There was a time when being picked as Secretary of State was tantamount to being flagged as the frontrunner for the next Presidential election. Six Secretaries of State have gone on to become President. However, the last such was James Buchanan in 1856. Since then, we see far more failed Presidential Candidates (William Jennings Bryan, Charles Evan Hughes, Edmund Muskie, John Kerry) than Presidents in that slot.
I suspect that Hillary Clinton viewed the position as one of sufficient prestige to make her the Designated Successor after a successful eight-year Obama Presidency. If she can pull it off, being the first Secretary of State to be elected President since the collapse of the Whig Party will be almost as impressive as being our first female President.
However, that might not work out so well:
Only 43 percent of U.S. voters hold a favorable opinion of the former secretary of state, while 41 percent of voters have a negative view, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Tuesday. That’s a significant shift from the same poll taken in Jan. 2013, just before she left her post with the Obama administration. Back then, 56 percent had favorable views compared with just 25 percent who had negative views. A Feb. 2009 poll showed Clinton’s approval rating topping out at 59 percent.
Maybe Buchanan just left a curse on the job, but I suspect that foreign affairs are a lot more fraught with controversy today than in our splendid isolation before the First World War. When American foreign policy could be summed up as Monroe Doctrine + Manifest Destiny, the job was easy. Today, it’s very much something you can screw up, and I feel as though Clinton’s numbers would be better if Obama’s foreign policy was less in tatters.