November 17th, 2008
06:17 PM ET

What it takes to be Secretary of State

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/POLITICS/12/21/rice.yearend/art.rice.file.afp.gi.jpg caption="Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice"]
Aaron David Miller
The Los Angeles Times

Having worked for six secretaries of State over 20 years, I have a pretty clear sense of what makes a good one - and with the economic and financial crisis overshadowing foreign policy these days, the selection of an effective secretary of State is now more imperative than ever....

The right persona. Freud may have been overly deterministic when he talked about anatomy as destiny, but when it comes to what it takes to be an effective secretary of State, he wasn't far off the mark. The nation's top diplomat needs to be an actor, a teacher, a tactician, an intimidator and.....


Filed under: Raw Politics
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Gene Penszynski from Vermont

    Aaron good article. I agree with the persona and independence concept. The most notable and effective Secretaries of State obviously are intelligent and understand the political dynamics of the world in which we live but they also posess something else. They posses the independance and strength to take charge of a situation and become a mentor TO instead of a mouthpiece FOR the President. Theses Secretaries of State must also , however, enjoy the total trust of the President and the President must be open minded enough to trust their judgements as well.

    Powell for example could have been a great Secretary of State had he not been working for a narrow minded and pig headed President who was more directed by his Religious and neo-con right wing beliefs and dogma than keeping an open mind. Instead Bush expelled Powell and replaced him with a Rubber Stamp yes person C. Rice. Rice has been one of the most ineffective Secretaries of State that I can recall. I can't think of one accomplishment large or small she has achieved during her reign.

    I do think that President-elect Obama is open minded and smart enough to understand the world in which we live and be rescpectful of any advice and information from his Secretary of State that will provide a different perspective on world issues. President Obama will have no trouble with Hillary Clinton. No doubt they will disagree and argue but in the end they will settle on policies which make the best sense for the American people and our nation.This will be a great Presidency and Hillary would be a Great Secretary of State.

    November 18, 2008 at 6:52 am |
  2. J.V.Hodgson

    To find all the qualities listed in one person is almost impossible. the key to me is that whoever is secretary of State has to be someone who completely shares OBama's ideas and philosophy of International diplomacy. I do not believe with HRC she does share that and with Bill in the background he couls never be 100% sure or confident In HRC.
    Condi Rice is too tainted with Bush policies. I really wish Colin Powell would take the position of SEC state.

    November 18, 2008 at 1:09 am |
  3. Kent Fitzsimmons,Illinois

    Obama's overall plan on his cabinet is a good one. If you appoint good people from both sides of the aisle you have a chance at getting things done. But, if things do not get done both sides of the aisle are to blame. Republicans will work hard in the cabinet. Not because they like Obama or his ideas. They will work hard because of their own inflated egos................all politicians have incredible egos.

    November 17, 2008 at 8:16 pm |
  4. angel

    "This last point may not be politically correct, but the fact is, effective secretaries of State are manipulators." Unfortunately our current Sec of State was allowed to only manipulate her OWN people.

    Current SOS's have become patsies of a sort. They dont seem to have to speak their own minds, they are talking from some script.

    No one could top Kissinger, but I'd like to see Hillary try.

    November 17, 2008 at 7:47 pm |
  5. Kathi Fullerton Calif.

    Why can't we the people, keep Condoleezza Rice as secretary of State?

    November 17, 2008 at 7:45 pm |
  6. Lonna Burch

    If Wall Street companies that received government bailout have 40 billion+ on hand for year end bonuses why was our government negligent enough to rush to a "emergency" bailout. Did anyone in Congress know about this stash of cash? If so, shame on them. If not, shame on them.

    November 17, 2008 at 7:29 pm |
  7. jim

    The best qualified democrat would be Hillary. After all, she would have an ex president as advisor. A rumor was her name being mentioned as Secretary of State caused John Kerry to smash a Heinz Ketchup bottle over his surfboard.

    November 17, 2008 at 7:20 pm |
  8. Cindy

    Out of all of the things that were listed that makes a great Sec of State I think Hillary definitely fits the bill. I mean she was after all called out on being too "hard" and not womanly enough during the campaign. So I think she has the persona, negotiator's mind-set, and deviousness and toughness down pat! I just don't know how Obama will deal with her maybe overshadowing him at times. I am sure she'll definitely do that more than not.


    November 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm |
  9. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    ...an actor, a teacher....not an academic!

    November 17, 2008 at 6:27 pm |