John Kerry to be nominated to replace Hillary Clinton at State Department

us politics

Photo ReportingJohn Kerry to be nominated to replace Hillary Clinton at State Department

21 December 2012

Barack Obama to select former Democratic presidential nominee who is expected to be easily confirmed by Congress



Chris McGreal, US correspondent

Barack Obama has nominated John Kerry, the former Democratic party presidential candidate, to be secretary of state, saying the senator's "entire life has prepared him for this role".

Kerry, the 69-year-old chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, is expected to have a relatively easy ride through the congressional approval process, unlike the previous frontrunner for the role, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations.

A number of Republicans have touted him as an alternative to Rice, who withdrew from consideration in the face vehement opposition because of her role in the administration's initially misleading account of the attack which killed the US ambassador to Libya.

Obama praised the outgoing secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, for her "tireless work to restore our global leadership". Clinton is recovering from concussion after she collapsed earlier this month.

The president said that Kerry had a particular understanding of the America's role in the world. "Having served with valour in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power," the president said. "I think it's fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents or prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policy as firmly as John Kerry. And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead."

Republicans have made clear their support. The party's leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, last week praised the prospect of Kerry as secretary of state. Senator John McCain, who was at the forefront of Republican efforts to block Rice, jokingly called Kerry "Mr Secretary" last week.

Kerry has a close relationship with Obama who gave a keynote speech during Kerry's nomination as presidential candidate at the Democratic convention in 2004. Kerry went on to become an early supporter of Obama's own bid for the presidency.

Obama also praised Kerry for his role in helping the US restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam. He has despatched him on several sensitive diplomatic missions including to Pakistan after the US raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden, badly damaged Washington's relations with Islamabad. He also persuaded the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to agree to an election runoff in 2009 and led US attempts to reach out to the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, at the beginning of the uprising.

Nicholas Burns, a former career diplomat and ambassador who served as Condoleezza Rice's undersecretary for political affairs, told CNN that Kerry is a good nomination.

"There are very few people with greater experience over a longer period of time. He would be a very, very impressive choice," he said. "You really need someone who is a renaissance person with a tremendous range of skill, both political and substantive, with a deep reservoir of knowledge. You need someone who can drill several layers deep on foreign policy issues."

As a child, Kerry lived in Berlin, where his father was a US diplomat when the city was at the heart of cold war tension. He later attended a Swiss boarding school before fighting in Vietnam.

Kerry will face a long list of diplomatic challenges from the Syrian uprising and Iran's nuclear programme to Israel's ever more belligerent attitude toward Jewish settlement expansion amid warnings that the two state solution is moving beyond reach.

He will also have to grapple with the aftermath of the militia assault in Benghazi in which the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed. An independent board issued a report this week that made stinging criticisms of the State Department's handling of security in Benghazi and forced the resignation of four senior department officials. Kerry will have to oversee significant reforms as a result of the report while also grappling with budget cuts.

But he made clear his respect for the State Department and the work it does at a Senate foreign affairs committee hearing into the Benghazi report on Friday. Kerry called for better funding for the State Department as he described diplomacy as a means of staving off conflicts that are far more expensive in lives and money.

"Adequately funding America's foreign policy objectives is not spending. It's investing in our long term security and more often than not it saves far more expensive expenditures in dollars and lives for the conflicts that we fail to see or avoid," he said.

Eight years ago, Republicans launched fierce attacks on Kerry's credibility as he ran for president against George W Bush, homing in on his military service in Vietnam. A well funded campaign challenged his war hero status as a US navy lieutenant commanding a gunboat, known as a Swift Boat, in the Mekong Delta where he won several medals. A secretly funded group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, ran an advertising campaign accusing Kerry of lying about two of his awards.

After leaving the military, Kerry openly questioned the government's claims about the war and was highly critical as a witness before the Senate foreign relations committee he would go on to chair years later.

Source The Guardian UK, Friday 21 December 2012



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