After long wait, Kerry finally gets chance to head State

Confirmation seems certain

In hindsight, Sen. John F. Kerry was the obvious pick for President Obama when he went looking for someone to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Susan E. Rice, the administration’s U.N. ambassador, attracted a wave of heated attention as Mr. Obama’s apparent favorite for the job. But it is the 69-year-old Mr. Kerry who has risen slowly through Capitol Hill’s foreign-policy ranks for nearly three decades, taking over as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009 upon the ascension of Joseph R. Biden, long the panel’s top Democrat, to the vice presidency.

Now it’s Mr. Kerry’s turn. He will face his colleagues at a hearing Thursday, and his confirmation is likely get a full Senate vote soon afterward — almost certainly in his favor.

“You get to be chairman of that committee by getting re-elected and staying on the committee. It’s all seniority,” said Leslie Gelb, president emeritus and board senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Kerry’s been around for well over 20 years, he’s traveled all over the world and done a lot of reading. He’s a serious guy. You can see he knows his stuff, and I think others recognize it as well.”

For some, though, that means little more than being the last guy standing.

Kerry lobbied hard for the secretary of state job, and there wasn’t anybody else, so he got it,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Senators usually are given tremendous deference by their colleagues when it comes to nominations, and Mr. Kerry almost certainly will benefit from that — even though, Mrs. Pletka said, “he is not very well liked.”

“He hasn’t made it a habit to win friends or influence people,” said Mrs. Pletka. “That was also his problem when he ran for president.”

The nomination of Mr. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, represents two small victories for conservatives.

First, he is not Mrs. Rice, whose expected nomination was doomed after she characterized the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya as a spontaneous demonstration that grew out of control.

Second, if he gets the State Department post, Mr. Kerry will open up a Senate seat in Massachusetts, where Republican Scott P. Brown is looking for an opportunity, having narrowly lost his own Senate re-election bid last year.

Mr. Kerry won support from two prominent Republicans, Sen. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both of whom were harshly critical of Mrs. Rice.

Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican whom Mr. Kerry reportedly pursued as a potential vice presidential nominee in 2004, jocularly referred to Mr. Kerry as “Mr. Secretary” when the two appeared together last month at a news conference.

His chief qualification for the job is heading the Foreign Relations Committee — a panel with which he has been linked for most of his public career.

It began in 1971, when the 27-year-old Mr. Kerry became the first Vietnam veteran to testify before the committee about the war. His testimony, which delved into alleged atrocities committed by U.S. forces, infuriated the Nixon White House.

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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