Take a look at Part I (he sure knows how to stretch his content out) of Josh Marshall’s interview with Joe Biden. Readers will know that I’m a big Biden fan. It seems to me that among practical politicians — i.e., people who actually run for office — his understanding of America’s foreign policy challenges is unparalelled. As such, it’s no surprise that he’s one of the leading contenders for the Secretary of State job in a hypothetical Kerry administration. It doesn’t strike me as the best idea, though. When a president is using his appointment power, one thing he wants to do is make sure he has a group of good advisors running with him. Another thing he wants to do, though, is make sure he’s making efficient use of the people at his disposal. The other main contenders, Dick Holbrooke and Sandy Berger, aren’t really going to be of much use to the country or the administration unless they get cabinet jobs. Biden, on the other hand, could do good right where he is as Ranking Member (or, hopefully, Chairman) of the Foreign Relations Committee.
That’s a sort of shitty reason to not give a person a job he’d like to have, but it seems like the right balance of considerations to me. I also wonder why we’re hearing so much more speculation about the State job than the Defense one among Democratic national security people. One possibility is that they’re trying to dangle the option in front of John McCain so he’ll keep being nice about Kerry. There’s a decent case for actually appointing McCain, especially seeing as governor Napolitano would replace him with a Democratic Senator (likewise, there’s a strong case for trying to get one of the essentially unbeatable Maine Senators to take a cabinet job) but I would hesitate to reinforce the impression that Democrats can’t handle the “hard” aspects of national security policy, especially seeing as Holbrooke and Berger can’t both run Foggy Bottom.