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Factor favorite for Secretary of State: Joe Biden

by Shmuel Rosner

February 16, 2012 | 9:18 am

Joe Biden in Jerusalem, March 2010 (Photo: Reuters)

It is really very early in the 2012 game: We don’t yet know who’s going to be the Republican nominee, we don’t know who’s more likely to win between President Obama and the GOP nominee, so talking about the next administration is premature - but still hard to resist. That is, because we do know that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she’s leaving and will not be there for a second term, and because we know that Obama’s choice for State can be important from an Israeli standpoint.

Who would Israel like to see in this position? We don’t know the answer to this, but we do have a panel to answer exactly such questions. This month, our Israel Factor panel was asked to rank 10 possible nominees for this job (in a second Obama administration). Not all of them are probable candidates, some are long shots, some are barely even that – but the names were all found in news and gossip reports of previous months. Our question stated simply:

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be leaving office next year – please grade the following candidates to replace her in an Obama administration (all were mentioned in journalistic reports as possible candidates) with a 1-5 mark, 1 being not so good for Israel, and 5 being excellent for Israel”.

What you see in the table below is the average score of each of the 10 names we pulled out of our hat. Some comments follow the table:

John Kerry3.25
Samantha Power2.43
Susan Rice3.37
Jim Steinberg3.67
Chuck Hagel2.75
David Petraeus3.12
Joe Biden3.87
Strobe Talbott3
Tom Donilon

3.14

Richard Lugar

2.75

Some conclusions:

  1. Vice President Joe Biden is still seen by this panel as friendly and capable – all past misunderstandings with the Netanyahu government aside. There is also a consensus when it comes to the panel: no one thinks he is a terrible choice.

  2. David Petraeus is an interesting candidate: He got the full range of scores from 1 to 5 from our panelists. Some put him at the top as the best candidate for Israel, others as the worst.

  3. Generally speaking, there’s not much agreement among the panelists when it comes to candidates for State. All the candidates got at least one 4 or 5, and seven of them got a 1 or 2 (the three with a score of 1 or 2 are Biden, Steinberg and Donilon).

  4. With Samantha Power, the case seems to be quite clear: No matter what she does or what she says or how she clarifies past comments – the image of the problematic-on-Israel official stuck and is hard to dislodge.

  5. We compared the panel vote on three of the candidates to the panel vote on Obama. Interestingly, no match could be found. This is not about possible bias for or against any Obama appointee – it is an assessment of the person we asked about and the way he would act as Secretary.
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