As President-elect Donald J. Trump narrows his choices for secretary of state, he should ignore one absurd charge against a leading contender for that position. Rudolph W. Giuliani’s international business ties make him more, not less, eligible to be America’s next top diplomat.
One would think that having spent more than a dozen years developing commercial connections around the globe would qualify Giuliani for the position. But, as Cole Porter observed, “good’s bad today, and black’s white today.” So, the former mayor of New York takes heat for straying too far from Gotham’s five boroughs.
“Rudy Giuliani’s Conflicts of Interest Would Place Donald Trump in a Bind,” a Huffington Post headline scolded on November 15. “Ever since he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, he’s been dogged by questions about the potential conflicts raised by his business career as head of Giuliani Partners,” National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel fretted the next day.
“I probably have traveled in the last 13 years as much as Hillary did in the years she was secretary of state,” Giuliani said in the November 25 Wall Street Journal. “My knowledge of foreign policy is as good, or better, than anybody they’re talking to,” he added, referring to Trump’s transition team. “I’ve been to England eight times, Japan six times, France five times. China three times — once with Bill Clinton, by the way,” he continued. “You can’t say I don’t know the world.”
Giuliani’s work consulting as a consultant — primarily on counterterrorism, security, and fighting crime — has taken him to some 80 foreign countries since he returned to private life in 2002. During his estimated 150 overseas journeys, Giuliani has met business leaders, political candidates, government officials, and heads of state.
While he told the Journal that he has not lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of foreign powers or enterprises, Giuliani Partners and its subsidiaries have signed security-consulting contracts with the governments of Qatar and Colombia (the latter, in part, to reduce homicide). Giuliani’s private-sector clients have included TransCanada (owners of the Keystone XL Pipeline), Royal Dutch Shell, and the Mexico City Civic Organization — a citizens’ group that paid Giuliani’s company to collaborate with its local police department.
Notwithstanding today’s hand-wringing by his detractors¸ Giuliani would not be the first secretary of state who previously served private business clients — at home and abroad. Indeed, there is abundant precedent for this:
‐ Before becoming President Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, Warren Christopher was a senior partner with the Los Angeles-based law firm O’Melveny & Myers, which represented defense contractors Lockheed and Northrup as well as clients in Hollywood keenly interested in foreign sales of their intellectual property. O’Melveny had offices in London and Tokyo as Christopher assumed his duties and opened locations in Hong Kong and Shanghai while he led the State Department.
None of these potential entanglements prevented Christopher from aiding America with distinction as secretary of state from January 1993 to January 1997.
(In an amusing aside, Secretary Christopher said these words as his portrait was unveiled at Foggy Bottom in March 1999: “To anyone who has served in Washington, there is something oddly familiar about . . . having your portrait painted. First, you’re painted into a corner, then you’re hung out to dry and, finally, you’re framed.”)
‐ Before he was President George H. W. Bush’s secretary of state from August 1992 to January 1993, Lawrence Eagleburger was president of Kissinger Associates between May 1984 and February 1989. This Manhattan-based firm, founded by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, normally keeps its clients secret. But according to news accounts, it served such U.S. multinationals as American Express and Coca-Cola and such foreign firms as Fiat and Volvo while Eagleburger ran the company.
None of these ties kept Eagleburger from contributing honorably as America’s 62nd secretary of state.
‐ Before becoming President Ronald Reagan’s second secretary of state, George Shultz was executive vice president and then president of Bechtel between 1974 and 1982. Its worldwide engineering and construction clients spanned Algeria, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and at least 14 other countries. On Shultz’s watch, Bechtel generated $11.3 billion in 1980 by managing 132 major projects in 20 nations.
Shultz seemed unencumbered by these successes as America’s secretary of state between July 1982 and January 1989, and helped Ronald Reagan win the Cold War without firing a shot — arguably the greatest diplomatic achievement in history.
‐ Before taking the helm at State, Shultz’s predecessor, Alexander Haig, was president of United Technologies between 1979 and January 1981. The Farmington, Connecticut-based conglomerate sold military equipment, and its Otis Elevator and Carrier heating and cooling subsidiaries thrived at home and overseas.
Nevertheless, Haig was President Reagan’s secretary of state from January 1981 through July 1982. Despite clashing with Reagan, he helped America’s 40th president rescue U.S. prestige from the rubble of the Jimmy Carter years.
So, Mayor Giuliani’s current business ties would be nothing new for a secretary of state, nor should they impede his performance.
What Giuliani will have to do, of course, is decouple these financial links, either by selling his stake in Giuliani Partners or by placing his interests in a blind trust. He also should publish his entire client list, so that everything is as transparent as a Macy’s Christmas-display window.
What Giuliani will have to do, of course, is decouple these financial links, either by selling his stake in Giuliani Partners or by placing his interests in a blind trust.
His foreign business ties aside, Giuliani is well-suited to become secretary of state given his exemplary management of New York City’s local government. The State Department’s current payroll of some 69,000 employees, here and abroad, would be well-served by an executive who led 215,891 municipal workers from Gotham’s City Hall. (As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, another contender for secretary of state, supervised a state payroll of 43,979 for four years — one-fifth the weight that Giuliani balanced on his shoulders for twice as long.)
And after former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s oceanic corruption and Foggy Bottom’s endemic foot dragging through the numerous probes of her misdeeds — e.g., its slothful replies to congressional inquiries and those of Judicial Watch and other public-interest law firms — the department desperately needs a complete blood transfusion, which Giuliani expertly would administer.
The Clintons went far beyond having private clients from whom they distanced themselves before returning to power. Their high crimes involved, in part, using the Clinton Foundation as a pay-to-play exchange that swapped domestic and foreign contributions for government benefits doled out by Hillary’s State Department. Meanwhile, Bill Clinton accepted massive lecture fees — as high as $750,000 per speech — from parties who received the same department’s largesse. The Clintons’ special treatment of UBS and Uranium One probably best illustrates the Chicago-style racket that they operated.
Romney might pressure Foggy Bottom to cooperate with probes into these illegal activities, but probably without Giuliani’s crusading zeal and (from State’s perspective) squirm-inducing relentlessness. As a former U.S. attorney who locked up Mafiosi, Giuliani has zero tolerance for such graft. He likely would order State to cooperate swiftly with these investigations into the Clintons’ egregious, global scams, which fazed neither leading Democrats nor their foot soldiers in the old-line media.
Finally, thanks to his feckless impotence, Obama will bequeath to President-elect Trump a world ablaze, largely thanks to radical Islamic terrorism. Liquidating ISIS and al-Qaeda and crushing militant Islam will remain America’s top national-security priorities through Trump’s tenure.
#related#In that sense, no prospective chief diplomat can match Giuliani’s credentials as “America’s Mayor” on September 11, 2001. After al-Qaeda’s monstrous, deadly attack, Giuliani pulled himself and his team from beneath the dust of the collapsed Twin Towers, reassured and rallied millions of terrified New Yorkers, and soothed a rattled, unsure public while President G. W. Bush avoided potential assassination aboard Air Force One and Vice President Cheney sheltered in an undisclosed location. He is our nation’s most hardened and experienced enemy of radical Islamic terrorism.
That — and much more — explains why Donald J. Trump should nominate Rudolph W. Giuliani as America’s 69th secretary of state.