Saturday, November 15, 2008

Who remembers Jimmy Byrnes?

That was the first name I thought of when I first heard that Obama was considering Hillary for SoS. South Carolinian James F. Byrnes was the last Secretary of State whose prior claim to fame was primarily as a politician (other than Ed Muskie, who was an elder statesman when he took over State for the last eight months of the Carter administration after Cy Vance resigned in a huff). That was 1945-47! Since then, State has been the province of professional diplomats, academics, powerful White House aides, internationally well-connected lawyers, and a several seasoned generals.

Byrnes was a New Deal big shot who was widely thought (and thought himself) to be FDR's choice to replace Henry Wallace in the VP slot on the 1944 ticket, until FDR surprised everyone by picking Truman instead. In the interest of unity after Roosevelt's death, Truman made Byrnes Secretary of State -- a move he came to regret. Like Hillary, Byrne believed he was the one who should have been President and marched off to his own drummer, obliging Truman eventually to fire him.

So far, only Dick Morris has seen the parallel between Hillary and Jimmy Byrnes. His take is pretty entertaining.

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