Senator, John Kerry, who has been a US senator since 1985, won the adoration of his senate colleagues, where the Senate Foreign Service Committee unanimously approved his confirmation for Secretary of State. The Senate roll call easily confirmed Kerry with a 94-3 vote. Kerry voted present. He will replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who leaves the post of Friday.
John Kerry was nominated by President Obama, after UN Ambassador Susan Rice, presumably Obama's first choice, received stiff opposition from GOP senators. Rice appeared on several Sunday talk shows, depicting the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya as spontaneous, the result of an anti-Islam video.
Kerry, 69, is the son of a career diplomat, Richard Kerry, who was a Foreign Service Officer and attorney for the Bureau of United Nations
Affairs. His mother, Rosemary Kerry, a World War II nurse, was a member of the wealthy Forbes family.
He attended boarding school in Massachusetts and is a graduate of Yale University, where he majored in political science and graduated with Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966.
In his sophomore year, Kerry became the Chairman of the Liberal Party of the Yale Political Union, and a year later he served as President of the Union. Amongst his influential teachers in this period was Professor H. Bradford Westerfield, who was himself a former President of the Political Union. His involvement with the Political Union gave him an opportunity to be involved with important issues of the day, such as the civil rights movement and Kennedy's New Frontier program. He also became a member of the secretive Skull and Bones Society. He also traveled to Switzerland through AIESEC Yale.
Kerry joined the Naval Reserve in February 1966 and began his active duty service in August 1966. He was commissioned in December 1966 and started a tour in Vietnam as a Swift boat commander. He served on a protracted four months tour and received a Silver Star, a bronze Star and three purple hearts. Upon his return from Vietnam he became an anti-war activist and joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He appeared as a witness before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, where he deemed the US war policy in Vietnam to be the cause of war crimes.
A Massachusetts senator since 1985, Kerry made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency against George W. Bush in 2004. He has been the chairman of the Senate Foreign Service Committee since January 2009, replacing Joe Biden.
Advocate for climate change
While Kerry has an impressive resume for the position, he is also an advocate for climate change. Kerry describes himself as a "passionate advocate," which will embolden climate change campaigners to push him to deliver on blocking a signature, approving the XL Keystone pipeline. Nebraska, which has cleared the way for the pipeline to bypass the delicate sand hills, seemed to have cleared the roadblocks for approval of the pipeline, which is to transport Alberta oil from Hardesty Alberta to Port Arthur Texas.
During his inauguration speech, President Obama, made tackling climate change one of his priorities during his second term. Kerry's appointment as the head of the State Department, puts the approval of the pipeline into question.
The Guardian reports:
Now campaigners hope Kerry will help deliver a win on their signature issue: blocking the Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta tar sands.
"His strong environmental record in the Senate and longtime leadership in the fight against climate change gives us hope that as secretary of state, he will reject the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline," Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement.
Kerry's confirmation also buoyed diplomatic efforts, with the European Union and environmental groups saying his appointment signalled a willingness for America to retake the lead on climate change.
After a 20-year record on climate change, dating from Kerry's attendance at the first Rio Earth summit in 1992, the defining issue for the incoming Secretary of State could well be his role in the Keystone XL pipeline.
During his confirmation hearings last week Kerry left no doubt that he would be deeply involved in the final decision, determining the fate of the pipeline.
This could be bad news for Alberta's Premier Alison Redford, who is currently suffering a $6 billion budget deficit, blaming fluctuating oil revenues. Her premise is that this deficit will be reduced, once Alberta can transport more bitumen oil to markets in the USA and Canada. It would appear that both the XL Keystone pipeline and the Northern Gateway Pipeline may have difficulty getting approved.
John Kerry is no stranger to US foreign policy and the transition in department heads should be made easily. He has a myriad of issues on his plate, starting with the military action in Mali, to the Middle East, particularly events in Syria and Egypt. His other files of interest will be Iran and North Korea's nuclear development programs, the transition to a post war Afghanistan and Pakistan.
CBC reports that:
The Massachusetts Democrat, who had pined for the job but was passed over in 2009, has served as Obama's unofficial envoy, smoothing fractious ties with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Senator Kerry will need no introduction to the world's political and military leaders and will begin day one fully conversant not only with the intricacies of U.S. foreign policy, but able to act on a multitude of international stages," said Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, who will succeed Kerry as committee chairman.