs is large and varied. Trump should not consider the position of secretary of state to be a doggy bone to be quickly tossed to a campaign sycophant. It is far too important to the American people for that.


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