The Senate today confirmed John Kerry to be the next Secretary of State by a vote of 94-3. As expected, the former Senator and Foreign Relations Committee chairman had no trouble sailing through his confirmation process. The only three dissenters were Republicans Jim Inhofe (OK), John Cornyn (TX), and Ted Cruz (TX).
Kerry has served in the Senate since 1985 and has been on the Foreign Relations Committee the entire time. Disputing his foreign policy expertise would have been a challenge. (However, one can certainly have reservations about the Obama Administration’s agenda on arms control, international treaties, and climate change agreements. This is a classic liberal agenda, which is Secretary Kerry’s as well.)
More of a challenge for Kerry’s coming tenure at the State Department could be the fact that he has no executive experience in a department as large and sprawling as State, which encompasses everything from consular activities and classic diplomacy to educational exchanges and counterterrorism communication. Much will depend on whom Kerry chooses as Deputy Secretary of State. It should be someone who brings those executive and administrative credentials to the job.
The list of issues that will require immediate attention from Kerry was explored at The Heritage Foundation last week in a panel on the confirmation process. Some are functional, like improving embassy security; some policy-oriented, with the Middle East topping the list.
For all the applause directed at outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she failed to put an imprint of her own on U.S. foreign policy, which has been directed largely from the White House and adrift for the past four years. We will see if Kerry carries more clout in the job.