Kerry as Secretary of State: Two Takes
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., greets U.S. troops in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005. Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.
President Obama on Friday nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as secretary of state to replace outgoing Secretary Hillary Clinton. Kerry’s long career in the Senate as well as his appreciation for quiet diplomacy make him an appealing candidate, some analysts said.
James Mann, author of “The Obamians”, however, believes that Kerry might not be a bold enough pick. When asked whether the Massachusetts senator would make a good U.S. secretary of state, Mann responded: “I’m honestly not sure whether he will.” Said Mann: “The problem is not anything he might do, but whether he will be a driving force for change in America’s foreign policy, and whether he will be a creator of new ideas of his own, or simply someone who carries out what the Obama White House wants. So my concerns would be: he’s not a new face, he’s someone who’s been around for a long time.”
Kerry’s 27 years in the Senate — he’s currently chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee — likely will improve his chances of getting policy initiatives, such as President Obama’s sought-after comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, approved by the Senate, Mann added.
David Ignatius, foreign affairs columnist for the Washington Post, said Kerry’s familiarity with hotspots and recognition abroad also will help in his dealings with other countries. “He’s been around foreign ministers and the world’s diplomats for more than two decades, so in that sense he’s a reassuring connection to what people think of as American power.”
Kerry meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Sderot, Israel, overlooking the Gaza Strip in 2009. Photo by Yossi Zamir-Pool/Getty Images.
Kerry is already practiced in quiet diplomacy, acting on behalf of the White House over the years, which will likely continue to be part of the Obama administration’s strategy, Ignatius said.
Working against Kerry, however, is his lack of a personal relationship with President Obama, Ignatius wrote in his Dec. 13 Post column.
“Washington gossips report that Obama sometimes found Kerry long-winded during the hours of debate preparation when Kerry played the role of Mitt Romney. Maybe Obama and Kerry need to play basketball together, or go windsurfing, or just have a beer,” Ignatius wrote.
Mann and Ignatius will be guests on Friday’s NewsHour. Geoffrey Lou Guray and P.J. Tobia contributed to the reporting. View more of our World coverage.