John Kerry: “De Facto Secretary of State”


John Kerry was the obvious choice to become Secretary of State when Barack Obama became president, but Obama found it politically advantageous to get Hillary Clinton out of the Senate, and prevent her from establishing an opposing power base, by offering the job to her. While Clinton officially has the title, when there are international problems, increasingly Obama has called upon John Kerry.

Joe Biden’s move to the executive branch (without Chenyesque confusion as to the role of the VP), opened the way for John Kerry to become Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and have a greater role in foreign affairs. There has always been a close relationship between Kerry and Barack Obama. Kerry gave Obama one of his earliest opportunities at national prominence in choosing him to give the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. Kerry endorsed Obama for the 2008 nomination in early January, as opposed to supporting either John Edwards, his 2004 running mate, or Hillary Clinton, who at that time had the support of the party establishment.

The Note‘s daily email writes “Sen. John Kerry serves as de facto secretary of state” and this is demonstrated in their on-line version:

Take a look at some of John Kerry recent accomplishments: saves climate bill, becomes the administration’s go-to guy on Karzai in Afghanistan. It took him nearly four years to find his rhythm following his 2004 loss, but Kerry is a player again. On two different fronts, he has stepped up and become a game-saver for his party. On climate/energy, he took a bill that was languishing in the Senate and recruited Lindsey Graham to breathe new life into it. The bill still has a long way to go, but there’s a path to passage and that’s in no small part thanks to Kerry. On Karzai, there are a few tick-tocks about the role he played (one here in the Wall Street Journal), including how the Obama administration used him to, well, super-cede Holbrooke and others. As one Dem strategist commented to us today, “Kerry finally got to show what kind of president he could have been.”

The Wall Street Journal explains why Obama called upon Kerry:

According to one Western diplomat, the Afghan president was more comfortable dealing with Sen. Kerry than with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry or the administration’s special representative to the region, Richard Holbrooke. Mr. Holbrooke angered Mr. Karzai when he suggested shortly after the Aug. 20 election that a runoff might be needed…

U.S. and Western officials said the Obama administration latched on to Sen. Kerry as a key broker. In June, he played a similar role in the Obama administration’s efforts to build bridges to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to Syrian and U.S. officials.

Sen. Kerry was first drawn into the vote fraud crisis Friday when, at a dinner with U.S. troops from Massachusetts, Mr. Eikenberry pulled him aside and told him of fears Mr. Karzai would denounce findings by U.N.-led election investigators of widespread fraud.

That night, Sen. Kerry went to the presidential palace, where the two men, sometimes accompanied by Mr. Eikenberry and sometimes alone, hashed out Mr. Karzai’s concerns. “We had lot of hours together and talked about a lot of things, including the American experience in elections, and going back to 1864, Al Gore in 2000,” Sen. Kerry said. “I think it helped to put it into a certain framework.”

The Boston Globe notes the importance of Kerry’s diplomatic triumph:

Kerry’s successful talks, which ranged from broad issues of legitimacy to discussions of the statistical analysis used to disqualify ballots, appeared to be his most significant accomplishment since taking over the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this year, replacing Joe Biden.

“We may have just averted a crisis of government in Afghanistan. This may be the biggest thing that Kerry has done, other than run for president,’’ said Ralph G. Carter a professor at Texas Christian University who co-authored a book on the history of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I thought John Kerry was the obvious choice for Secretary of State and would have made a solid Secretary of Defense, that Wesley Clark was the obvious SecDef and would have made a solid SecState, and the Bill Richardson would be very adequate as SecState. I was shocked as all get out when Hillary got it, and while it makes excellent political sense for Obama I’m not sure it’s been the best thing for the country. The biggest Clinton accomplishment in foreign affairs was Bill Clinton in North Korea.
    Nor am I happy with Robert Gates, who despite all the bipartisan respect he gets now is primarily famous for turning in the kind of intelligence reports he thought the president would want to read when he was with the CIA.

  2. 2
    Parker H says:

    I too was concerned when President Obama seemed to play politics with the cabinet position of Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton always seened like a weak choice for this job. I continue to wait and see her prove herself, but so far I have not been impressed. It takes a receptive attitude and a grasp for other peoples feelings along with great foreign policy knowledge to do the job of Secretary of State and I do not think Secretary Clinton is in her eliment here. Our nation should be greatful that Senator Kerry is willing to take on some of the roles that should be understaken by our Secretary of State. Our nation is better for his willingness to be a true team player.

  3. 3
    Reality Check says:

    An argument regarding why we can’t win in Afghanistan:

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