Peter Ubertaccio: Kerry May Be Next Secretary of State
November 13, 2012
by Peter Ubertaccio
President Obama's re-election will turn everyone's attention to the new faces to be seen in the White House and Cabinet. One of them may well be John Kerry. While nothing is certain, it seems more likely than not that the Bay State's senior senator will be making a move to Foggy Bottom.
There are many good reason for the president to make this appointment.
First, stature. There are not many internationally recognized political leaders who will serve in the Cabinet. The president found one in Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush found one in Colin Powell. John Kerry fits the bill, perhaps more so than Clinton or Powell.
A longtime member of the Foreign Relations Committee who has served as its chairman and who also ran a competitive presidential campaign, Kerry brings the type of gravitas thought of highly in foreign capitals. It signals the president's respect for foreign policy that he'd be willing to appoint a peer and someone with a considerable political constituency of his own to represent the nation.
Second, the issues. There's no question that a Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee under a Democratic president will have intimate knowledge of the major issues confronting the nation. He also will not need to be introduced to the White House thinking on these issues. If an element of stability and continuity is desirable in foreign policy, Kerry will bring both.
Kerry's own knowledge of American foreign policy and its many entanglements is deep. The senator brings his personal experiences from Vietnam to the table, as well as his too-often overlooked political experiences investigating and exposing the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which operated through a network of secret offshore centers and funded criminal activities, globally.
Finally, Kerry can get through the Senate. The Benghazi issue is not going to go away. If the president nominates Susan Rice, he will be assured of a nomination fight by Republicans who, in the aftermath of their brutal defeat Tuesday, will be looking for any opening. It's not a fight the White House needs as it prepares to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff and other divisive issues on the docket. Rice could win in the Senate but it will be bruising and time-consuming with a greater amount of uncertainty regarding the final outcome.
A question that Kerry will reasonably have is how much authority he will have to steer foreign policy and what the relationship between the White House and State Department will be like in a second term. Clinton and the President have developed a working relationship, even if it doesn't extend down to the staff level. Bush and Powell never did.
An Obama-Kerry partnership will never be as close as the one between George H.W. Bush and James Baker. But Kerry surely doesn't want the position if he'll be cast aside in the manner of William Rogers during the Nixon presidency.
That seems unlikely if he gets the nod. Kerry helped introduce the unknown state senator from Illinois to a national audience in 2004. He's been an ally of this White House and worked hard to ensure victory in 2012. He's heading, both in age and temperament, to senior statesman level--and the president would be making a wise calculation in appointing him.
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