Obama nominates John Kerry for secretary of state role

Sat, Dec 22, 2012, 00:00

US president Barack Obama has named Massachusetts senator John Kerry as his choice to become the next US secretary of state, saying he has the respect and trust of leaders around the world.

Mr Kerry (69) would replace US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who has previously said she plans to leave the post.

Mr Obama said Mr Kerry would continue the work that Mrs Clinton has done to restore US influence globally.

Mr Kerry “is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training”, Mr Obama said in making the announcement at the White House yesterday. His fellow Democrat’s knowledge of US policy and relationships with foreign leaders “makes him a perfect choice” to become secretary of state, Mr Obama added.

The nomination of Mr Kerry, who is chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, is subject to Senate confirmation and sets in motion a shuffle of Mr Obama’s top national security and foreign policy advisers for his second term.

Mr Kerry has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1985, and was the Democratic candidate for the 2004 US presidential election – losing out to the incumbent, George W Bush.

Mr Kerry became the leading contender for the post after Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew from consideration.

Obama ally

Mr Kerry is a longtime ally of Mr Obama. At the 2004 Democratic convention where Mr Kerry became the party’s presidential nominee, Mr Obama was selected to deliver the keynote address.

An Illinois state senator at the time who was running for the Senate seat he would win that November, Mr Obama gained national attention with his speech.

Mr Kerry will win quick confirmation from his fellow senators, said Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel and director for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The nomination hearings will be conducted by the committee that he has led for the past four years and, “after so many years of service in the Senate, he is a popular figure on both sides of the aisle”, Mr Indyk said.

Republican support

Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are among their party’s leaders on foreign policy issues, praised Mr Kerry and said they expected to give his confirmation support, even if they disagreed with him on some issues.

“I think Senator Kerry was a very solid choice by the president,” said Mr Graham. “He knows most of the world leaders, so when he goes into a country he will be a known quantity.”

Mrs Clinton, who is recuperating from a concussion she sustained after becoming dehydrated and fainting, was not at the announcement.

Mr Obama said he had spoken to her that morning and that she “could not be more excited” about the choice of Mr Kerry. – (Bloomberg, AP)