President Obama on Friday nominated Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts to be secretary of state, succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton and filling the first key post of the president’s second-term national security team.
Mr. Obama’s decision to tap Mr. Kerry, his party’s former presidential nominee in 2004, comes as no surprise after Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, took her name out of the running for the post last week.
Announcing the nomination in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, Mr. Obama said Mr. Kerry wouldn’t need “a lot of on-the-job training” after playing “a central role in nearly every foreign policy debate over three decades.”
“It is fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp more foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry,” said Mr. Obama, standing alongside Vice President Joseph R. Biden and the senator’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
“Few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or have a better grasp of our foreign policy,” said Mr. Obama, standing alongside Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Joking that “nothing brings you closer than debate preparation,” Mr. Obama called Mr. Kerry a “great friend” and thanked him for helping him practice for this year’s presidential debates against GOP opponent Mitt Romney and for helping him win Senate approval of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia among other foreign policy initiatives.
“I have called on his talents and diplomatic skills on many occasions … each time he has been exemplary,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama also recalled Mr. Kerry’s role in catapulting him onto the national political stage by giving him the key note speaking role at the 2004 Democratic nominating convention in Boston even though he was only a “young, Illinois state senator” at the time.
The president returned the favor by giving Mr. Kerry a key foreign policy speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte this year, which was generally viewed as the Massachusetts Democrat’s audition for secretary of state.
Mr. Kerry used the prime-time speaking role to blast Mr. Romney’s foreign policy record and said he and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, would be the “most inexperienced foreign policy twosome” to run for the White House in decades.
Although outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is still at home recovering from a concussion, Mr. Obama said he had spoken to her that morning and that she deeply regrets missing the nomination announcement.
He also spoke glowingly of Mrs. Clinton’s record, noting that she has traveled to more countries in four years than any other secretary of state in history.
“I am looking forward to paying tribute to her service in the days to come,” he said.
“I have been privileged to know John for many years and to call him a friend, colleague and partner,” she said. “He will bring decades of service to our country and deep experience in international affairs.”