WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama on Friday made official the long-anticipated appointment of Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry as the next US secretary of state.
Kerry, a decorated war veteran and the son of a Foreign Service Officer, is currently the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a long-time ally of Obama.
“John has earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training,” Obama said in announcing his pick at the White House. “I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry.”
Current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has been recovering from a stomach virus and concussion, was not present at the announcement. But she sent out a statement welcoming his announcement which referenced their shared experience as unsuccessful presidential candidates.
“As I have learned, being able to talk candidly as someone who has won elections and also lost them is an enormous asset when engaging with emerging or fragile democracies,” she said.
Kerry has often traveled to the Middle East during his role as foreign relations committee chairman, including meetings with Syrian President Bashar Assad before the civil war there began and with Afghan and Pakistani leaders to smooth US relations with those countries.
Several Senate colleagues welcomed the appointment, which comes after Obama confidant and US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice withdrew her name from contention after being criticized for her handling of the Benghazi, Libya controversy.
“John has the experience, values and capabilities to be a truly great secretary of state,” said Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut).
“I am sure his nomination will hearten friends and allies of America throughout the world, because they know, respect and trust John Kerry.”
Lieberman is retiring at the end of this term and therefore won’t get to vote on Kerry’s confirmation, but the Massachusetts Democratic is expected to easily get the backing of the Senate.
Kerry’s selection was also welcomed by several Jewish groups.
Americans for Peace Now Spokesman Ori Nir said of Kerry: “He has consistently demonstrated a deep understanding of the complex foreign policy challenges facing the United States in the Middle East and around the world, and a profound appreciation of and respect for the vital role that US diplomacy can and must play in addressing these challenges.”
And the National Jewish Democratic Council sent out a strong statement of support.
"We are ecstatic to see that President Obama has selected Senator Kerry to be the next secretary of state,” the group said.
“His record on the foreign policy issues of special interest to the Jewish community is exceptionally strong,” the statement continued. “He has been a leader when it comes to Israel and has made it abundantly clear that he – like the Obama Administration – stands squarely behind the Jewish state.”
Morrie Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, agreed that Kerry had a good record on Israel-related issues but was more reserved in his praise.
“I would not list him among the more enthusiastic supporters, but certainly it’s a fine record,” he said, noting that on Israel-related letters, resolutions and other initiatives he was almost never a lead sponsor and that Iran sanctions legislation was most strongly championed in the Senate banking committee rather than Kerry’s.
He added that regardless of the person chosen to fill Clinton’s shoes, “The White House will continue to call most of the shots.”
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