Though speculation has arisen since last week’s election over whether 1987 College graduate Jon Huntsman Jr. may be first in line to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, some in the Penn community are skeptical of these rumors.
In a Nov. 8 article, the Associated Press reported that Huntsman may have recently overtaken other candidates for the job, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who has come under fire recently for her explanation of the Benghazi attack.
However, Huntsman — who was formerly a governor of Utah, ambassador to China and Republican presidential candidate — has since dismissed the rumors as “idle hallway gossip,” according to The New York Times.
Joseph Ahearn, a 2007 College graduate who worked on Huntsman’s presidential campaign this election, said Huntsman may be easy to speculate on because he is a well-known name in a niche field. However, he added that Obama’s decisive win makes the speculation less believable.
“If it were a closer election, Obama would lead a grand display of bipartisanship and would nominate Huntsman,” he said. “But because the margin was so great and is continuing to grow, I think he can spike the football with whoever he wants who can carry out foreign policy the way he wants it the next four years.”
Political science professor John Lapinski agreed that the prospect of Huntsman becoming Secretary of State is not very likely, and believes the favorite is still Kerry due to his close ties to Obama. He added, though, that having a centrist figure in the cabinet could be to the president’s advantage, especially with current partisan issues like immigration reform and the fiscal cliff.
“[Gov. Huntsman] has an independent streak to him, but he could come to the table and ask for compromise,” Lapinski said. “He could be politically helpful for Obama.”
Avery Goldstein, also a political science professor, agreed that Huntsman would be an asset. He believes his cabinet appointment could be possible, given the case of Obama’s decision to retain Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense in his first term.
“If the president were to select him, Gov. Huntsman would bring his extensive experience in and expertise on East Asia to the job, and this is a part of the world that the Obama administration has been emphasizing as the principal focus for U.S. foreign policy,” he said in an email.
In addition to his presence on the international stage, Huntsman still plays an active role in the Penn community, serving as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees.
Vice President for University Communications Stephen MacCarthy declined to comment on the Huntsman speculations on behalf of Penn’s administration and the Trustees.
College junior and Penn Democrats President Andrew Brown believes that if Huntsman were to be selected for a cabinet position, the news could enhance the already lively atmosphere of political engagement on campus.
“Political dialogue is very lively and healthy here,” he said. “Obviously, having the governor as a resource is nice.”