President Barack Obama has nominated Sen. John Kerry as his next secretary of state, saying Kerry’s entire life “has prepared him for this role.”
If confirmed, the Massachusetts Democrat would succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Obama’s second-term Cabinet.
Clinton did not attend the Roosevelt Room announcement. She’s recovering from a concussion sustained in a fall.
Obama said Kerry’s political career and service has established him as a respected American voice around the globe. Obama said Kerry will not need on-the-job training.
Kerry has served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a decorated Vietnam veteran who was critical of the war effort when he returned home to the U.S.
He has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1985.
Kerry, 69, is the first Cabinet nomination Obama has made since winning a second term, and the first piece in an extensive shuffle of his national security team. The president is also expected soon to nominate a new defense secretary to take over for retiring Leon Panetta and a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency to replace former spy chief David Petreaus, who resigned last month after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
Kerry has long sought the nation’s top diplomatic post. Obama considered him for the job after the 2008 election before picking Clinton in a surprise move.
Since then, Obama has dispatched Kerry around the world on his behalf numerous times, particularly to tamp down diplomatic disputes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was also part of Obama’s debate preparations team during the 2012 election, playing the role of Republican challenger Mitt Romney in mock debates.
Kerry also won praise from Obama aides for his sharp national security-focused speech at the Democratic National Convention in August. He memorably told delegates: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.”
Before nominating Kerry, the White House consulted with congressional Democrats about the fate of the Senate seat he has held for five terms. An open seat in Massachusetts could give recently defeated Republican Sen. Scott Brown a chance to win back a job in Washington.
Democrats have sought to assure the White House that the party has strong potential candidates in the state that could keep Kerry’s seat from falling into Republican hands.
Kerry has pushed the White House’s national security agenda in the Senate with mixed results. He ensured ratification of a nuclear arms reduction treaty in 2010 and most recently failed to persuade Republicans to back a U.N. pact on the rights of the disabled.