Home National Politics John Kerry for Secretary of State

John Kerry for Secretary of State


Before I get into my case for John Kerry – and against Susan Rice – as the next Secretary of State (after Secretary Clinton concludes her successful 4 years in the position), let me just make a couple points.

First, John McCain and Company (Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, etc.) are completely off the deep end with their absurd, over-the-top, manufactured, ad hominem “case” against Susan Rice regarding the CIA-approved talking points she used for a round of Sunday morning talk shows following the Benghazi attack. My view is that McCain et al. are doing this for purely political reasons, as they must know that there’s not the slightest shred of evidence Susan Rice did anything wrong here. The whole situation is beyond absurd, but sadly not surprising for Mr. GETOFFMYLAWN. So, screw McCain, the guy’s completely lost it, not even worth listening to at this point (if anything, his opposition to Rice makes me want to SUPPORT her, just because McCain is such a douchebag). Sad; I used to respect him, but since he picked Palin as his running mate, he’s been totally wacked out.

Second, let me just make clear that Susan Rice is extremely well-qualified to be Secretary of State. The woman is brilliant, talented, experienced, you name it. That’s certainly not the issue here either.

So, why am I urging President Obama to nominate John Kerry, not Susan Rice, as our next Secretary of State? Several reasons.

First and foremost: I’m sorry, but this is not cool. At all.

Susan Rice, the candidate believed to be favored by President Obama to become the next Secretary of State, holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline. If confirmed by the Senate, one of Rice’s first duties likely would be consideration, and potentially approval, of the controversial mega-project.

Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.

Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reports, about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel — including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine. That includes Enbridge, which spilled more than a million gallons of toxic bitumen into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 — the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

Rice also has smaller stakes in several other big Canadian energy firms, as well as the country’s transportation companies and coal-fired utilities

This is deeply troubling, especially given that, “Over the past 18 months, a number of questionable relationships between State Department officials and TransCanada have been uncovered.” As Bill McKibben of 350.org notes, “The State Department has been rife with collusion with the Canadian pipeline builders, and it’s really distressing to have any sense that that might continue to go on.”

In stark contrast, John Kerry has been a climate and clean energy champion. When the League of Conservation Voters endorsed Kerry for president in 2004, it called him “a man whose unparalleled record on environmental issues has earned him an extraordinary lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), and he is clearly the strongest environmentalist in the field.” In endorsing him for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2008, the LCV touted Kerry’s “clear commitment to protecting America’s environment through bipartisan action, not mere rhetoric.” They specifically pointed to Kerry being an “original cosponsor of the bipartisan Four Pollutant Bill, which would limit mercury, sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide emissions from power plants,” as well as “an outspoken proponent for addressing the threat of global warming through national and international efforts.”

The contrast between Kerry and Rice on energy and environmental issues would, in and of itself, be sufficient for me to support Kerry over Rice for our next Secretary of State. There are other reasons, however. For starters, I believe that Kerry is superbly qualified to be Secretary of State, given his 25 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (he’s now chair). I’m greatly impressed with Kerry’s work on nuclear arms control issues, as well as – in his website’s words – his work in “Spreading Democracy and Human Rights Throughout the World,” “Fighting Global HIV/AIDS,” and “Fighting International Crime, Corruption and Drug Trafficking.” Clearly, John Kerry has everything it takes to be a superb Secretary of State. I doubt almost anyone would disagree with that.

On that last point, I presume that Kerry would win quick, easy, probably unanimous, confirmation by the U.S. Senate as the next Secretary of State. No fuss, no muss. More importantly, President Obama won’t have to spend any political capital on this one, which is important given all the other important issues he’s focused on.

The only downside to Kerry becoming Secretary of State, frankly, is political: the possibility that Democrats could lose Kerry’s U.S. Senate seat, possibly to Scott Brown. On the other hand, if Democrats come up with a strong candidate, there’s no reason to think they can’t hold that seat in solid-blue Massachusetts. There’s also the possibility  that Brown won’t even run for the seat. Plus, even if Kerry’s not nominated as Secretary of State, he might be nominated as Secretary of Defense, which would once again open up his Senate seat. So, bottom line, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this one.

Bottom line: Kerry would be a superb choice as Secretary of State, easily confirmed, with no political capital needing to be expended. Susan Rice, in contrast, would be a knock-down, drag-out fight, over a nominee who’s certainly not more qualified than Kerry, and who has extensive ties to fossil fuel interests at a time when global warming is arguably THE most critical crisis facing our country and our planet. Is this a no brainer or what?

  • JimWebster

    Too high a price. Rice is, as you say, eminently qualified. She could easily divest her interests in Keystone-related projects (or recuse herself from any decision thereon). This is not the forum to litigate the merits of the pipeline and tar sands oil extraction. The president should not back down to McCain-Graham threats.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    McCain and the other crazies, joined by the usually sane Susan Collins (who desperately would love to have Scott Brown as only the second GOP senator from all of New England now that Olympia Snow has retired), have pushed President Obama into a corner.  They want to use any show of weakness in the face of Republican intransigence to cause him to appear weak and giving in to them. I personally hope that he stands his ground as a president who just easily won re-election and won’t allow himself to be pushed around.

    That will be the only message of the corporate media if Obama goes with Kerry: “Obama folds in the face of Republican opposition.” It would wildly embolden those nut cakes.

  • aznew

    Obama has no choice now but to name Rice.

    Indeed, Rice is incidental, which is why the fight over her is utterly void of substance. Cabinet nominee fights (as opposed to lifetime court appointments) are rare, but when they happen, they are typically not about the nominee himself or herself, but about the President making the appointment.

    Obama can’t let himself be pushed around by McCain, Ayotte and Graham, especially in such a ridiculous case.

  • Another Scott

    She can solve any investment/TransCanada problem very easily – remember that there were issues with the Clintons’ finances that had to be addressed when she was nominated.

    Kerry would be a better fit in Defense than State, IMO.  His perspective on what it meant to fight in an unpopular war, his willingness to take unpopular positions about that war, etc., would be valuable as the DOD budget transitions and shrinks in coming years.

    As others have said above, if Obama thought that Rice was his choice a few weeks ago, then he should ignore the “Benghazi!!!111” shouts and nominate her.  To do otherwise, and to not fight for her if she was his choice, is to turn over his 2nd term to extremists who will demand their pound of flesh for anything that he wants to do – no matter how inconsequential.

    As far as the timing goes, Meh.  It doesn’t much matter.  Kerry’s seat is probably safe in the D column.

    My $0.02.



  • hrprogressive

    I didn’t really give a damn about Susan Rice being SecState or not, but now that I see the Keystone stuff…yeah, no thanks.

    We need less (potential) political corruption and sweetheart deals with big business, not more.

    Besides, yeah, if we can’t hold a super blue seat in a super blue state after the crest and decline of the Tea Party whackjobs, then maybe the Republicans deserve the seat for another 2 years or whatever.

    Just don’t let Martha Coakley run again, duh.

  • NotJohnSMosby

    I would prefer to stay in the Senate.  Kerry has a lot more years to go before retirement, so why move that date up a decade by being a cabinet Secretary for a few years?  What does he do come 2017 or even sooner? Flip from State to Defense, or vice versa?  Become Ambassador to the UN or something?