While Kerry has tamped down diplomatic fires for Obama, he has stepped ahead of the administration on a handful of crises. He joined McCain as an early proponent of a more aggressive policy toward Libya, pushing for using military forces to impose a “no-fly zone” over Libya as Moammar Gadhafi’s forces killed rebels and citizens.
He was one of the early voices calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down as the revolution roiled the nation last year.
That independent voice may be tempered once he takes over as the administration’s top diplomat.
“He’s going to find what it’s like to be part of an administration,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. “John’s going to adapt to this well. I think he spent a lot of his time grooming to be a good secretary of state. ... I don’t see any downside this nomination.”
During his tenure, Kerry has pushed for reducing the number of nuclear weapons, shepherding a U.S.-Russia treaty through the Senate in December 2010, and has cast climate change as a national security threat, joining forces with Republicans on legislation that faced too many obstacles to win congressional passage.
He has led delegations to Syria and met a few times with President Bashar Assad, now a pariah in U.S. eyes after months of civil war and bloodshed as the government looks to put down a people’s rebellion. Figuring out an end-game for the Middle East country would demand all of Kerry’s skills.
The selection of Kerry closes a political circle with Obama. In 2004, it was White House hopeful Kerry who asked a largely unknown Illinois state senator to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic convention in Boston, handing the national stage to Obama. Kerry lost that election to President George W. Bush. Four years later, Obama was the White House hopeful who succeeded where Kerry had failed.