Nam­ing a sec­re­tary of State

The list is grow­ing shorter, and while John Bolton qual­i­fies, Gen. Pe­traeus does not

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By David A. Keene David A. Keene is Opin­ion edi­tor at The Wash­ing­ton Times and the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump is hav­ing a heck­uva time de­cid­ing on who to nom­i­nate as sec­re­tary of State. It be­gan with for­mer New York Mayor Rudy Gi­u­liani’s in­sis­tence that he wanted and de­serves the job as pay­back for the yeo­man work he did for can­di­date Trump when many lead­ing Repub­li­cans were, shall we say, less than en­thu­si­as­tic in their sup­port of his fel­low New Yorker. The mayor is an up-front sort of fel­low, but try­ing to force a new pres­i­dent’s hand as he did is not al­ways the best ap­proach for a cabi­net wannabe who might have a hard time be­ing con­firmed.

At any rate, Mr. Trump be­gan in­ter­view­ing others for the job as well and be­fore much time had passed re­porters were sug­gest­ing that just about any­one who boarded the el­e­va­tor at Trump Tow­ers was there to be in­ter­viewed for the job. Mr. Trump’s prob­lem is that ev­ery­one be­ing men­tioned ei­ther knows lit­tle about the job or has more de­trac­tors than sup­port­ers out­side the in­ter­view room. At the out­set, for­mer State Depart­ment of­fi­cial and U.N. Am­bas­sador John Bolton was as­sumed to be on the short list. Mr. Bolton is in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar with the con­ser­va­tive base, was a pro­tege of both for­mer Sec­re­tary of State James Baker and the late North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, served hon­or­ably in the ad­min­is­tra­tions of both Bushes and Ron­ald Rea­gan and has, ar­guably, spent a life­time prepar­ing for the job.

What’s more, Mr. Bolton wrote and spoke fa­vor­ably of Mr. Trump be­fore Novem­ber 8 and would bring the sort of hard-headed re­al­ism to the job that Mr. Trump will need as he works to build a stronger but less ad­ven­tur­ous for­eign pol­icy. He was ap­par­ently struck from the list be­cause Ken­tucky Sen. Rand Paul is up­set that he not only sup­ported the poli­cies of his pre­vi­ous bosses, but has since re­fused to apol­o­gize for do­ing so, but is now sched­uled to meet the pres­i­dent-elect be­fore week’s end.

The Trump team’s most pub­lic flir­ta­tion has been with 2012 pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney, but while Mr. Bolton may have one strate­gi­cally placed sen­a­tor prepar­ing to deny him the job, mil­lions of ded­i­cated Trump sup­port­ers in­clud­ing a few who ride the el­e­va­tor to those in­ter­views with job seek­ers be­lieve ap­point­ing a man who didn’t just op­pose their man dur­ing the cam­paign, but did so in a vi­cious per­sonal man­ner would be a huge po­lit­i­cal mis­take. Still, Mr. Rom­ney has heavy sup­port from the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment many of whom see his ap­point­ment as a way the pres­i­dent-elect could let the na­tion’s elites know he cares as much or more about them as about those who voted for him.

Should Rom­ney be passed over es­tab­lish­ment sup­port will no doubt go to Ten­nessee Sen. Bob Corker, but most conservatives viewed the way in which he acted as an en­abler for Mr. Obama’s Iran deal while un­der­min­ing the Se­nate’s in­sti­tu­tional abil­ity to thwart sim­i­lar deals in the fu­ture as dis­qual­i­fy­ing.

And then there’s Gen. David Pe­traeus, a mil­i­tary man of great tal­ent, who like Hil­lary Clin­ton has had his prob­lems deal­ing with clas­si­fied ma­te­ri­als. Mr. Pe­traeus made his bones in the Mid­dle East on the bat­tle­field, but stum­bled at the CIA, had to re­sign after shar­ing se­crets with his mis­tress and plead­ing guilty to crimes minis­cule in com­par­i­son with those Mrs. Clin­ton was to com­mit later with im­punity. Those prob­lems could plague him if has to face Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion, but are not as se­ri­ous as some of the sub­stan­tive po­si­tions he’s taken as he’s worked hard to re­ha­bil­i­tate his pub­lic im­age.

Al­though the man had rarely ad­dressed do­mes­tic is­sues many conservatives as­sumed he was one of their own un­til he fi­nally joined forces with for­mer As­tro­naut Mark Kelly who serves as for­mer New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s point man in his ji­had against the Sec­ond Amend­ment to form some­thing called The Vet­er­ans Coali­tion for Com­mon Sense to fight for the “com­mon sense” firearms re­stric­tions so loved by Mr. Bloomberg, Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Obama. He en­tered the fray with an im­pas­sioned plea for more gun con­trol in June as Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clin­ton were squar­ing off on guns, which tells one a bit about his is­sues and po­lit­i­cal pri­or­i­ties.

Some have ar­gued that this shouldn’t mat­ter as a sec­re­tary of State has lit­tle to do with such is­sues. Those who take this po­si­tion are sim­ply wrong. Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Obama helped ne­go­ti­ate an Arms Trade Treaty that es­tab­lished an in­ter­na­tional civil­ian gun con­trol frame­work which, based on what Mr. Pe­traeus has said, won’t trou­ble him at all. The treaty has been signed, but not rat­i­fied. A Pres­i­dent Trump could with­draw that sig­na­ture or his State Depart­ment could con­tinue to play patty-cake with Mr. Bloomberg’s in­ter­na­tional friends pur­suant to ad­vice from the next sec­re­tary of State.

After Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolton meet, the pres­i­dent-elect should con­sider put­ting him back on a list that doesn’t in­clude Mr. Pe­traeus.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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