WASHINGTON – President Obama named Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as his choice to become the next U.S. secretary of state, saying he has the respect and trust of leaders around the world.
Kerry would replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has previously said she planned to leave the post. Obama said Kerry would continue the work that she’s done to restore U.S. influence globally.
Kerry “is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training,” Obama said in making the announcement Friday at the White House. Kerry’s knowledge of U.S. policy and relationships with foreign leaders “makes him a perfect choice” to become secretary of state, Obama said.
The nomination of Kerry, 69, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is subject to Senate confirmation and sets in motion a shuffle of Obama’s top national security and foreign policy advisers for his second term.
Kerry became the leading contender for the post after Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, withdrew from consideration. He is a longtime ally of Obama.
At the 2004 Democratic convention where Kerry became the party’s presidential nominee, Obama was selected to deliver the keynote address. Obama gained national attention with his speech.
Kerry, a combat-decorated Vietnam War veteran who first became known nationally as a critic of that war, will win quick confirmation from his fellow senators, said Martin Indyk, former U.S. 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’s 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,” Indyk said in an e-mail. Kerry has been in the Senate for almost 28 years.
Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are among their party’s leaders on foreign policy issues, praised Kerry and said they expected to give his confirmation support, even if they disagree with him on some issues.
“I think Senator Kerry was a very solid choice by the president,” Graham, of South Carolina, said at a news conference with McCain, of Arizona, and Sen., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. “He knows most of the world leaders, so when he goes into a country he will be a known quantity.”
Both of Maine’s two current senators, Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, have voiced their support for Kerry. Collins said several weeks ago — in the midst of the controversy over United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice — that Kerry “would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues.”
Snowe is unlikely to have a vote on the nomination because she is retiring during the first week of January. But Maine’s senior senator said Friday that the president “has made an outstanding appointment” in choosing Kerry.