At this point, Anna Wintour’s skin is surely as thick as her healthy shelf of manicured bangs. Her every move, however influential, is met with commentary as sharp as a fresh-out-of-the-box Louboutin heel. But she doesn’t weather the storm alone. The only thing as pronounced as her prominence as Vogue‘s editor-in-chief is the lengths to which her closest comrades will go to defend her. Case in point: this week, Bloomberg News amplified previous murmurs that she may be appointed as ambassador to the U.K. or France, a possibility that, however plausible, was not warmly received. When Women’s Wear Daily asked her friend Oscar de la Renta for his thoughts, he upped the ante: she should skip the ambassadorship and be the next Secretary of State.
“When you are editor in chief of an extremely successful magazine, you don’t need an ambassadorship for four years,” he stated. “Ambassadors were great in the 18th century. Today, it’s going to the opening of a cafeteria. She should be named Secretary of State. That would be a different story.”
Before that curls any eyelashes, remember that Anna-as-Ambassador isn’t completely ludicrous. Surely, assets like her fundraising skills (she pulled in $40 million for the Obama re-election campaign through her Runway to Win initiative) would transfer nicely to one of the four most powerful positions in the U.S. Still, there are many holes in the Secretary of State puzzle that her natural charm and diplomacy do not fill, which puts a cramp in de la Renta’s grand plan.
For starters, the job description. According to the Fiscal Year 2012 Agency Financial Report, the Secretary of State works to “Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system.”
Then there are the responsibilities. The position of Secretary of State is an increasingly nebulous one, but there are some definite must-dos. As such, one must organize and supervise the entire United States Department of State and the United States Foreign Service, advise the President on matters relating to U.S. foreign policy, participates in high-level negotiations with other countries, be responsible for overall direction, coordination, and supervision of interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government overseas, provide information and services (passports, visas, etc.) to U.S. citizens living or traveling abroad, supervise the United States immigration policy abroad, and communicates issues relating the United States foreign policy to Congress and to U.S. citizens.
Given all of that, the 63-year-old Wintour is probably a long shot to leapfrog over that ambassador nonsense and jump right into the lilypond. After all, Susan Rice—current ambassador to the UN and former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs—is struggling as a potential replacement for the retiring Hillary Clinton, and that’s based on her actual foreign affairs experience. Poor Ms. Wintour would likely not fare well under the scrutiny of Congress.
But weep not for her prospects for a job she probably doesn’t even want. There are some pros for a future Secretary of State Wintour—for example, she is a visionary editor who helms Vogue, which promotes a prosperous lifestyle and is a multinational brand that enjoys press freedom; her time-tested “not amused” poker face and eye-shielding sunglasses could help her withstand the nomination process; she was born and raised in London, which obviously entails foreign exposure; she is sometimes called “Nuclear Wintour,” which definitely means she is familiar with military tactics; Donald Trump likes her; she would easily tailor and wear Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits; she famously told multiple people she only wanted to be editor-in-chief at Vogue, which means she has her eyes on the prize. Secretary of State (nor Ambassador of any kind, really) may not be her qualification or prize of choice, but it’s still fun to think that she might beef up her diplomatic portfolio if she really wanted to.
But tally everything up, and it’s fairly obvious: Wintour is just not a plausible Secretary of State candidate. So, sorry, Mr. de la Renta. You may have outfitted Laura Bush, Ann Romney, Hillary Clinton and Jackie Kennedy, but your political foresight does not seem as refined…yet.