The President’s national security and foreign policy teams have had a pretty bad week. Following an article in Politico in which former officials called the administration “pathetically weak” and another in the Daily Beast that pointed to profound divisions between the President’s NSC and the Pentagon, it seems that yet another crack has emerged in the administration over who should be John Kerry’s deputy at State. As Foreign Policy reports:
After months of intensive negotiations between the White House and the State Department, multiple sources familiar with the discussions say President Barack Obama now favors the nomination of Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken for deputy secretary of state, the No. 2 position in Foggy Bottom.The president came to that view despite a strong push by his own secretary of state, John Kerry, who advocated for the nomination of Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs and chief U.S. negotiator on the Iran nuclear talks. The dispute between Kerry and Obama over the post hasn’t previously been reported. […]Though Blinken and Sherman are generally admired within the State Department, some rank-and-file employees would prefer the nomination of a career foreign service officer to replace Burns, something neither have on their CVs.
Sherman will be taken on as interim deputy, while Blinken will apparently get the eventual nomination from the President. Sherman has been the administration’s chief negotiator in talks with Iran—talks that so far have produced little she could hang her hat on. She’s developed a rapprochement with Iran, a stance that seems to be alienating key allies and bringing us closer to traditional enemies. The latest round of talks also seems to have produced a proposal that Russia once again come to the rescue when the U.S. wants a Middle Eastern regime to dispose of WMD. The FP article alludes to the fact that both potential nominees worked in the Democratic Party political world before entering the State Department—Sherman as a director at EMILY’s List, and Blinken as a fundraiser for the Dukakis campaign.Without getting into who would make a better deputy at State, this latest example of administration squabbling—and the fact that the details were leaked to the press—can hardly alleviate recent concerns about the competency of the President’s team.