Obama nominates Senator John Kerry as secretary of state
U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday nominated Senator John Kerry to be his next secretary of state as he is trying to usher in a new cabinet for his second term starting in January.
Obama made the announcement at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden and Kerry at his side.
"I am very proud to announce my choice for America's next secretary of state, John Kerry," he said. "In a sense, John's entire life has prepared him for this role."
The president heaped praise on Kerry, noting in particular his service in Vietnam as a war veteran and his personal ties with leaders around the world.
"Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power," Obama said.
Kerry, 69, won a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. After returning home, he became an anti-war hero.
"Over these many years, John's 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.
"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, and this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead," he added.
First elected to the Senate as a representative of Massachusetts in 1984, Kerry is serving his fifth term in the chamber. He was elected to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December 2008 after chairman Biden was elected vice president.
A Democrat, Kerry launched a bid for the White House in 2004 but lost to then incumbent George W. Bush by a margin of 34 electoral votes.
However, Obama was still grateful for his being invited by Kerry to make a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention held in Boston in July 2004, when he was an unknown senator from Illinois.
"Of course, I also have to say thanks because John invited a young Illinois state senator to address the Democratic convention in Boston," Obama said, calling Kerry "a great friend."
"I've appreciated John's partnership in helping to advance so many of my foreign policy priorities, including the ratification of the New START treaty," he added.
The treaty, which came into force in February 2011, was seen as a tangible result of the Obama administration's reset in relations with Russia.
As a reliable emissary of the administration, Kerry also went to talk Afghan President Hamid Karzai into agreeing to a run-off presidential election in 2009.
And in 2011, he secured the release by Pakistan of a CIA contractor accused of killing two Pakistanis as well as the return of parts of a U.S.
stealth helicopter which crashed in an operation inside the South Asian nation in which al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed.
Kerry offered support to Obama's presidential elections, and acted as Mitt Romney, the president's Republican foe, in debate prep in the latest election.
Kerry was Obama's favorite for the job as secretary of state in 2008 before the president selected Hillary Clinton, his rival in the contest for the Democratic presidential nominee.
The nomination of Kerry in Obama's second term has been widely expected since Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations and Obama's top choice for secretary of state, withdrew last week over controversy about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Some Republican senators have vowed to block Rice's nomination over her initial description of the attack as one arising from a spontaneous protest over an American-made film that denigrated the Prophet Mohammed rather than a terrorist attack acknowledged later by the administration, accusing her of trying to mislead weeks before the presidential election.
As the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry's nomination is expected to get a swift confirmation in the Senate as some Republican and Democratic senators have voiced backing for their veteran peer.
But like Clinton, Kerry is not part of Obama's inner circle, a fact that casts doubt about his ability to wield influence over foreign policy making in the administration.
Kerry insiders were quoted as saying in press reports that as top American diplomat, Kerry would like to play a big role in shaping policies for the Middle East and promoting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
He will head a department beset by limited funds and rising security costs overseas, and the agency pledged on Thursday to boost security at diplomatic posts in dangerous areas following the Benghazi attack.
Clinton, who the department said is recovering from a concussion and working at home this week, did not appear for Kerry 's nomination.
"Hillary wanted very much to be here today, but she continues to recuperate," Obama said. "I had a chance to talk to her earlier today, and she is in good spirits and could not be more excited about the announcement that I'm making."