A couple quick thoughts on SecState and SecDef:
I’m not so sure that the Benghazi imbroglio was the proximate cause of Rice’s decision to step aside. I don’t have any inside info, but questions were developing about her association with Paul Kagame, and more generally about her inclination to support Rwanda’s account of the current M23 mess. Of course, it’s not exactly true that close identification with Rwanda is nomination poison, but with Republicans already looking for blood it may have made the climb insurmountable.
Kerry would seem to be a good choice on the merits, less so on the strategic aspects. Dan Nexon and I gamed this out a while ago, however, and came to the conclusion that it might not be such a big deal, depending on what Kerry’s plans for 2014 were:
On SecDef, the atmospherics of Chuck Hagel are pretty bad; at some point the Democrats need to be able to make a convincing case that they can manage the Defense Department without Republican help. However, I’m increasingly thinking that the atmospherics are really the primary difficulty, and that there’s not going to be any policy problem. The administration probably thinks that having a Republican in charge when the defense cuts come down is a good thing, and Hagel certainly has the right enemies.