Alex Massie

Which candidate would make the best Secretary of State?

Text settings

Steve Chapman hears Joe Biden ask a decent question:

At each of his four stops today, there was a moment when he got the attention of his audience. It came when he noted, ruefully, that he's often mentioned as a possible secretary of state in a Democratic administration. "I have a rhetorical question for you," he said in Algona. "Are you prepared to vote for anybody for president who isn't capable of being secretary of state?"

He went on: "If you're not capable of being secretary of state, are you capable of being president in 2008?"

Now obviously the Secretary of State is, in these post-Kissinger times, somewhat akin to being the chief Presidential envoy. But since the President needs some, perhaps many, of the skills traditionally associated with being Secretary of State - including, but not limited to, a sensitivity to international opinion and an appreciation of the importance of language, Biden's question is not so unreasonable.

Remember that George W Bush was mocked for talking about "Grecians" in 2000 but we were - or were supposed to be - reassured by the serious foreign policy minds advising him on these matters. Remember that Dick Cheney was actually seen as an excellent Veep pick. His presence, like that of Rice and Wolfowitz, was designed to reassure. And it did.

If that demonstrated the importance of foreign policy experience in 2000 - and it did, otherwise the reassurance would not have needed to have been offered - then how much more important might it be thought in 2008?

Just because this is a self-serving question for Biden to ask, don't make him wrong. Could you imagine, say, Mitt Romney or John Edwards as secretary of State? No, nor can I. As for Rudy Giuliani? Well, only if John Bolton was the President...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articlePoliticsforeign policy