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Who Will Replace Hillary Clinton As Secretary of State?

John Kerry, Susan Rice Lead The List


Updated November 10, 2012

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last year that, even if President Barack Obama won a second term, she would not be returning as his Secretary of State. Obama won on November 6, and that focused attention on the beltway guessing game -- Who Will Replace Hillary?

Here is a look at some of the conventional wisdom about her possible successor

John Kerry

Topping anyone's list is Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Most Americans know him as the Democratic challenger to President George W. Bush's re-election in 2004. But he is also a fifth-term senator and chairman of the powerful, influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry, a Vietnam vet, has been a strong supporter of Obama's foreign relations. He has helped broker negotiations in Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan.

Kerry's extensive travels and deep diplomacy give him instant world recognition, something that Clinton also brought to the office. Many reports say that Kerry sees the State job as a logical next step in his political career.

Obama must consider that putting Kerry at State could make his vacant Senate seat vulnerable to Republican occupation. However, as Democrats gained some Senate seats on November 6, that may be no obstacle to his nomination.

Susan Rice

Susan Rice, 47, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, would also bring instant name recognition to the Secretary of State job, however she might not bring as much global diplomatic heft as Kerry.

Still, she has the credentials for the job. Rice became ambassador on January 22, 2009, two days after Obama's inauguration. Since then she has opposed Palestinian statehood status within the U.N. without Israeli consent, and she has worked to establish sanctions against Iran to strangle its nuclear weapons program.

According to the Rice's bio on the United States U.N. website, Rice was senior national security advisor in Obama's first presidential campaign, and she was co-chair of national security on his transition team.

Between 1997 and 2001, Rice was U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Before that she was a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director of African affairs at the National Security Council. She has a B.A. in history, and Master's and Doctoral degrees in International Relations.

Tom Donilon

Tom Donilon, 56, is Obama's National Security Advisor. He took the job in 2010, booting up from the deputy national security advisor's job with the departure of his boss James L. Jones. Donilon advised 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, and was a long-time advisor to Joe Biden, himself a congressional foreign policy expert. When Biden dropped out of the 2008 Democratic primaries, Donilon shifted his support to Obama.

Donilon was an advisor to Warren Christopher, Clinton's secretary of state nominee, in 1992. In 1993 he became assistant secretary of state for public affairs.

Donilon's stint as an advisor to Fannie Mae, 1999-2005, then Goldman Sach could hamper any Senate confirmation in the wake of the 2008 economic crash.

Samantha Power

Samantha Power, 42, is special assistant to the president. She is in charge of the Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights within the National Security Council. She covered the Balkan wars in the 1990s as a journalist, and she won a Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem From Hell about U.S. responses to genocide.

Power is widely considered a driving influence in Obama's 2011 decision to okay U.S. participation in the Libyan civil war.


Donilon and Power on long-shots. Obama could go another direction, but the best money is on either Kerry or Rice.

My guess is John Kerry. His high-profile foreign policy work and close association with Joe Biden (who was rumored to be his own secretary of state pick had Kerry won the presidency in 2004) give him an edge. Plus, Rice's perceived contradictory statements in the wake of the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens could hurt her confirmation chances.

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