President-elect Donald Trump’s drama-ridden selection process for secretary of state has narrowed to four finalists, including 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump aides said Wednesday. . . .
Transition team officials would not name the other two finalists, but other leading candidates include retired Army Gen. David Petraeus — a former commanding general of the U.S. Central Command and CIA director — and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A fifth possible candidate is retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, former chief of U.S. Southern Command.
Three of these are not realistic candidates.
We have made the case — and some GOP senators, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), agree — that Giuliani may not be able to get through a confirmation process. Surely, he should not be confirmed. His lack of experience, poor temperament, bad judgment, ethical baggage, foreign conflicts of interest and egregious campaign rhetoric do not fit in the national security community — and would make it difficult for him to be taken seriously outside the United States. (At 72 years old, it is not even clear he could keep up the hectic pace Hillary Clinton maintained.) Like so many other Trump favorites, Giuliani has amusing one-liners but insufficient substantive understanding of the issues and virtually no real skills for the job. There is more to being a secretary of state than there is to being Sean Hannity’s guest.
The two generals pose a different problem. With one retired general as national security adviser and another a front-runner for secretary of defense, a military man at state would be unwise, to say the least. We are not (yet) a banana republic run by men in uniform. “Mr. Trump will need a mix of voices in his cabinet advocating diplomatic, cultural, economic and other responses to national security challenges. He will also need people with expertise in Asia, not just the Middle East and Afghanistan, regions where most of his favorite generals made their mark,” writes Carol Giacomo. “The United States has long warned other countries about the dangers to democracy of overrelying on the military in place of civilian leaders. If Mr. Trump fills his cabinet with generals, what kind of message will he send to the rest of the world?”
Moreover, after months campaigning on the premise that Clinton was unfit for the presidency because of her extremely careless handling of classified information, putting someone who pleaded guilty to a crime involving intentional conduct and who remains on probation would be a bridge too far, even for Trump. Trump risks bringing ridicule on himself and on Republicans, who would be asked to vote for Petraeus. The message Trump of all people would be sending to the military and the rest of the government by installing someone who has admitted to criminal activity in connection with classified material would be horrible.
That then leaves Romney and Corker. The question is not whether they are knowledgeable, ethical and temperamentally sound — they are. Rather, the question is what assurance they would get from Trump (and presumably retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the incoming national security adviser) that they would have control over key hires, would speak on a daily basis on U.S. foreign policy (without contradiction from the White House), and would be part of an administration in which bipartisan and mainstream foreign policy norms (e.g. respect for treaty obligations, opposition to international aggression and human rights violations) would be respected. We suppose Trump’s personal guarantees aren’t worth much, but either Romney or Corker better be clear-eyed about what they are getting into if they take the job. The country’s foreign policy would be in capable, sane hands with either one of them — if they are allowed to do their job.