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Sun Dec 9, 2012, 10:07 AM

Feeling typecast, Madam Secretary?

By Anne-Marie Slaughter

Anne-Marie Slaughter, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, served as director of policy planning for the State Department from 2009 to 2011.

My 14-year-old son and I were watching the Democratic National Convention this past summer when John Kerry came on. My son asked who he was; I responded that he had run for president in 2004, that he was an important senator and that if President Obama were reelected, Kerry might become secretary of state. “You mean a man can be secretary of state?” my son said, sounding genuinely surprised.

It makes sense that he assumed that men didn’t have a shot at the job. Three of the past four secretaries of state have been women, and that trend could continue if Obama nominates and the Senate confirms U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton. In fact, I’ve been asked recently whether we are turning secretary of state into a woman’s job.

Women of my generation remember well how big a step it was for Madeleine Albright to break the secretary of state glass ceiling in 1997. Just a decade later, by 2008, Carol Jenkins, then president of the Women’s Media Center, was noting that “secretary of state has become the women’s spot — a safe expected place for women to be.”

I’m not so sure about that. A recent news report quoted a “longtime foreign-policy expert who has worked for Democratic administrations” as saying that Rice’s voice “is always right on the edge of a screech,” reminding us that sexist caricatures of strong women as witches — or a word that rhymes with that — still abound.


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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 11:31 AM

1. Remarkable that RIGHT after going after the meme on "screech", she uses the argument

that it is women who are build relationships and are more diplomatic. While that may be true in general, look at the specific choice of Kerry and Rice. Nearly every article on Kerry mentioned how the son of a diplomat, interested in foreign policy since his youth, is very diplomatic and has built useful relationships around the world. In fact, that is why Obama used Kerry to deal with many tricky situations, including in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Sudan. This quote from a NYT magazine article really shows how uniquely useful he was:

And Pakistanis appreciate Kerry’s humility. Haqqani told me that Kerry is one of the very few senior American officials who doesn’t approach Pakistan like “a viceroy.”


(The entire article backs up my point and shows why in one of the SOS articles' Eikenberry, a career diplomat referred to Kerry, an elected official, as the best diplomat he has ever seen - unusual praise given the background of the man who said it. )

Now, to Rice. There are many positive things you can say - she is brilliant academically and very well spoken, but there are many comments that she is abrasive and does NOT do all that well building relationships. It is rather strange that Slaughter who knows both individuals makes that point without thinking. Talk about stereotypes! Here, neither fit the stereotype for their gender.

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Response to karynnj (Reply #1)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 02:24 AM

4. I find Kerry to be a pompous bore, but he would be a better choice than Rice.

I have no doubt that Rice is very smart and has impeccable credentials, but after a super star like Hillary she would be an almost non-entity in the world stage. Leaving aside her prickly personality and oil investments, I think that Kerry would be better for the job. He was a presidential nominee and already has a relationship with many world leaders.

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Response to Beacool (Reply #4)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:25 AM

5. I've met Kerry as have many others, and he is neither pompous or a bore

He is a genuinely nice, very serious man with a very good sense of humor. As Deval Patrick said, he is an uncommonly decent man. I know from many MA contacts, most not from the internet, that he has often quietly, with no media, helped people who needed help.

Two of the 2004 testimonials that stayed with me, were from his crew.

"I can still see him now, standing in the doorway of the pilothouse, firing his M-16, shouting orders through the smoke and chaos . . . Even wounded, or confronting sights no man should ever have to see, he never lost his cool.

I had to sit on my hands [after a firefight], I was shaking so hard . . . He went to every man on that boat and put his arm around them and asked them how they're doing. I've never had an officer do that before or since. That's the mettle of the man, John Kerry."3

— David Alston

"What I saw back then [in Vietnam] was a guy with genuine caring and leadership ability who was aggressive when he had to be. What I see now is a guy who's not afraid to tackle tough issues. And he knows what the consequences are of putting people's kids in harm's way."2

— James Wasser

The comment that no other officer ever did that was eye opening to me. I saw Wasser speak at a Celebration of Kerry's 25 years in the Senate in December 2010, where he and the rest of Kerry's crew were there to surprise him. In Going Up river, you see the same caring with the antiwar protesters. Kerry spent hours calming things down and making peace - in one case, even when it made him slightly late.

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Response to karynnj (Reply #5)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 02:13 PM

7. Karyn, I'm sure that he's a decent man.

But he drones on and on in public. That doesn't mean that I don't think that he would be a good SOS, far better than Rice.

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Response to Beacool (Reply #7)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 07:19 PM

9. Jon Steward drones on pretending to be him - he personally doesn't

As a public speaker, he is very very good - and there have been tens of times where people note, with surprise that a speech is excellent. (examples his 2008 and 2012 convention speeches.) He is actually a better speaker than Hillary Clinton.

There are few people who have a line they wrote and spoke repeated (correctly) over 30 years later - Kerry does and it couldn't cut to the heart of the issue more succinctly.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Sun Dec 9, 2012, 03:33 PM

2. I hope the President breaks from recent tradition and asks Sen. Kerry.

Ms. Rice is far from my favorite choice for this post-not right now, during these rough times in th ME. She is the wrong person at the wrong time.

But, it is interesting to see in recent days, all these "postive" commentatries regarding her.I question where they are being generated from, and I have to figure the President is waiting to see if she becomes more appealing to more people.

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Response to DonViejo (Original post)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 02:17 AM

3. Well, there have been 67 SOS, only 3 have been women.

How does that make it a woman's job?

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Response to Beacool (Reply #3)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 11:46 AM

6. Excellent point - it just shows only recent history colors people's perceptions.

What I think is almost more interesting is that there have been a mix of people who were career diplomats and people who were politicians. (Powell and I am sure others fit in neither of those categories.) I suspect that those that were previously politicians, in general, had a higher profile than most career diplomats, but just as those looking at just the current and 2 previous administrations, I am looking mostly at the time I've lived through.

It also seems that each President/SOS define the role in different ways. Some mostly really manage the state department rather than delegating that, some are diplomatic trouble shooters (Kissinger), and some of strong foreign policy advisers, while most are some mix of these three functions. It may be that different people can fit different President's preferred vision of the SOS role. (ie Obama might not want a strong, more leftish voice in his inner circle - which Kerry clearly would be. If so, even with Kerry.s KNOWN diplomatic skills and his international relationships,which Obama can continue to use occasionally even if he is in the Senate, he might not want him on the national security team.) The really ironic thing now is that the left has been snookered into demanding the possible nominee who is to his right on the environment and foreign policy due to the Republican temper tantrum.

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Response to karynnj (Reply #6)

Mon Dec 10, 2012, 02:21 PM

8. What I keep hearing from the D side is that they are worried about Kerry's seat

if Obama picks him for SOS. I think that it would be unfair to deny him a plum spot because of his current job. Aside from the fact that he would be a better SOS than Rice. The more I hear about Rice, the more I am sure that Kerry would be a better choice. She seems to have ticked off many in the international community with her, as described, "prickly" personality. Her multimillion dollar investments in oil companies are also a concern.

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