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The Cabinet Shuffle

Clinton Comes Home To A Crowded Agenda -- Dec. 1, 1996

Cabinetmaking Slows -- Nov. 14, 1996


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Analysis: Race For Secretary Of State Heats Up

By Bill Schneider/CNN

WASHINGTON (Dec. 2) -- The race for secretary of state is in high gear, and there seem to be three contenders: U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright, retiring Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and outgoing Moscow Ambassador Thomas Pickering.


President Bill Clinton must Decide whether he intends to pursue a low-vision or a high-vision international policy. Nunn and Pickering are big-picture guys. They give priority to security issues and to relationships with the big-time powers: Russia, China, Germany and Japan.

Their nomination would be a sign that Clinton intends to do what re-elected presidents typically do in their second terms: turn to world affairs to secure their place in history.

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said, "I think it is almost certain that we will see a more activist world policy in the Clinton Administration in the second term."

During his first term, neither Clinton nor his secretary of state tried to sell a big vision of the post-Cold War world.

Clinton and Christopher

Instead, the president aimed to be a peacemaker in countries like Haiti, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and the Middle East. What Clinton wanted, and got, in his first secretary of state, Warren Christopher, was a first-rate crisis manager, not a visionary.

"Today, if the children of the Middle East can imagine a future of cooperation, not conflict, if Bosnia's killing fields are once again playing fields; if the people of Haiti now live in democracy instead of under dictators, in no small measure it is because of Warren Christopher," Clinton said at a November press conference to thank him for his service.

Albright is strongly identified with the crisis management policies of Clinton's first term. She was a forceful advocate of U.S. intervention in Bosnia. Her nomination would be a signal that the president intends a basic continuity with his first-term agenda.


Clinton must also Decide whether he wants a politician, a policy activist or a career foreign service officer. Nunn is a pragmatic politician and deal-maker who worked out the "Don't ask, don't tell" deal on gays in the military. A lot of people think a politician is exactly what the president needs in a secretary of state -- someone who can sell a policy of international engagement to an indifferent public and a skeptical Congress.

It takes an experienced politician to do that. Albright and Pickering are distinguished public servants. Albright is also an important policy intellectual and Pickering is a favorite of career international policy professionals. But neither of them is a politician.

But the problem for the president isn't finding the perfect candidate for the message. It's figuring out what message he wants to send.

Thomas Pickering

Albright's nomination would occasion a fierce Senate debate over Bosnia and U.N. peacekeeping. Bosnia has become much more controversial since the election; the president waited until after the election to announce that U.S. forces would stay in Bosnia past the one-year deadline. Republicans would use an Albright nomination to re-examine that commitment, since she has been one of its strongest advocates.

Her nomination would also serve a big political purpose. She would be the first woman to serve as secretary of state. Women re-elected Clinton and he owes them big time. Albright's nomination would be a major payback. Women's rights advocates know it, and they're promoting her for the job.

Nunn would be much easier to confirm. He was the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, and he would be a popular choice with Republicans. But many Democrats, including many people in the White House, believe Nunn sabotaged the president on the gays in the military issue, instead of saving him from political disaster.

Nunn would be welcomed by the Russians, since Nunn has been critical of NATO expansion. And because of Nunn's high standing with Republicans, it would help re-establish a bipartisan international policy, a tradition that has deteriorated since the Vietnam War.

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