Saturday, February 05, 2011

John Kerry really wants to be secretary of state


As Joan Vennochi writes in the Globe:

The Bay State's senior senator is running an unofficial campaign to become the next secretary of state. For once, he looks artful, as well as ambitious.

His recent opinion piece in the New York Times said what President Obama couldn't or wouldn't: Mubarak must go.

Kerry's conclusion was elegant, but unequivocal: "President Hosni Mubarak must accept that the stability of his country hinges on his willingness to step aside gracefully to make way for a new political structure."

Of course, one has a certain freedom as a senator that one does not have as secretary of state -- or even as president -- and so Kerry can be direct in a way that Obama and Clinton cannot. Still, his strong position on the situation in Egypt is admirable, and while picking Hillary to be secretary of state made sense for Obama after the tough primary battle they waged, a "team of rivals" to unite the Democratic Party, it makes sense to turn to Kerry next, whenever Hillary leaves her post, perhaps after the 2012 election should Obama win.

I have defended Obama's handling of the situation, from the American perspective, but I agree to a certain extent with Vennochi that his administration generally "looked unprepared and off-balance when Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo." I don't necessarily fault Obama for this, as the situation and its likely outcome was unclear and he needed to walk a fine line with Mubarak, if only not to alienate him (and endanger U.S. interests) in the event he remained in power, but I do wish Obama would respond with greater moral clarity for once instead of equivocating (and, in this case it would seem, dismissing the pro-democracy movement and supporting, even if just as a "transition," yet more tyranny).

I'm not sure Kerry would bring such moral clarity to Foggy Bottom, and, even if he did, he wouldn't really be in a position to articulate it as formal U.S. policy unless authorized to do so, but he would be a smart, refreshing addition to Obama's team.

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