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      Volume 11 |Issue 49| December 14, 2012 |


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Filling Clinton's Shoes

Chen Weihua

Jon Huntsman

Speculation is rife as to who will succeed Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state after she steps down in January.

US President Barack Obama's pick for the post, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, has come under fire from Republicans who claim that Rice and the Obama administration deliberately concealed information about the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, for political gain ahead of the presidential election.

Rice was the public face of the Obama administration when it initially blamed the attack on demonstrations against an internet video defaming Islam's Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The administration later confirmed it was a terrorist attack.

The wrangling over Rice has escalated in the past few days with more Republican senators joining the chorus attacking her. Obama has continued to praise Rice as "highly qualified" and said "I couldn't be prouder of the job that she's done".

Both sides are clearly back in the campaign mood a month after the election. Obama has not backed down but said on Tuesday that the decision on who will be the next secretary of state has not yet been made.

But it is not that hard a decision.

The strong GOP opposition means that the divisive party politics will only worsen if Obama forces through Rice's nomination and she is confirmed by the Senate. If you recall the nasty presidential campaigns and look at the deadlock over the impending fiscal cliff, a more divisive Washington is the last thing people in the US want to see, and it will certainly make life difficult for Obama during his second term.

As president, Obama should make a compromise and put national interests ahead of party politics. He should act as president of the United States, not the leader of the Democrat party.

Rice was not really Obama's first choice. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has always been a favourite for the position, but Obama and some fellow Democrats worry that naming Kerry would result in his Senate seat being taken by Scott Brown, a popular Republican in Massachusetts.

So a decision was made to pick Rice instead, despite the fact that Kerry has the experience, intellectual acumen and personal charisma necessary for the job. Kerry also has the support of Senate Republicans. Regardless of their motivation, his appointment would help prevent the political division from getting worse.

Senate side of the Capital Hill.

I followed John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 and liked most of his world view. Susan Rice, on the other hand, although she is an intelligent woman, hardly smiles on television. That impression has been reinforced by the comments of people who know her, who describe her as "tough and not the friendliest person".

But the representative of the world's only superpower needs to possess other qualities, such as charm and eloquence, to be "highly qualified" to play a leading role in the drama of international relations.

There are other Democrats being suggested to fill the shoes of Hillary Clinton. No one seems to think Obama will pick a Republican for the job at Foggy Bottom, but this would be a great move toward bipartisanship.

In 2009, Obama kept Republican Robert Gates as his secretary of defence and nominated Republican Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China. Obama could now name Huntsman again as his secretary of state.

A moderate and China specialist, Huntsman is also liked by many Democrats. He is not only a good candidate to handle the vital US-China relations, his rational foreign policy stance expressed during the GOP primaries suggests that he would also be appreciated by the rest of the world.


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