Kerry vs. Clinton
I’ll admit to some professional shpilkis over the meeting between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and President-elect Barack Obama. After all, I published a piece on Election Day about how Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was atop the short list to become Obama’s secretary of state — a list I had no idea Clinton was on. So I hope her candidacy for the job is a recent development.
Even if it isn’t, there’s a natural discussion of the merits of both Kerry and Clinton. Gail Collins took a stab at adjudicating that question this weekend. And she got into a bit of snit.
While there are many excellent arguments for offering Clinton the job, one of the best is that until now, Senator Kerry was supposed to be the front-runner for State. Does that sound right, people? When one is out searching for the nation’s top diplomat, does it make sense to pick a guy who gets low scores in sociability? Although Kerry has many excellent qualities and his children appear to be very fond of him, if there was a contest for Senator You Would Least Want to Have a Cup of Coffee With, he would be a good bet for top 10. Politicians often brag that they never forget a name, but Kerry is one of those guys who can’t even remember a face.
This is pretty over the top. Maybe Gail Collins wouldn’t want to have a cup of coffee with Kerry, but he’s spent much of his career — thanks to his perch at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — traveling the world and having coffee with foreign leaders. He’s a known quantity to them. And I’m betting he remembers them by name and face. It’s easy to forget that in 2004, foreign leaders weren’t just excited about Kerry because he wasn’t George W. Bush; they were (also) excited because* they know John Kerry.*
None of this is to say that Clinton doesn’t significantly complicate the case for Kerry’s secretaryship. If you want a high-powered emissary, Clinton is Steven Tyler to Kerry’s Todd Rundgren. (Yes, this implies Obama is Bebe Buell, which makes the metaphor somewhat unfortunate.) Her prestige in foreign capitals eclipses his — both are coulda-woulda-shoulda presidents, but Clinton has a cache that few can match, Kerry included. It’s just that it’s annoying to read that Kerry has nothing to recommend himself, which is just flatly untrue and reflective of a longstanding journalistic antipathy to the man.