Politics

December 21, 2012

Obama nominates Kerry for secretary of state

Kerry, 69, a longtime Massachusetts senator, is the first Cabinet nomination Obama has made since winning a second term.

Julie Pace / The Associated Press

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This Dec. 3, 2012, photo shows Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

AP

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And he emphasized the importance of U.S. diplomats being able to work freely in places like Benghazi, despite its dangers.

"There will always be a tension between the diplomatic imperative to get 'outside the wire' and the security standards that require our diplomats to work behind high walls," he said. "Our challenge is to strike a balance between the necessity of the mission, available resources and tolerance for risk."

Kerry, the son of a diplomat, has long sought the nation's top diplomatic post. Obama considered him for the job after the 2008 election before picking Clinton, his defeated rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, 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 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 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. Democrats have sought to assure the White House that the party has strong potential candidates in the state.

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.

The senator was also outspoken in pushing for a 2011 no-fly zone over Libya as Moammar Gadhafi's forces attacked rebels and citizens.

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