Who will succeed Hillary?

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 16 April 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Photo by: U.S. State Department

U.S. President Barack Obama and the likely contender from the Republican Party, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, will be battling it out in the presidential elections in November. Regardless who wins, the international community will likely see a new face in U.S. foreign affairs.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly said she will not be seeking a second term when her tenure ends this year, expressing her desire to retire from the “high wire” of American politics. So who will take on the role of secretary of state when she leaves? Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, said “influential lips” in Washington “whisper” of a few names.

Insiders say Obama is eyeing John Kerry, current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Also on the list is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, for her “blend of soft and hard line,” and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, who Gelb said is regarded as the “wisest” policy and political head.

Meanwhile, Romney’s choices, “almost certainly” will include outgoing World Bank President Robert Zoellick, Stephen Hadley and Richard Haas. Hadley was national security adviser to former President George W. Bush, while Haas is president of CFR. All three held senior jobs under Republican administrations.

William Burns, current deputy secretary of state, and Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs under the Bush administration, have also been mentioned as potential candidates. Neither identified with a political party but have “impressive skills,” Gelb wrote.

Clinton sure is a tough act to follow, but the diplomatic work awaiting the next Secretary of State is far more challenging.

Who would rise up to the challenge?

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About the author

Jenny lei ravelo 400x400
Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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