Who Goes to the State Department? How About Richard Lugar?

By many accounts, Senator John Kerry wants to take the place of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she leaves here post soon. But the conventional wisdom, which I find compelling, says that President Obama won’t want to put Kerry’s seat up for grabs by Republicans in Massachusetts, who would likely nominate Senator Scott Brown as their candidate in a special election.

Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is out, having been, at least for now, uncomfirmable following her round of Sunday talk show assurances that the Benghazi attack was spontaneous and not a planned assassination mission of al Qaeda.

Republican and independent names have been floated, including those of former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, former Utah governor John Huntsman, and for Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.

But Obama might be best advised to pick someone whose choice would move beyond symbolism to substance, while underscoring his commitment to foreign policy realism, by nominating Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana for Secretary of State.

Lugar, an incumbent who almost surely would have won another term from Indianans this year, saw his re-election efforts torpedoed by a Tea Party candidate, Richard Mourdock. Mourdock went on to lose badly in the general election and Lugar’s years of distinguished service in the Senate are coming to an end.

Lugar has been chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (meaning, because most senators know him, he will gain easy confirmation, probably) and a thoughtful advocate of foreign policy realism, the very kind of Eisenhower-George H.W. Bush-like policy Obama has maintained in this first four years as president.

Lugar would need no on the job training to become State secretary. He’s an old pro on the international stage and knows his way around Washington as well. He could take up the reins at the State Department with confidence. As a marathon runner who participated in one of the 26.2-mile races just a few weeks ago, he has the physical stamina for the job of chief US diplomat despite advancing years.

Lugar would be an inspired and inspiring choice, one who would signal the kind of foreign and national security policies Obama intends to continue to pursue in his second term. By a Lugar appointment, the president would also be saying that he wanted at least the foreign affairs side of national policy to be more bipartisan.

[I blog on entirely different matters over on my personal blog.]

Author: MARK DANIELS