Politics

November 28, 2012

Kerry stays quiet as Cabinet speculation swirls

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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This Nov. 13, 2012 file photo shows Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. pursued by reporters as he arrives for a closed-door meetin on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kerry is angling for the nation’s top diplomatic job by being diplomatic. He's asking supporters not to overtly lobby on his behalf, a strategy reflecting both his disdain for Washington’s personnel politics and a recognition that if Obama taps Rice instead, Kerry will have to shepherd her difficult nomination through the Senate committee he runs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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Rice has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill trying to address criticism from Republicans who say she misled the public for political reasons about what sparked the September attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans. Rice, relying on talking points written by intelligence officials, said on Sunday talk shows days after the attacks that they appeared to be inspired by protests elsewhere in the Middle East over an anti-Muslim video.

At that point, the administration had known for days that it was a distinct militant attack.

Kerry has defended Rice, saying in September that she was "a remarkable public servant" and "an enormously capable person who has represented us at the United Nations with strength and character."

Kerry would likely have to make that same case to his Senate counterparts if Rice is nominated. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it's Kerry who would have to oversee her confirmation hearings and urge wary Republicans against blocking her.

Of course, nominating Kerry could also create headaches for the White House.

His departure from the Senate could put a Democratic seat at risk, perhaps giving Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown a chance to return to Congress after losing to Democrat Elizabeth Warren earlier this month.

Kerry is serving his fifth term in the Senate, having been first elected to represent Massachusetts in 1984. He was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004, losing a close election to incumbent George W. Bush.

Before getting into politics, Kerry served two tours of duty in the Vietnam War, winning a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. But he became an outspoken critic of the war after returning home and testified before Congress about his opposition to U.S. policy.

Kerry's service was called into question during his presidential run by a Republican-leaning outside group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which accused Kerry of lying about his war record. Some Democrats blame Kerry's slow response to the criticism for sinking his candidacy.

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