John Kerry for Secretary of State?

So John Kerry is rumored to be on Obama’s short list for Secretary of State. Apparently, he wants the job, though it’s unclear how likely Obama is to choose him.

Before making that choice, Obama’s transition staff should reread Newsweek’s superb post-mortem of the 2004 election. It depicts Kerry as indecisive and a poor administrator, made even more indecisive by the fear of appearing to be indecisive and a poor administrator.

And P.J. O’Rourke provides this unforgettable image of a young Senator Kerry failing to take action as a monitor of the 1986 Philippines election probably stolen by Ferdinand Marcos:

The following is an excerpt from my [1986] Rolling Stone article, "Goons, Guns, and Gold."

Most of the Potomac Parakeets were a big disappointment. Massachusetts senator John Kerry was a founding member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, but he was a bath toy in this fray.

On Sunday night, two days after the election, thirty of the computer operators from COMELEC [the Philippine government "Commission on Elections," appointed by Marcos and in charge of compiling the final vote tally] walked off the job, protesting that the vote figures were being juggled. Aquino supporters and NAMFREL volunteers took the operators, most of them young women, to a church, and hundreds of people formed a protective barrier around them. [NAMFREL--The National Movement for Free Elections--was supposedly nonpartisan, but NAMFREL members were strongly anti-Marcos.]

Village Voice reporter Joe Conason and I had been tipped off about the walkout, and when we got to the church, we found Bea Zobel, one of Cory Aquino's top aides, in a tizzy. "The women are terrified," she said. "They're scared to go home. They don't know what to do. We don't know what to do." Joe and I suggested that Mrs. Zobel go to the Manila Hotel and bring back some members of the Congressional observer team. She came back with Kerry, who did nothing.

Kerry later said that he didn't talk to the COMELEC employees then because he wasn't allowed to. [A bone-head Rolling Stone fact-checker sent the article to Kerry's Senate office for comment. Kerry staffers were wroth and insisted the senator's version of events be included.] This is ridiculous. He was ushered into an area that had been cordoned off from the press and the crowd and where the computer operators were sitting. To talk to the women, all he would have had to do was raise his voice. Why he was reluctant, I can't tell you. I can tell you what any red-blooded representative of the U.S. Government should have done. He should have shouted, "If you're frightened for your safety, I'll take you to the American embassy, and damn the man who tries to stop me." But all Kerry did was walk around like a male model in a concerned and thoughtful pose. …

Joe and I actually sent Bea Zobel to get members of the international election observer delegation, headed by Colombia's Misael Pastrana and John Hume, from Northern Ireland. Before we'd gone to the bar, Joe and I had been at a press conference at the Manila Hotel, listening to Pastrana and Hume denounce vote fraud by Marcos. But when Zobel arrived the only election observer she could find was Kerry, having a late dinner. Zobel was gone for a long time. She said Kerry was "curt" and refused to leave until he'd finished his meal and then only reluctantly returned to the church with her.

From my [1986] journal: "Gets there & never talks to Comelec girls. Boy is ball-less. Joe and I finally push forward & tell Kerry it was us (1 Dem. & 1 Rep.) that called for him (we also heard, Comelec girls wanted Observers called). That it was Joe & me seemed to make a big difference to Kerry. Who still did f---all."

What I meant by "seemed to make a big difference" was that Kerry's ears perked right up when he heard his name called by members of the press. His reaction was to turn to us and say, magisterially, "No interviews, boys." We explained that we had no interest in interviewing him and suggested that he provide some reassurance to the frightened conscientious objectors from COMELEC.

Now, with benefit of hindsight, I think I can tell you why Kerry didn't do so. He was caught in Kerry-ish calculation--an ambitious young senator on his first important bipartisan delegation with its delicate mission of neutrality. Cory Aquino was very popular. But so was President Reagan. Which way to have it? Why, have it both ways!

For Secretary of State, Obama can – and probably will – do better than John Kerry.