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A Day with his Pals: Kerry Coasts Through Nomination Hearing

"It would be totally inappropriate for me here to begin to negotiate with myself and the committee with respect to how they would come into compliance or what would be required," Kerry said. "I can tell you this: It is going to be imperative that they come into full compliance and there are several ways in which we might be able to get there, and most prominently, obviously, the P-5-plus-1."

"If their program is peaceful, they can prove it. And that's what we are seeking," he added.

Like yesterday's Clinton hearing, the only real hardballs came from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a new member of the committee this Congress.

"In the early 1970s, you know, after Vietnam, you were quite critical of the bombing in Cambodia because I think you felt that it wasn't authorized by Congress. Has your opinion changed about the bombing in Cambodia? How is Cambodia different than Libya?" Paul asked in a thread of questioning about war powers.

"It was an extension of the war that was being prosecuted without the involvement of Congress after a number of years. That's very different," Kerry responded. "...Look, you can be absolutist and apply it to every circumstance. The problem is it just doesn't work in some instances. When 10,000 people are about to be wiped out by a brutal dictator and you need to make a quick judgment about engagement, you certainly can't rely on a Congress that has proven itself unwilling to move after weeks and months sometimes."

"Do you think a U.N. resolution sufficient to go to war?" Paul continued.

"No. No. I think a U.N. resolution -- when you say sufficient to go to war, I think a U.N. resolution is a necessary ingredient to provide the legal basis for military action in an emergency," Kerry said. "It is not by any means sufficient to require the United States to do something, because we obey our Constitution and our interests and our rights."

Paul asked about the F-16s and tanks being sent to Egypt despite comments President Mohamed Morsi has made about Israelis being descended from apes and pigs.

"I think those comments are reprehensible. And those comments set back the possibilities of working toward mutual -- issues of mutual interests. They are degrading comments. They are unacceptable by anybody's standard. And I think they have to appropriately be apologized for," Kerry said. "...President Morsi has issued two statements to clarify those comments. And we had a group of senators who met with him just the other day who spent a good part of their conversation in relatively heated discussion with him about it. But not everything -- you know, this is always the complication in dealings in the international sector. Not everything lends itself to a simple clarity of black-white, this-that every time. We have critical interests with Egypt."

"But this has been our problem with our foreign policy for decades, Republican and Democrat," Paul said. "We funded bin Laden. We funded the mujahedeen. We were in favor of the radical jihad because they were the enemy of our enemy. We've done this so often. I see these weapons coming back to threaten Israel."

After a nearly four-hour hearing, there was little doubt about which way the Senate will go on the nomination of their longtime colleague.

“The Senate has an obligation to ensure that presidential nominees are competent, qualified, and free of hindrances that would affect their ability to serve. But I believe that once a nominee passes those tests, presidents, whether Democrat or Republican, ought to have the ability to select members of their administrations,” said committee member Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) after the hearing.

“While I expect to disagree with the Obama Administration over how best to carry out U.S. interests abroad, Senator Kerry is qualified to serve as Secretary of State," Flake said. "I look forward to working with him in that capacity.”