WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama on Friday nominated Democratic Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to be the next U.S. Secretary of State.
The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate. If confirmed, he will take over the secretary of state job from Hillary Clinton, who has said she would not stay on during Obama's second term beginning in January.
The 69-year-old Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts and a veteran of the Vietnam War, has been one of the president's closest advisers in foreign affairs and domestic politics. He was the Democratic Party candidate for president in 2004 and at the time gave then Illinois state senator Obama the honor of delivering the keynote address at the Democratic convention.
That helped give Obama national political stature. Kerry lost the 2004 election to the incumbent George W. Bush.
In 2008, Obama chose Clinton as secretary of state. But Kerry strengthened his ties with Obama, taking on difficult missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Sudan.
With Kerry by his side in the White House Friday, the president described him as well-equipped for the job of heading American diplomacy.
"Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power,” the president said of Kerry. “And he knows from personal experience that when we send our troops into harm's way we must give them the sound strategy, the clear mission, and the resources to get the job done."
As the United States turns the page on a decade of war, Mr. Obama said, Kerry "understands the need to harness all elements of American power to make sure they are working together."
Obama also mentioned Kerry's role with other lawmakers in leading the way to restore diplomatic relations with former foe Vietnam.
The nomination came after another leading candidate, U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of state. Rice was opposed by key Republican senators for her initial defense of the Obama administration's handling of last September's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
On Capitol Hill, senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham had a positive though not overly-enthusiastic reaction to Kerry's selection
"We have known John Kerry for many years, we have confidence in John Kerry's ability to carry out the job,” McCain said. “But I would also like to emphasize again our job is advise and consent, and the nomination process and the hearings and the votes are what really matters."
Graham said he thought Kerry was a solid choice for secretary of state. “He has a lot of experience he has been on the foreign relations committee for a very long time. He knows most of the world leaders so when he goes into a country he will be a known quantity.”
Secretary Clinton also praised Obama's choice to replace here, saying, “John Kerry has been tested - in war, in government, and in diplomacy. Time and again, he has proven his mettle.”
One of Kerry's tasks at the State Department will be to ensure continuing follow-up to findings of a special review board that there were serious failures in providing adequate security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
President Obama also mentioned Kerry's role in helping him win re-election, noting that the senator played the role of Mitt Romney in during practice sessions for the presidential debates and said he was looking forward to working with Kerry rather than having to debate him.
Obama also paid tribute to Secretary Clinton, who has been ill and was unable to be present. He called Clinton a tireless worker in restoring U.S. global leadership.