Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is officially President Obama’s choice to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State for his second term. Kerry — who helped introduce Obama to the nation by choosing him to keynote the 2004 Democratic National Convention — currently serves as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee.
Kerry returned to the Senate after narrowly losing the 2004 presidential election to George W. Bush. There, his international prominence helped him take a lead role in reshaping America’s role in the world following the disastrous Iraq war, which Kerry initially supported and then spoke out against.
Kerry was initially mentioned as a potential replacement for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, along with UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who was slated to replace current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Rice’s nomination was immediately attacked by senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who saw an opportunity to use the tragedy in Benghazi to destroy the ambassador’s bid. Rice eventually withdraw her name from consideration after the president’s fierce defense of her and her own attempts at soothing the controversy were rejected by Republicans.
Kerry faced his own character assassination during the 2004 campaign when a group calling itself “Swiftboat Veterans for Truth” cast doubt on his military record of heroism, for which he earned five combat decorations. The group included one former Bush campaign official and was supported by prominent Republican donors. Failure to stand up to the aspersions is often cited as a crucial factor in Kerry’s eventual defeat.
President Obama said that he hopes Kerry will be quickly confirmed, and members of the “Swiftboat Veterans For Truth” appear to have no interest in challenging his nomination.
The president cited Kerry’s combat experience while announcing his pick.
“Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power,” Obama said of Kerry. “And he knows from personal experience that when we send our troops into harm’s way, we must give them a sound strategy, clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done.”
“John, I’m looking forward to working with you instead of debating you,” the president joked, alluding to Kerry’s role playing Mitt Romney during debate prep before the November election.
The president’s choice was praised by the current secretary Hillary Clinton.
“The son of a career Foreign Service Officer, diplomacy is in his blood,” Clinton said in a statement. “As a decorated veteran, he knows what it takes to defend our nation and our values. As a leader in the Senate, he understands how to build coalitions and craft compromises. As a statesman respected around the world, he will be able to sustain and extend America’s global leadership.”