President Obama lauded Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) as someone whose “entire life has prepared him for this role” of secretary of State in his second term.
Kerry will be nominated to the position he’s long coveted, after embattled UN Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration.
“Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power. And he knows from personal experience that when we send our troops into harm’s way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done,” Obama said with the senator at his side in the Roosevelt Room today.
“As John has said, we are an exceptional nation not because we say we are, because we do exceptional things. And I’d say that one of the more exceptional things we’ve seen in recent decades was when John helped lead the way, along with folks like John McCain and others, to restore our diplomatic ties with Vietnam. When he returned to the country where he and so many others had fought so long ago, it sent a powerful message of progress and of healing.”
Obama said Kerry “is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training” and a “great friend.” That friendship included Kerry playing Mitt Romney in the president’s campaign debate prep.
“I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry. And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead,” the president said. “…Of course, I also have to say thanks because John invited a young Illinois state senator to address the Democratic convention in Boston.”
Obama said he hopes the Senate will confirm Kerry quickly, and he probably doesn’t have to worry — during the heated opposition to a potential Rice nomination, GOP senators openly expressed their preference for Kerry over the ambassador.
“I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said last month.
Obama said Hillary Clinton “very much to be here today, but she continues to recuperate” from the flu/concussion that kept her from testifying on Benghazi yesterday.
“She is looking forward to getting back to work, and I am looking forward to paying tribute to her extraordinary service in the days to come,” he said.
Clinton issued a lengthy statement praising Kerry as “an excellent choice.”
“John Kerry has been tested – in war, in government, and in diplomacy. Time and again, he has proven his mettle,” she said. “…Senator Kerry has fought for our nation’s diplomats and development experts – and for investing in their mission and America’s global leadership. And now, he is working closely with me and my team to learn the lessons of the tragedy in Benghazi, further protect our people and posts, and implement every single one of the Accountability Review Board’s recommendations.”
Vice President Joe Biden and Teresa Heinz Kerry stood on the other side of Obama as he presented nominee Kerry. Before the president and the senator came in the room, Biden quipped to reporters that he was there to announcement Kerry’s wife would be secretary of State.
Heinz Kerry smiled and responded, “Another woman!”
Kerry’s colleagues quickly praised the choice.
“The next Secretary of State will need to be open to systemic reforms within the Department while remaining a strong advocate for America’s interests around the world,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “Senator Kerry is well respected among his colleagues in the Senate and I look forward to a prompt and thorough confirmation process that will provide an opportunity to address some of the serious security and political challenges facing American diplomats and development professionals abroad.”
“Senator Kerry has demonstrated his leadership on the global stage. When CIA contractor Ray Davis was jailed in Pakistan in 2011, the President turned to John Kerry to negotiate a resolution to the crisis,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). “I was in Pakistan just a few days before Chairman Kerry’s arrival, and U.S. officials on the ground had great confidence he would find a solution – which he did. Their faith in John Kerry was well placed, and this is just one example of the skills that will make him an exceptional secretary of state.”
If Kerry wins confirmation, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will appoint a placeholder to the seat before the special election, which is required 145 to 160 days after Kerry vacates the seat he’s held since 1985.
It’s widely expected that Sen. Scott Brown, defeated for a full term by Elizabeth Warren last month, would try for Kerry’s seat, especially as there are no strong conservative challengers in his state.
On the Democratic side, names floated as possible candidates range from Michael Dukakis to Ben Affleck. The placeholder may be someone qualified for the job yet retired — like Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Obama also hosted Patrick at the White House shortly after his re-election win, stoking speculation that the president wanted to gauge the governor’s interest in running for the Senate should a Democrat be plucked from the caucus for his cabinet.
Brown wasn’t available for comment — his father, C. Bruce Brown, died yesterday of Parkinson’s disease.