It’s Minority Time at State

By David T. Jones on February 1, 2013

Washington,DC~ It is time for a minority as U.S. Secretary of State.A white male.

For some while now, males have been a demographic minority in the U.S. population.  And white males are an even smaller minority of the overall population. Consequently, it is appropriate for a white male to lead the Department of State for President Obama’s second term.  And the president nominated and the Senate confirmed Senator John Forbes Kerry (D-Mass) for the position.

To provide some context, the State Department has not had a white male Secretary since Warren Christopher held the position from 1993-97 during the Clinton Administration.  And, while Mr.Christopher was a nice, intelligent man, he had the charisma of an arm chair.  Indeed, one might regard him as a negative white male Secretary of State.  Canadians may recall Secretary Christopher as having accompanied President Clinton to Ottawa for his 1995 visit, but spent it hospitalized.  More substantively, during the final stages of the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum, Secretary Christopher--while attempting to endorse Canadian federalism--addressed a lawyerly statement to then Foreign Minister Ouellette that was so convolutedly opaque that President Clinton had to speak more directly the following day in response to a planted question.

Consequently, it would be more accurate to say that the last white male to lead the Department of State was James Baker during the George H.W. Bush administration from 1989-92.  Secretary Baker, in constructing the massive, UN-endorsed coalition to expel Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, oversaw the greatest U.S. politico-military diplomatic triumph since the end of WWII.

Subsequently, State has been headed by:

-- white female Madeline Albright (1997-2001);

-- African American male Colin Powell (2001-05);

-- African American female Condoleezza Rice (2005-09); and

-- white female Hillary Clinton (2009-present).

Indeed, until U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her unannounced candidacy for Secretary of State, it strongly appeared as if another African American female were to head State. However, Ambassador Rice blew her opportunity catastrophically by inaccurately claiming on five Sunday talk shows that the terrorist assault on our Benghazi consulate was prompted by a trivial (and insulting) video denigrating the prophet Mohamed.  Ambassador Rice rather disingenuously claimed that she was just following approved talking points based on the best available (unclassified) material.  The reality was the terrorist origins of the attack were known almost immediately.  Ambassador Rice was either guilty of not reading the intelligence material supplied to all senior USG officials or blithely parroting material that she knew to be incorrect without attempting to modify them, let alone refusing to dispense garbage to the public. Republican senators were not amused and promised a level of critical assault during any confirmation hearings that would have shredded her credibility.

And, although it is close to irrelevant, reportedly Rice was widely despised by rank-and-file State Department employees during her stint as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1997-2001).  She was regarded as arrogant, didactic, imperious, and uninterested in drawing lessons from experiences, e.g. Vietnam, that she had not experienced.  There was not a wet eye in the bureau when she departed.

Rice’s self-immolation opened the door for Senator Kerry to become Secretary.  And indeed,Senator Kerry is a white male.  But for conservatives he epitomizes the maxim, “Be careful what you ask for as you may get it.”  A lifetime liberal, he carries an 85-90 percent ADA rating, voted against action to expel Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, and claimed in Senate testimony in 1971 that U.S. soldiers had committed war crimes in Vietnam (while now Senator John McCain and other U.S. soldiers were in North Vietnamese prison camps).  He is a full-feathered dove generating predictable media paeans of praise. Vested (and accurate in Kerry’s case) wisdom says that a sitting senator will easily be confirmed, but critics recalled former Senator John Tower was defeated when nominated for Secretary of Defense in 1989. 

Although voting for him, one doubts Senator McCain is amused by the prospect of Kerry as SecState--but perhaps just pleased he is no longer a senator. On the other hand, it could be worse.  President Obama could have nominated Kerry for Secretary of Defense and former Senator Hagel for State. Unfortunately, Jim Baker and George Shultz (now 82 and 92 respectively) are not available.

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