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WORLD FOCUS: Madam secretary?

August 6, 2011
There is a new prediction from some of the political insiders who had prior knowledge about the impending appointment of Kristen Gillibrand, than serving as the twice-elected congresswoman representing New York’s 20th Congressional District, to the U. S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, who become secretary of state.

They expect that should Hillary Clinton leave her post of secretary of state, Gillibrand would be on the short list to replace her.

This speculation was heightened recently when rumors spread around Washington that Clinton is in line to become the president of the World Bank. She denied that she is interested in the job, and repeated her commitment to serve as secretary of State, at the “pleasure of the president.”

According to those sources, Gillibrand’s appeal is not because Clinton was once her mentor or because the secretary of state portfolio is now considered by some as a woman’s domain. Instead, they point out that Gillibrand is highly competent and has the qualification to fill the position.

She is a graduate of Dartmouth College where she majored in Asian Studies, learned Mandarin Chinese and perfected it while studying in both Beijing and Taiwan. She has a law degree, and served as a partner at one of America’s most prestigious law firm that represent clients worldwide. After entering politics, she won a congressional election, beating a four-term incumbent.

Having served as an appointed senator, Gillibrand ran in a special election in 2010 and won with 63 percent of the vote. As a congresswoman representing a heavily Republican district, she had a fairly conservative voting record, but in the Senate she became champion of the centrist liberal agenda. Including, the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law.

While in the House of Representatives, Gillibrand served on the Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, and on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and in the Senate, on Air-Land and on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. Those assignments increased her familiarity with issues that are, central to the national security of the United States.

My experience, regarding Gillibrand’s adeptness in managing the foreign relations of the United States, goes back to 2008. It occurred in connection with the Summer Olympic Games held in Beijing.

Just two weeks before the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, Lake Placid Mayor Jamie Rogers and I contacted Gillibrand, then a New York congresswoman, asking her to help induce Chinese officials to resurrect the Olympic People-for-People Program that was such a successful part of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games held in Lake Placid.

Gillibrand, using her connections to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, arranged to get our documentation into the hands of Chinese officials. She managed also to secure the co-sponsorship of our effort, of then U. S. Rep. John MacHugh (R-N.Y.) who now serves as secretary of the Army.

While citing Gillibrand’s fitness to serve as secretary of state, her supporters like to stress her demonstrated familiarity with issues relating to foreign affairs and also her aptitude to gain support for her legislative agenda, across party lines.

They seem to believe, that just as when Gillibrand was chosen by New York Gov. Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate seat, competing against such luminaries as Andrew Cuomo, she may be once again the “dark horse” who finishes first in the race for secretary of state.

Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.


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