President Barack Obama has decided to nominate senator John Kerry as the next secretary of state, to replace Hillary Clinton, according to two major news outlets. An announcement is possible before Christmas.
Kerry, a senior ranking Democrat who ran for the White House in 2004, emerged as favourite after the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, withdrew from contention on Thursday. That speculation hardened over the weekend, with both ABC and CNN reporting that Obama had opted for Kerry.
His appointment would require Kerry to resign from the senate, with a special election having to be held by the summer. His replacement as Democratic candidate would almost certainly face a strong challenge from the former Republican senator Scott Brown, who lost the other Massachusetts seat to Elizabeth Warren in November.
Kerry, who is currently chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, is in the classic diplomatic mould, with decades of experience in foreign policy and a desire to be engaged in the big issues of the day, from Syria to Iran. While Clinton also wanted to be involved in the major issues of the day, she also pursued single, universal issues such as championing women’s rights.
Conventional thinking in Washington has it that Clinton has never been close to Obama and has tended to be excluded from decision-making on major issues such as Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though she played an important part in shaping policy on Libya. Likewise, Kerry is not thought to be part of Obama’s inner circle, but he will harbour hopes that he will not be left on the sidelines, having been used by the president as an envoy to resolve awkward issues in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unlike Rice, Kerry, as a senator, can expect a smooth nomination process.