Joe Biden For Secretary Of State?

According to reports, Vice-President Biden is on a Clinton campaign short list for Secretary of State.

Joe Biden Campaigns With Hillary And Bill Clinton In Scranton

Politico and other news outlets are reporting that Vice-President Biden is reportedly on the Clinton campaign’s short list for Secretary of State:

Joe Biden is at the top of the internal short list Hillary Clinton’s transition team is preparing for her pick to be secretary of state, a source familiar with the planning tells POLITICO.

This would be the first major Cabinet candidate to go public for a campaign that’s insisted its focus remains on winning the election, and perhaps the most central choice for a potential president who was a secretary of state herself.

Neither Clinton, nor her aides have yet told Biden. According to the source, they’re strategizing about how to make the approach to the vice president, who almost ran against her in the Democratic primaries but has since been campaigning for her at a breakneck pace all over the country in these final months.

“He’d be great, and they are spending a lot of time figuring out the best way to try to persuade him to do it if she wins,” said the source familiar with the transition planning.

The vice president, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before joining the administration, is one of the most experienced and respected Democrats on the world stage. He’s also coming to what would be the close of a 44-year career in Washington, first with six terms in the Senate and then two terms as President Barack Obama’s closest adviser — and the keeper of the portfolio on some of the most difficult international issues, including Iraq and Ukraine.

Those will carry over to the next administration, as will a concern within Clinton’s circle and throughout the current White House that Donald Trump’s campaign has created lasting damage to America’s relationships around the world.

Biden’s already been deployed to mitigate that damage by Obama. In August, he traveled to Latvia to assure NATO allies that America’s commitment to them will hold, despite Trump’s questioning of the alliance’s value and worries especially within the Baltic region about Russian aggression.

Just on Monday, on a stop at a Clinton campaign office in Toledo, Biden said that he’d spoken to the Latvian president, who’d urged him to come to Europe and reassure people that if Russia invades, NATO will defend them.

At that same stop, Biden said he’d hoped to continue some level of involvement in domestic and foreign policy, but added, “I may write a book. This might disappoint you, it won’t be a tell-all book.”


In Biden, Clinton would be tapping a seasoned hand on foreign policy, a glad-handing pol with a long memory and a well of deep relationships around the globe.

But she’d also be choosing someone with whom she repeatedly clashed as secretary of state, with the vice president often playing the skeptic while she supported more aggressive action. They differed over leaving troops in Iraq, the surge in Afghanistan, and whether to arm Syria’s rebels and bomb Libya — and Clinton took the more hawkish line in every case. During the Obama administration’s lengthy review of Afghanistan policy early in his tenure, for instance, a skeptical Biden urged the president not to escalate the war, while Clinton backed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 more troops.

Given Biden’s experience in foreign policy, both as a Senator and as Vice-President, it’s easy to see why his name might end up on the short list of a Democratic President for a position such as Secretary of State. There are few people in Washington who have as much experience in this area as Biden does, after all, and it was largely because of that experience that President Obama selected him as his running mate in 2008 to begin with. Additionally, one gets the impression from watching recent interviews with the Vice-President that he’s of two minds about the fact that his career in public service might essentially be coming to an end in  January, so it’s possible that something like this might appeal to him. At the same time, though, it’s worth noting that Biden will turn 74 years old shortly after Election Day, and that he’d be 78 by the time the first term of a Clinton Presidency would come. Given the turmoil his family has been through over the past two years with the death of Beau Biden and the obviously difficult decision that Biden himself made not to run for President just last year, it’s possible that he retiring to write a book may be exactly what he wants to do, Additionally, as much as Hillary Clinton says on the campaign stump that she’s running to preserve the legacy of President Obama, she’s going to have a decided interest in charting her own course. It would be somewhat difficult to do that if her Secretary of State is Obama’s own Vice-President, who sometimes disagreed with her on foreign policy issues when she served as Secretary of State.

If Biden isn’t the choice for what many consider the most important of all the Cabinet positions, then it appears the other names on the list consists mainly of Democratic foreign policy experts:

Among the names most discussed: former undersecretary of state Wendy Sherman, the point person on the Iran deal and a favorite within the State Department; former Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, who now heads the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Nick Burns, the former under secretary of state of political affairs under George W. Bush who’s been an active advocate for Clinton this year; Kurt Campbell, Clinton’s assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs when she was in the job; Strobe Talbott, the deputy secretary of state during Bill Clinton’s first term and a longtime friend of the Clintons who’s now the president of the Brookings Institution; and James Stavridis, the retired admiral who earlier this summer made it into consideration as the sleeper pick to be her running mate.

As Politico notes, picking one of those names wouldn’t come with the ‘star power’ of recent Secretary of State picks such as Colin Powell, Condleeza Rice, Clinton herself, and Senator John Kerry, but perhaps it’s better that the person occupying that position be someone well-versed in foreign affairs rather than someone picked due to the headlines that selecting them might generate.

Finally, there’s one line from this morning’s Politico piece that amused me, “Neither Clinton, nor her aides have yet told Biden.” Well, he knows now.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. SKI says:

    Not going to happen. Far too much disagreement between Biden and HRC on foreign policy. I’m sure he is on “the list” (how do you not consider him while brainstorming possibilities) but I’m also sure that he isn’t going to be the one selected.

  2. Neil Hudelson says:


    Wasn’t there just as much disagreement between Sens. Obama and Clinton in 2008? If he is their #1 pick, I’m glad to see she’s considering a “Team of Rivals” approach rather than filing posts with like-minded/sychophantic people,.

  3. Scott says:

    Much as I like Biden, I would not think Sec of State is a good fit for him. Besides, the Democrats need to work on their bench. While I would prefer a competent bureaucrat, if it has to be a politician, I would think a capable up and comer would be better in the long run.

  4. SKI says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Not really. They had disagreed on Iraq but were pretty aligned on the then-current issues and going forward.

    See, e.g., this 2008 Brookings piece:

    The fact that ideological divisions no longer plague the Party as deeply as in the past was clear throughout the primary debates, where only minimal foreign policy distinctions among the main candidates—Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards (or Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, for that matter) emerged. Senator Clinton, of course, did her best to suggest differences with Obama, pointing to issues such as his readiness to meet with leaders of unsavory regimes, his threat to take military action against terrorists in Pakistan if the government there were unable or unwilling to do so, and his willingness to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists. These, frankly, were sideshows compared to the fundamental foreign policy principles Clinton, Obama and the other main candidates shared. In terms of both grand themes and specific policy proposals, the respective Foreign Affairs articles written by Obama and Clinton in late 2007 could have been adopted by either candidate without too much trouble. (And both essays contrasted sharply with those of Mitt Romney and John McCain.)

    Even on Iraq, while Clinton and Obama sparred vigorously over how long and how consistently either had held their position on ending the war, there was essentially no difference between them when it came to what to do about it. Both pledged to begin a gradual and responsible drawdown of U.S. combat forces while remaining ready to leave in place sufficient forces to deter regional aggression, train Iraqis and fight al-Qaeda. (Obama’s insistence on linking a willingness to train the Iraqi armed forces to political progress differed from Clinton’s offer to do so regardless, but this is hardly the stuff of major party rifts.)

    The same was true about Obama’s controversial expression of a willingness to meet with leaders from Iran and other dictatorships. Jon Stewart humorously summarized this “tiny distinction” on The Daily Show: “Obama would be willing to meet with these leaders, and so would Hillary, but [she] won’t promise, even though he didn’t really promise it either.” Think also about the simplistic but revealing questions put to all the Democratic candidates in the course of the 21 Democratic debates: Is there a war on terror? “Yes.” Would they pledge that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by 2013? “No.” Would they swear that Iran would not develop a nuclear capability under their watch? “I will do everything possible to prevent that.” There was very little blue sky between them.

    Also, pre-POTUS Obama, while he had studied on the issues and had a philosophical approach, wasn’t immersed in FP the way that Clinton or Biden are today.

  5. @Neil Hudelson:

    The difference is that Biden isn’t likely to be a “rival.” If he simply retires to Delaware can you really see Joe Biden doing anything to try to undermine a Clinton Presidency? I can’t. He’s not going to run for President again, and it’s in his interest to see her succeed if only for the sake of being a successful continuation of an Obama/Biden legacy.

    The more interesting dynamic will be between Clinton and Obama since we know the Obamas will be living in D.C. for at least two years after January 20th to allow Sasha to finish school at Sidwell Friends. The media at least will likely constantly be bugging Obama for comments on the Clinton Presidency.

  6. Aelio says:

    I’m more skeptical on this news. On one hand, having Biden’s name suggested is well-deserved considering that he and Obama have helped Clinton and she would like to pay them back. On the other hand, this news may have spiked, spoiled Biden’s chances to get one of such positions in a Clinton government, so this news may have had a couple reasons to it. Who leaked it? Did they want to spoil Biden’s name?

    The hawks want Clinton to prepare for war. We’ve had news about Tim Kaine wanting Congress to sign up on war, so there is that side of getting a potential dove like Tim Kaine helping with the war demands of those backing Clinton and they are too many. Biden would be more on the dovish side to be interesting to them.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The more interesting dynamic will be between Clinton and Obama

    Based upon the very ambitious goals for the Obama “Library” he is not planning on going gently into that good night.
    Still…I find it hard to believe that he will be anything more than supportive of Clinton, and most likely he will be a trusted advisor. You find this hard to accept but Democrats are the adults running this country.
    I think Biden would be a great SoS. His role as VP, and what he has done, has not been fully appreciated. Probably one of the best ever.

  8. dxq says:

    I just read the mark kirk attack on tammy duckworth.

    Geez Louise, republicans.

  9. @C. Clavin:

    I expect Obama will be as respectful of his successor as the last several Presidents have been. My only point is that this will be the first time in a long time that an immediate past President will continue living in D.C. after leaving office and, the media being what it is, one can see some ‘enterprising’ reporter trying to get comments from the former President if and when the Clinton Administration faces its first real crisis, something that is seemingly inevitable for every first term President since at least Bush 41.

  10. Blue Galangal says:

    I have nothing to say but, “YESSSSSSSS!!” (I feel about Joe Biden much the way Leslie Knope does.)

    And besides, if he was SoS now, that would leave room for an “up and comer” in her 2nd term. 😀

  11. @Blue Galangal:

    Joe Biden would be 81 by the time of the 2024 election, he isn’t going to be running for President.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    2.9% expansion of GDP…can’t hurt a week and a half before the election.

  13. Gustopher says:

    I love Joe Biden, and I think he would be a great Secretary of State. There are lots of other spots in the Clinton administration for up and coming Democrats.

    And, given that Kerry’s greatest accomplishment — getting rid of a lot of Assad’s chemical weapons — came from an off the cuff remark that everyone pounced on, I have very high hopes for Biden. Has there ever been someone who makes better off the cuff remarks than Biden?

  14. wr says:

    One thing I do know: If Clinton nominates him, all those Republicans who have spent this year talking about how great he is and how much better it would be if he were the nominee and how they all admire him would suddenly discover that he is the worst human being in the world.

  15. Davebo says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The press can easily pepper Obama with questions whether he’s in DC, Hawaii or Katmandu.

  16. Blue Galangal says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I meant he can serve as SoS for her first term, then retire and she can appoint an up and coming young(er) Democrat during her 2nd term.