At first blush, they seem remarkably alike: 10 older white men, all successful in their chosen fields, and all willing to serve the country if called upon by the incoming president, Donald Trump.
But take a closer look at Trump’s batch of secretary of state candidates and the similarities fade quickly. One candidate has called for bombing Iran; others believe it’s important to keep the Iran nuclear deal intact. Some are longtime admirers of Russian President Vladimir Putin; others view the Kremlin as a major threat to U.S. security. On topics ranging from China to global trade, the views of the 10, who come from both private- and public-sector backgrounds, can vary dramatically. Sometimes their opinions run counter to what Trump says he believes.
That Trump is considering a set of candidates with no real consistency of views reflects his own incoherence on foreign policy. It bodes poorly for U.S. officials and foreign leaders desperate for some sense of predictability on what America will do. It also indicates that Trump may ultimately care little about what his top diplomat thinks, relying on other advisers instead. After all, the Republican president-elect already has made moves at odds with longstanding U.S. foreign policy while largely ignoring the State Department’s offers of help.
“The fact that Trump is auditioning uber-hawks and tempered internationalists, flamethrowers, statesmen and oilmen shows how much of the style and substance of Trump’s foreign policy remain up-for-grabs,” said Daniel Benaim, a former adviser to outgoing Vice President Joe Biden.
The 10 names being floated for the Foggy Bottom position are: former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman; Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia; retired Army Gen. David Petraeus; GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; retired Navy Adm. James Stavridis; and Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of the Exxon Mobil Corporation.