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Monday, October 24, 2016

For all the talk of tax increases and debt-cutting, President Barack Obama’s biggest and most revealing decision this year may be which candidate he chooses to be his new secretary of state. It will tell us whether the president allows comfort to trump qualification.

The two candidates are Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, and Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Both would be impressive, though they bring different strengths.

Rice’s advantage is that she has a closer personal relationship with the president, making her better integrated in the administration’s policy-making apparatus. Kerry’s edge is that he’s a heavyweight who would be more effective representing the U.S. around the world.

Rice has the inside track for now, and she got an unintentional boost last week from Senator John McCain, who was shooting from the hip, as usual. McCain, who is Kerry’s old friend and fellow Vietnam veteran, hounded Rice mercilessly over the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. Her only sin was that on the Sunday shows in September she conveyed exactly what she was told by the Central Intelligence Agency about the attack on the U.S. consulate.

Just before his first post-election news conference, the president heard that McCain and his Sancho Panza, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were threatening to block Rice’s nomination with a filibuster. This made the president angrier than he has been in months, according to a senior White House official I spoke with. “For them to go after” Rice and “besmirch her reputation, is outrageous,” Obama said at the news conference.

Appearances’ Sake

Obama says he hasn’t made a decision. But rejecting Rice in favor of Kerry would make the president look like he’s buckling to pressure from McCain, the Republican opponent he defeated in the 2008 election. And yet, if how something looks is the issue — and appearances are critical in diplomacy — then Obama should choose Kerry.

Kerry, a prominent senator for 28 years, would sail through his Senate confirmation hearings. Rice would be pinned down not just by Benghazi but by some of her past statements, in particular these two: In 1994, when she served on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, she reportedly asked about the possibility of intervening in Rwanda: “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November election?”

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Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • old_blu

    Well according to this article Kerry is the right choice, I’m glad I don’t have to make the choice it would be a tough one for sure.

  • Rule of thumb: If republicans resist and condemn it, no doubt it’s the right thing to do.

  • Sen. Kerry is, at first glance, a logical choice for Secretary of State, not only because of his record as a senator, but because of the notoriety and stature he gained when he ran for President. A Secretary of State must have credibility, stature and must give the impression that he/she can make tough decisions on behalf of the President without having to get the boss’s approval for every word and comma in an international agreement. Susan Rice is a wonderful UN Ambassador, but she is not yet ready for prime time.

  • Jim Lou

    Kerry is definitely qualified. He would sail through the Senate like Clinton since he is a member of the club, like she was.

    Who would replace him as Senator?

    • Maybe Joe Kennedy III or Deval Patrick, although I think the latter will probably be picked to head the Justice Department.

  • nobsartist

    I think that Rice should remain the UN envoy understanding how much the republiCON half wits despise the UN and Rice, Kerry would make an excellent representative of our world wide interests.

    After all, you really cannot compare a cry baby, senile idiot like mccain to an actual patriot like Kerry.

  • William Deutschlander

    Only if we have a very strong candidate to take his place in the Senate !

  • I think the President should pick Susan Rice; she is very smart and has vast experience being the director of the UN. She is the one who sends troupes from different countries, so don’t understand why the Republicans are so opposed to her? I am in shock that they are saying all these mean thing about her. I think this is a raciest thing my heart crys. The Republicans are not nice people

  • hfassihi

    Senator Kerry is the best choice. Him as Secretary of States and Rice at the UN can do a good job.

  • I think they are both qualified, both very smart and the repoublicans don’t like smart people. They like dirty tricks.

  • zeldaq

    good morning all,
    i think that whom ever MR. OBAMA chooses for the job, will be the right choice. he is a very intelligent man. his choice will be made for the right reasons. ” for the good of the country”; nothing to do with shit heads McCain, and graham. MR. OBAMA is way too mature to let those ass holes, or any other GOP RACIST touch holes, interfere with his dicisions. from what i’ve read about MRS. RICE, she is a good candidate for a lot of important government jobs. as is MR. KERRY. all of this bull shit coming from mccain, and graham, is just ” dog whistle” racism. plus
    mccain’s childish action because of his loss to MR. OBAMA in 2008. of coarse graham is kissing
    mccain’s dirty old ass , thinking he can use the spot in the lime light with the seniors. graham rarely has a thought of his own. mid term elections will be here soon. i think mccain is up for re-election. i’m not sure about the other loser. i think we will see some major changes in congress in
    2016. it’s time for the GOP, and the tea party to take a hike, so the country can get moving again.

  • quasm

    Mr. Alter;

    What better choice could be made for Secretary of State than Sen. Kerry? How could it possibly be unwise to confirm a man who s a military officer is shown denigrating his country and his comrades in Viet Nam with unsupported, scurrilous accusations?

    Dik Thurston
    Colorado Springs

    • daniel bostdorf

      History has proven John Kerry and many other “Veterans for Peace” that they were right about Vietnam..

      quasm….it’s time to get back in here the year 2012….not 1970.

      Your tirade against Kerry is simply way out of touch.

  • daniel bostdorf

    I prefer Senator Kerry as Secretary of Defense, not State. He is more tempermentally suited for that role.

    I lived next to him on Pickney Street at Louisburg Square in Beacon Hill/Boston Massachusetts during his Presidential campaign, and he is an amiable fellow when ducking in and out of his townhouse mansion, but he did loose the Presidency. He is too aloof and somewhat arrogant and self centered and out of mainstream diplomatic thinking, in my opinion.

    I fundamentally disagree with your comments about Ambassador Rice. She is far better suited intellectually and temperamentally as Secretary of State.

    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has quiet hands-on diplomacy style needed at this juncture in history. She is not aloof or arrogant. Very much the “heir apparent” from Secretary Clinton.

    Mr Alter—-you stated it best:

    “…..the next secretary of state may be called on to broker Mideast peace talks between Israel and Hamas or conduct high-stakes talks with Iran on its nuclear program. Wouldn’t it be better to have someone at the table with wide experience and the political clout to make things happen?”

    Yes—that is Susan Rice, not John Kerry. Kerry belongs at Defense or CIA, not State.

  • I have already e-mailed our President…and explained to him why, John Kerry, would be the best choice for being Secretary Of State….I don’t approve of Susan Rice at all…and have a problem with her tempers…believe me…John Kerry, has been in a war..and he would be the best person dealing with our world wide interests and communicating with those people from all over the world…e-mail the president and give your input as to whom you would want to see as our Secretary of State…thanks…I love coming on here to read what all you intelligent people have to say…have a Merry Christmas..from MO

    • daniel bostdorf

      Appreciate your view….but having lived 8 doors up from Kerry in Beacon Hill, Boston, known of him throughout the 70’s until present, he simply has no tempermant to be head of State….

      When you state this: “John Kerry, has been in a war..and he would be the best person dealing with our world wide interests…” that makes him qualified for ONLY for Defense or CIA, but never State.

      As a lifelong Democrat, born in 1953, experienced in politics (having managed a gubernatorial campaign in Maine early 80’s), know of Kerry’s mindset for past 35 years, my opinion is formed from personal observation and experience with Kerry on the national and international political scene.

      I don’t know where you get this about Rice: “have a problem with her tempers..” Rice is cool under fire.She’s a consumate accomplished, experienced, trained, well-versed, practiced diplomat. Rice knows the world players and scenario far better than Kerry.

      Kerry has been far too isolated in his millionaire’s world of Senate and a failed presidential candidacy. His narcissistic, egocentric Buddhist philosophy simply keeps him off the world agenda.

      Kerry is not engaged in the “hand to hand” combat of diplomacy as Rice is.

  • Kerry would be a great choice for Sec of State, however I would like to see Obama nominate Susan Rice, just to stick it to McCain, Graham once again!!

  • sambilano

    Mr.John[ Good Guy]Kerry is all OK ,but who is for his place?Another Republican?.

  • wyllys

    Kertry does have political clout, but is he intellectually swift enough to deal with those things that inevitably happen out there in the real world? Also, what does he really know about the pacific rim nations that will play an increasingly important role in the world?
    How about Huntsman. Are we really after the best qualified? And, I am a Democrat.

  • colorado4Barack


  • howa4x

    The problem for the president with Kerry is that he vacates a senate seat that will need a special election to fill it. Scott Brown has the election machinery in place to win this, and the seat hard fought by Elizabeth warren will be for nothing. She would have a hard time working with him, and it would be a slap against women by passing over a more than qualified one for a well liked male. On the political side it would be good for the president to nominate Rice and let McCain and Graham go to the mat against her. The more terrible things they say about her the better. McCain calling a Rhodes Scholar: not to bright, is priceless, especially after he picked Palin. The republicans already have a major problem with women and Afro Americans, and this will create another oppurtunity to paint them as sexist, and racist., all in the same person. What could be better than that? It will also energize these two groups for the mid term elections, since there is always a let down by the winning side after a national election. So go with Rice and let the fight begin.

    • english_teacher

      I agree with you that the problem would be special election needed to fill Kerry’s seat in the Senate. I’m not sure that it is the best overall strategic move to make in this situation. Let’s not underestimate the opposition.

    • ATolsma

      Your note touches all of the bases (or at least most) on this issue. I firmly believe that McCain, et al, are motivated by the thought that there are only two viable candidates for Secretary of State (Rice and Kerry). So if they resist Rice and force the President’s hand to install Kerry, it will expose Kerry’s seat to a special election that may well result in Brown’s return to the Senate. I am confident that the President is considering every possible variable in this complex issue. Maybe this is where Petraeous, and his formidable skills, are plugged back into service. Just a thought.

  • ATolsma

    Kerry would be an excellent choice. But anyone who thinks that McCain et al are pormoting him because of his qualifications isn’t ‘paying attention. They want Kerry’s Senate seat vacated so they can throw every penny Karl Rove has left at replacing him with ex-Senator Brown.

    How about naming Patraeus Sec of State?

  • nellcote

    Rice to SoS. Kerry to DoD. Barney Frank takes Kerry’s senate seat until Joe Kennedy wins special election.