Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has become the leading candidate to become President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state, multiple news outlets are reporting.
The Wall Street Journal cited “people familiar with the matter” as saying Giuliani was in pole position for the job while the Associated Press cited “a senior Trump official.”
Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News “if Rudy wants it [state] he’ll get it.”
Giuliani on Monday indeed indicated that he wanted state. At the Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting, he was asked whether he would soon be “Secretary” and he responded “one never knows.” The other top candidate who emerged on Monday, but is apparently taking a back seat, was former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton. But when Giuliani was asked if there was a better choice than Bolton to be the nation’s chief diplomat, he said, “Maybe me, I don’t know.”
On this score, Giuliani is possibly correct. Bolton was one of the chief backers of the Iraq war and still thinks it was a good idea. He has called for bombing Iran and recently encouraged Trump “to abrogate the Iran nuclear deal in his first days in office.”
Giuliani has also called the Iran nuclear deal, which even Israeli intelligence officials say the country is abiding by, “one of the worst deals America ever made” and said that Trump should undo it. But he has also taken a softer stance than Bolton’s, “bomb Iran” position, arguing that Trump could renegotiate a “better” deal. (Bolton has also said he is convinced Iran is cheating on the deal without any evidence to back that up.)
President Barack Obama on Monday argued that undoing the deal would be easier said than done without serious international consequences for relationships with allies as well as with Iran, which could cause Trump to reconsider that position. A top foreign policy adviser to Trump said last week that he would not be “ripping up” the deal, but would seek to have it reviewed by Congress and attempt to make new demands of Iran.
During the Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting, Giuliani gave some indication of where his foreign policy priorties might lie. He said that fighting ISIS would be an early focus of the Trump administration.
“ISIS, short-term I believe, is the greatest danger and not because ISIS is in Iraq and in Syria, but because ISIS did something al Qaeda never did—ISIS was able to spread itself around the world,” he said.
Of course, Giuliani didn’t explain how Trump would combat ISIS, perhaps sticking with the president-elect’s position that his plan to defeat ISIS—the existence of which there is no evidence—remains “secret.”
Giuliani also called for rapprochement with Russia but offered that military bellicosity was the way to do that.
“Russia thinks it’s a military competitor, it really isn’t,” Giuliani said. “It’s our unwillingness under Obama to even threaten the use of our military that makes Russia so powerful.”
So, belligerent rhetoric seems to be the theme of a potential Giuliani State Department, which I suppose is better than the alternative of Bolton and almost certain military action. (It’s possible that Bolton was floated as a name for secretary of state to make Giuliani appear less horrifying. If that was the plan, it worked on me.)
One potential upside of Giuliani as secretary of state? You won’t have the former mayor who presided over New York’s stop-and-frisk regime, oversaw the police force that killed Amadou Diallo, called Black Lives Matter “inherently racist,” and recently suggested Hillary Clinton could still be prosecuted as the attorney general.