The Kerry-Rice balloon has floated. Time to appoint Kerry.

Before the Susan Rice trial balloon was fully aloft, I tried to make a case for John Kerry as the next Secretary of State.  Now that the trial balloon is up and receiving its share of arrows, the White House should bring it back down and make the appointment.  And it should be Kerry.

Presidential second terms typically descend into smallness, scandals, or political defeats.  Sometimes all three.  For all of the effort it takes to win reelection, second terms are often anticlimactic.  They are rarely remembered for acts of presidential greatness.

There are often good reasons for this.  Given the opportunity for a final four years, any White House wants to consolidate its political and policy gains and looks to administer existing programs.

But there is a staleness to second terms as the political winds shift in another direction and the congressional-presidential relationships deteriorates even further.

There is no magic formula to buck this trend, no single action that can salvage a second term.  But adding political heft to his team might help invigorate the administration.

Forget a team of rivals.  What the President needs is a team of titans.

Susan Rice is qualified to be Secretary of State, no matter what John McCain thinks.  Yes, the Benghazi issue will dominate the hearing and she’ll be attacked and the hearings will be ugly.  That’s no reason to avoid appointing her and certainly the more McCain attacks her, the more the White House may want to forge ahead.  They’ll expend political capital if they choose to do so but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. While it is worth wondering how anyone could believe McCain is the person to pontificate on the qualifications of those who might ascend high office, he’s clearly brought along some of his fellow Senators on this issue and that’s not likely to go away.

The President should look to the senior Senator of Massachusetts because Susan Rice does not bring the political heft that John Kerry brings.

Bringing Hilary Clinton into the Cabinet was a masterful move because she brought with her a nationwide–indeed, international–constituency that gave her tremendous standing in her own right.  She did not need the appointment to build her own stature, though that has been a byproduct of her four years in the State Department.

And so it is with Kerry.  An undisputed expert in American foreign policy with senior status in the Senate and a presidential campaign to boot, he brings more to the Cabinet than most.  Such an appointment would speak volume about the President’s confidence, his own standing, and his ability to bring the best and the biggest into his White House.

The President will only benefit from having an expert such as Kerry who has is own political standing beyond the White House giving him foreign policy advice.

To be sure, a Cabinet full of grand figures in American politics would be difficult to manage from the White House.  The staff there would need to develop the internal fortitude and procedures to handle a team of titans.  Harmonious Cabinet-staff relations are elusive under the best of circumstances.  The President can go a long way to establishing the trend, and indeed he has already with Clinton even if respective staffs haven’t fully warmed up to each other.

A team of titans might help stave off the doldrums of a second term and bringing John Kerry to State would be a very good first move in that direction.

About Peter Ubertaccio

Peter Ubertaccio is the Director of Joseph Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College in Easton and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies. His work focuses on political parties, marketing and institutions. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Professor Ubertaccio and his family live on Cape Cod where he is on the Board of Directors of the OpenCape Corporation and the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation.
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One Response to The Kerry-Rice balloon has floated. Time to appoint Kerry.

  1. Neil says:

    Susan Rice or John Kerry would be an excellent choice for Secretary of State even though they’re not equally qualified. For example, they have different preparation, experience and accomplishments. They are qualified in different ways that might matter but both have relevant experience and accomplishments that would lead a reasonable person to conclude either would be a good choice.

    Rice’s scholarship, career path and accomplishments are indicative of a person whose early ambitions were in foreign service, who has worked in foreign service for decades from the bottom to the top, and most recently at the highest level as UN ambassador.

    There are no weaknesses on her resume, the misdirected GOP attack on Susan Rice for the Benghazi tragedy, notwithstanding. That was politics, gutter politics, which she addressed by meeting with them and the deputy CIA chief, although her outreach was spurned by the partisans who attacked her while astute onlookers asked, “Who benefit besides John Kerry?”

    John Kerry’s work in the US Senate in Foreign Relations, as well as work around the world in the same capacity, as well as (oddly) his failed bid for US President in 2004 also qualifies him as an excellent choice.

    Kerry is a product of electoral politics and the US Senate, not a foreign service professional. It no surprise that Senators, especially those with foreign relations portfolios, would want him to get the nod but it is odd that Republican senators McCain, Graham, Ayotte, Collins and Corker are the ones pushing for his nomination by way of smearing Susan Rice’s reputation to do it.

    If the president’s first choice is different from the Republican senators’ first choice (Kerry), the President can consider whether there is sufficient benefit to giving these Republican senators their choice instead of his own. It’s hard to imagine what that benefit would be other than avoiding the fight for her confirmation that she would win. The President can also consider what costs giving the Republican senators their choice (Kerry) might have such as losing Kerry’s Democratic seat in the senate to Republicans.

    Obama’s last choice for Sec of State, Hillary Clinton, is unassailable. This accrues to his nomination decision making bona fides.

    The President has no obligation to pick their choice politically or under the Constitution — separation of power, advice and consent. Moreover, the president just won a national election in which Americans chose him to lead. If he doesn’t choose Kerry, we can expect fireworks but the public is tuned in, by virtue of the election, and sick of the obstruction in Washington, which voters blame reasonably on Republicans. A fight over Susan Rice’s nomination would serve as another example of partisan obstruction, would reinforce the existing the narrative, and also, be the truth.

    Interestingly, as candidate for President, John Kerry is the guy Republicans smeared as a coward and a fraud with respect to his service in the US military eight short years ago, which has been memorialized in the phrase swifboating. It’s delicious that Republicans are swiftboating Rice to get Kerry the nomination to get Scott Brown back in the game. Chalk this one up to Republicans being more interested in gaining power than moving the country forward.

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