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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 Tapped to be Secretary of State

by Newsteam Staff
December 21, 2012

Senator Kerry speaks to reporters after his meeting with south Sudan's President Kiir in Juba January 8, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters) Senator John Kerry in South Sudan, January 2011. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters)


President Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) (BostonGlobe) to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state on Friday. “In a sense, John’s entire life has prepared him for this role,” Obama said during an appearance with Kerry at the White House.

Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, was elected to the Senate in 1984 after serving two years as lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts. He is serving his fifth Senate term and is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which he has served for nearly three decades.

In the Senate, Kerry has been an advocate for the environment, including pushing for the United States to participate in the Kyoto Protocol, among other international environmental initiatives. On national security, Kerry participated in a fact-finding mission that uncovered the Iran-Contra Affair, led the Senate effort to ratify the New START Treaty, and has long supported global anti-terrorism legislation.

In 2004, Kerry ran unsuccessfully for president against George W. Bush in a campaign dominated by national security issues. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004, he said:

In these dangerous days there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power and I know the power of our ideals.

He also tapped then Senate candidate Barack Obama “for his first high-profile speech — the keynote address at Kerry’s 2004 presidential nominating convention — and he has since represented Obama not only abroad but domestically on the congressional budget super-committee,” reports The Boston Globe.

James Traub writes in Foreign Policy that choosing Kerry would lead to a continuity in foreign policy from Obama’s first term since he “is more like Hillary Clinton in both temperament and worldview than any other even plausible candidate to replace her.” Elise Labott and Jill Dougherty write for CNN that Kerry would bring “experience and deep personal resources” to the State Department.

In The New Republic, Molly Redden gives her predictions on what a Secretary Kerry’s foreign policy would look like vis-a-vis Syria, Libya, and China. PolicyMic’s Tom McKay details Kerry’s positions on Israel, Iran, and climate change, drawing conclusions on what he would do as secretary of state.

Jonathan Broder writes in Roll Call that the Democrat-controlled Senate could become more resistant to Obama’s foreign policy initiatives, since in Kerry’s absence, the Foreign Relations Committee chairmanship would likely go to Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Menendez “doesn’t mind going against the administration, as he has done over the past year in pushing — and winning — ever tougher sanctions against Iran,” Broder says. A representative of a large Cuban-American community in New Jersey, Menendez has also been consistently opposed to moves to improve relations with Cuba, which could make any administration outreach efforts more difficult.

 –Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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