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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Cabinet Update: Kerry and Hagel Nominations Likely

by Newsteam Staff
December 17, 2012

U.S. Senator and former Democratic presidential nominee Kerry addresses delegates during the Democratic National Convention September 6, 2012. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Senator and former Democratic presidential nominee Kerry addresses delegates during the Democratic National Convention September 6, 2012. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama has decided on Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as his choice for secretary of State (Reuters), according to multiple sources, who say an official announcement is expected as early as mid-week. If nominated, Kerry is unlikely to face a Senate confirmation fight (CSMonitor).

Donna Cassata writes for the Associated Press that Kerry “stands tall as President Barack Obama’s good soldier”:

The Massachusetts lawmaker has flown to Afghanistan and Pakistan numerous times to tamp down diplomatic disputes, spending hours drinking tea and taking walks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai or engaging in delicate negotiations in Islamabad.

It’s a highly unusual role for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman: envoy with a special but undefined portfolio.

James Traub writes in Foreign Policy that choosing Kerry would lead to a continuity in foreign policy from Obama’s first term:

Kerry is more like Hillary Clinton in both temperament and worldview than any other even plausible candidate to replace her. And because Obama respects Kerry without being close to him, as has been true of his relationship with Clinton, foreign policy will probably continue to be formulated in the White House, and executed by the State Department.


Obama is also expected to nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NB) to replace Leon Panetta as secretary of Defense (Bloomberg). Regarded as a moderate, his confirmation also would likely be “quick and painless,” reports the Washington Post.

The Christian Science Monitor reports Hagel’s military experience during the Vietnam War is “helpful for a potential Pentagon head serving in the wake of two decade-long wars, because he knows intimately the struggles of those returning from battle, longtime colleagues point out.”

Jacob Heilbrunn writes in Foreign Policy that, at the risk of further alienating Republicans, Hagel could help Obama in cutting the defense budget and retrenching abroad:

Hagel’s independent streak derives from the fact that his deepest loyalty is to the soldiers who actually fight the battles that Washington politicians direct them to wage. And like Henry Stimson, a Republican who served in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration as secretary of war, Hagel believes in bipartisanship and compromise. Those traits have not exactly endeared him to his former brethren in the conservative movement who thirst for martial glory, at least from the sidelines.

–Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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