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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.

Thomas_Holsinger:
Obama could not pick a better fall guy for the MSM to blame when Obama screws up his first foreign policy crisis.
11.5.2008 2:35pm
wooga:
How about Sec State Murtha?

He likes leaping to erroneous conclusions well before the evidence is in, consequences be damned.

I actually think Kerry would be a decent secretary of state, even if the negative characterization is accurate. Put simply, it is better to have an indecisive, ineffectual fool in a position of power than a decisive, effective fool in power.
11.5.2008 2:46pm
Smokey:
When the Swiftboat veterans who served with Kerry in Vietnam [betcha didn't know John Kerry was in Vietnam] came out with their statements disputing Kerry's version of events, what happened next? Did Kerry fight?

Nope. Kerry went into hiding for almost a month, right in the middle of a very close campaign. He ceded the battlefield to Bush. And that, more than any other single thing, cost John Kerry the election.

P.J. O'Rourke is right. Kerry has no balls.
11.5.2008 2:48pm
Houston Lawyer:
Since it seems that the primary function of the Secretary of State is to undermine the policies of the administration, I don't see Kerry as a problem. Better yet, make him ambassador to the UN. In either position, foreigners would have to pretend to be interested in what he is saying. Better them than us.
11.5.2008 2:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
So what about Kerry makes him less than an ideal Obama secstate?
11.5.2008 2:54pm
Steve:
I agree with Houston Lawyer. Ambassador to the UN is a particularly brilliant suggestion. Pretty soon the world will be begging to have John Bolton back.
11.5.2008 2:56pm
Oren:
Whoever we get, at least the Powell doctrine has pretty decisively given the boot to Rumsfeld's absurd ideas. Overwhelming force as a last resort will be welcome change.
11.5.2008 2:57pm
josh:
Ahhh. Three posts about possible Obama cabinet members and staff and all three critical. Good to see Lindgren hasn't missed a beat since the election was called at 10 pm CST.
11.5.2008 2:59pm
DangerMouse:
Ahhh. Three posts about possible Obama cabinet members and staff and all three critical. Good to see Lindgren hasn't missed a beat since the election was called at 10 pm CST.

He's just being patriotic. After all, dissent is patriotic! More patriotism! Woo hoo!
11.5.2008 3:01pm
Cornellian (mail):
I'd nominate Richard Lugar.
11.5.2008 3:08pm
Norman Bates (mail):
Kerry is a perfect SoS for Obama! He'd also make a perfect ambassador to the UN for the incoming administration! We can rename the White House the International House of Waffles.

Also a greater good would be served if Kerry took either position: Governor Deval Patrick might very well appoint himself to Kerry's senate seat and we'd be spared having Patrick on the short list for a Supreme Court nomination.
11.5.2008 3:39pm
Norman Bates (mail):
Smokey: An even better example of Kerry's lack of cojones is provided in a verified incident that Kerry himself has confirmed: Five river patrol craft were headed upriver in Vietnam when one either struck a mine or was hit by hostile fire. Three of the undamaged craft immediately came to the aid of the sinking patrol boat. The fourth turned tail, boogied downstream away from the action, and didn't turn back to assist until sometime later. Guess which craft Kerry commanded?
11.5.2008 3:47pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Richard Aubrey,

Kerry's good and bad points here are the same - he dithers.

Which makes him perfect as Obama's Warren Christopher.
11.5.2008 3:54pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Kerry was an indecisive, politically calculating, do-nothing in 1986? Pretty much what he was in 2004 and what he is today. In words Kerry can clearly understand, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
11.5.2008 3:59pm
dearieme:
I had hoped that the whole point of Obama is that he's not a Clinton, a Kennedy, nor a John Kerry.
11.5.2008 4:10pm
FantasiaWHT:
Hey, the more incompetents in an Obama administration, the less he'll actually accomplish and the quicker people will boot him and the democrats.
11.5.2008 4:12pm
Hoosier:
Cornellian

You and I agree on something?!!!

The talk around here--Indeeaner--is that his answer would be "No thanks." But I am not so sure. The idea is more likely to be killed-off from your side, since there will be quite a number of Democrats who want the job.

Is Dean Acheson available?
11.5.2008 4:20pm
Hoosier:
I am making an effort to keep an open mind about Obama, despite my objections. But if he were to nominate Kerry . . .

This guy voted against the first Iraq War, and for the second. Exactly wrong. (Not that he'd be the only one in the incoming administration. Ahem.)

Perhaps Hillary?
11.5.2008 4:22pm
Hoosier:
(Sorry--One more post: This is my field of study, and I'm interested.)

Can we agree that Lugar will not be the choice if Obama keep Gates on at DoD?
11.5.2008 4:24pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Obama would be very wise in keeping Gates at DOD, which is why he won't.

Another reason he won't is because Gates would obstruct Congressional pork, and Obama needs that pork to grease the wheels for his own agenda.
11.5.2008 4:34pm
Bruce:
So John Kerry is rumored to be on Obama’s short list for Secretary of State.

Oh God I hope not. I say this as a Democrat, BTW.
11.5.2008 4:46pm
NoelG (mail):
Hey, the more incompetents in an Obama administration, the less he'll actually accomplish and the quicker people will boot him and the democrats.


This didn't quite work with W.

According to the Obama campaign transition team the three operative words for the Obama adminstration will be Bipartisan, Diverse, and New.
11.5.2008 4:55pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Why not Teresa (Heinz) Kerry for State? She speaks more languages than John Kerry and Obama combined. Besides, catsup should work as well as blood or oil as a diplomatic lubricant.
11.5.2008 5:33pm
LM (mail):
Smokey:

When the Swiftboat veterans who served with Kerry in Vietnam [betcha didn't know John Kerry was in Vietnam] came out with their statements disputing Kerry's version of events, what happened next? Did Kerry fight?

Nope. Kerry went into hiding for almost a month, right in the middle of a very close campaign. He ceded the battlefield to Bush. And that, more than any other single thing, cost John Kerry the election.

P.J. O'Rourke is right. Kerry has no balls.

Smokey, with (I think) one exception the Swiftboat veterans served near Kerry, not with him. That said, I couldn't agree with you more that he showed a lot less balls during that election campaign that he did on the real battlefield, and that's why he lost.
11.5.2008 7:39pm
LM (mail):
Hoosier,

Lugar (and Gates too) would certainly work for me, and Kerry would be a terrible pick. His first appointment (Rahm for COS) suggests he's a lot savvier than that. I think Lugar's more likely than Kerry, but I'd bet on neither.
11.5.2008 7:48pm
Ben P:

Can we agree that Lugar will not be the choice if Obama keep Gates on at DoD?


I'd probably agree. My guess is Obama puts at least one Republican in a cabinet position. One could say "token," but most of the republicans I've seen suggested are centrist, so he'd probably actually be considering their advice to some extent.

But I don't see him nominating two republicans to top level cabinet posts, if only for no reason than it would severely piss of the establishment DC democrats because it didn't give "them" the job that "they" worked for in getting Obama elected.

I just can't see Kerry as a viable SecState. If Obama does keep Gates around as SecDef he'll almost certainly pick a democrat for Secretary of State.

In that case I'd put serious money on Bill Richardson getting asked at least. I don't know if Richardson wants the job back or not.

If Obama doesn't keep gates for anything longer than just a transition period, I think Lugar is a very possible choice for Secretary of State.
11.5.2008 11:30pm
Ben P:
I'd change where I wrote "centrist" above to something more along the lines of "technocrat."

I'm not sure all of the Republicans that have been mentioned as possible picks for Obama are really centrist, but their common thread is that they share Obama's apparent commitment to an institutionally conservative technocratic style of governance rather than being seen as ideological.
11.5.2008 11:33pm
doug:
Any reason C. Powell wouldn't re-up? A token repub. and endorser as well?
11.6.2008 12:24am
Hoosier:
"and Kerry would be a terrible pick"

You left out the "r".

doug--I've heard that speculation before. But I have had the idea for some time that Powell is damaged goods. In part because of his UN address. Moreso because he couldn't maintain State's turf in the bttle for control of foreign policy. He was something of the GOP Rusk or Christopher. Hard to see how he would get a second chance.

And EXCELLENT outside-the-box GOP choice would be Richard Haass. If I were president . . . I'd resign. But if I couldn't, and if Gen. Marhsall could not be resurrected, Haass would be the guy who was never allowed to leave my side.
11.6.2008 12:29am
DG:
Why isn't Bill Richardson the obvious choice for Sec of State? He has done actual diplomacy, supported Obama, flipped on Clinton, and seems to be an ok guy, unlike that noxious gasbag Kerry.
11.6.2008 12:52pm
Hoosier:
After much thought, I've decided that it will be Dick Holbrooke.
11.6.2008 1:56pm