Of all of Donald Trump’s cabinet decisions, Secretary of State has been the most contentious. All of the four or five remaining candidates have been attacked to some degree, including a barrage of attacks on Mitt Romney from within the Trump camp itself. All of the four or five candidates have long histories of political experience, though only John Bolton has extensive experience talking to foreign leaders (General David Petraeus interacted with foreign military leaders, but that’s not the same thing and partially irrelevant for Secretary of State).

Is it possible to hit the reset button? One of the best things about Donald Trump being President is that the old rules no longer apply. He can select someone outside of the DC inner circle and justify it. Secretary of State more than any other major cabinet decision can benefit from selecting an outsider. The co-author of The Art of the Deal should know this better than anyone. It’s easier to train a great negotiator on the nuances of foreign affairs than to train a politician in the skills of negotiating. After all, we’re the United States. We should be working towards making the best possible deals that benefit everyone, especially us.

All of the current considerations for Secretary of State come with major baggage while having minimal upsides. Romney has the most negotiating experience and has seen this put to great use during his careers in both public and private circles, but he’s scorned by a large chunk of the people who helped get Trump elected in the first place. Bolton is very old school, and while he’s known as a free-thinker, he’s also known to go off the rails from time to time. That’s a trait that Trump doesn’t need in his top diplomat. Petraeus made some horrendous decisions in his days in public life. He should not be rewarded with more responsibility just because he’s done with probation for releasing secret government information carelessly. Rudy Giuliani showed signs throughout the campaign of being well beyond his prime. He wasn’t sharp in many of his speeches and does not appear to be physically capable of the grueling travel schedule a Secretary of State requires. Bob Corker is a Democrat.

While any of these choices would be upgrades from John Kerry, they don’t quite enter the same arena as Alexander Haig, for example. In today’s geo-political maelstrom, we need an Alexander Haig.

Certainly there’s someone else within Trump’s vision who can meet all the criteria. The Secretary of State must be able to communicate the message and act in lieu of the President of the United States in foreign affairs. They need to be easily respected by foreign leaders. They need the negotiating skills that can prevent Iran Nuclear deals from even reaching a point of agreement until it’s clear that the benefits are not lopsided against us. Most importantly, they need to see the world from a perspective that aligns with the President’s vision. None of the current candidates cover all of these criteria well.

I’m not going to throw out names, though I have several in mind. If I had Trump’s ear, I would, but there’s no point in speculating for the sake of speculating. At this point, the best we can hope for is that the President-elect continues his search and is presented with better options than the four or five finalists being discussed today. They are all B-listers at best.

By Steve Eggleston

In case you haven’t heard, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), unanimously reported favorably out of committee a bill that supposedly gives Congress a “right of refusal” on any agreement between the civilized world and Iran on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

My immediate reaction, in the comments section of the Hot Air post, was that this is the “logical” extension of the 2011 cave on the debt ceiling to foreign policy. To wit, it’s a changing of an active Congressional approval to one of active Congressional disapproval in order to con those of us outside the DC bubble.

Andrew McCarthy has a longer explanation of this. As part of this, he links to the text of the bill itself, and a read of it is quite discouraging. Indeed, it’s nothing more than Kabuki theater.

The big item that is part of Corker’s bill is that it completely accedes to the notion that whatever agreement is reached is not only is an “executive agreement”, but one that requires no actual Congressional approval, much less the 2/3rds approval by the Senate a treaty requires. In fact, the bill explicitly allows for the waiving of all the sanctions against Iran if there is no action taken by Congress. In that respect, it’s worse than the various iterations of the “fast-track” trade negotiation authority that had existed for nearly the last 4 decades. Fast-track at least required the active approval of Congress.

With that said, given there wouldn’t be 2/3rds of Congress willing to override a Presidential veto of a maintenance of sanctions, it really doesn’t matter. According to the Congressional Research Service (courtesy the Federation of American Scientists), all of the statutory sanctions can be waived, and many of them outright terminated, by Presidential authority. In fact, the “prohibition” on those waivers during the Congressional review period specifically doesn’t apply to those made by mid-May, and arguably any made prior to the submission of a final agreement to Congress.

One could point to the fact that Congress would get semi-annual reports on Iran’s compliance with a nuclear deal, with an expedited consideration of a reimposition of sanctions as punishment for non-compliance, as a “positive”. However, given the punishment would require 2/3rds of both houses of Congress (after an Obama veto) to happen, and thus wouldn’t happen, it is equally meaningless.