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Who will be the next secretary of state?

world Updated: Nov 14, 2008 00:57 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

The hunt for a secretary of state for the incoming Obama administration has yet to let up as the Democrats continue to struggle with a lack of candidates. Tom Daschle, who led the Democratic caucus in the Senate for a decade, is being increasingly cited as head of Foggy Bottom.

The problem is whether Bob Gates, the present Pentagon chief and a Republican, accepts Obama’s request to stay on. If he does, the view is Obama must give the secretary of state position to a Democrat.

Senator John Kerry and Governor Bill Richardson were two frontrunners in this scenario. But Kerry is seen as inexperienced and mentally convoluted. Richardson is even more unlikely: Obama had considered him as vice-presidential candidate but a background check had revealed “a sexual harassment history a mile long.”

While Daschle doesn’t have much foreign policy experience, he has Obama’s confidence and is close to Vice-President Joe Biden.

If Gates ceases to be a barrier, then moderate Republican senators Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagel reenter the fray. Lugar is Biden’s person favourite. “The two are joined at the hip. Lugar is a relatively passive person, which would allow Biden to run foreign policy by remote control,” said a former Clinton national security council member.

Lugar, in a speech, and Kerry in a newspaper opinion piece have recently both spoken about the success of the Indo-US relationship.

If a Democrat does get the State Department it is likely the Pentagon would be kept with a Republican even after Gates leaves.

Anthony Lake, co-chair of Obama’s foreign policy team and former national security adviser to Bill Clinton, emailed his staff saying he would not seek a post. But his name continues to make the rounds for CIA director, a post he had been nominated for but failed to get because of objections from the Republican-controlled Senate. “It’s a different story today,” said one of his team.