“I don’t anticipate any surprises,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Foreign Relations Committee member. “Sen. Kerry was a very, very solid choice by the president,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Kerry was a “popular choice with the Senate.”
Kerry and Republicans clashed at times on policy, most notably over the Iraq war effort. Such disagreements, McCain said, hardly disqualify him.
“My view will not be based on differences of opinion,” he said.
Kerry’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a panel he has led for the last four years. Likely to chair the panel during confirmation proceedings is Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.
The top Republican will be Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, known for his temperate approach. Corker was one of the few Republicans recently who said Rice, the U.N. ambassador who withdrew from consideration, at least deserved a hearing should she be tapped for State.
The hearings are likely to involve the controversy over the U.S. role in protecting Americans at the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in Sept. 11 attacks. Republicans continued to raise major questions about security Friday, but they did not mention the turmoil when they pivoted and discussed Kerry.
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Cynthia P. Schneider, a former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands who’s now a distinguished professor in the practice of diplomacy at Georgetown University in Washington, said the complex issue of diplomatic security is magnified now because of the Benghazi tragedy, but that it shouldn’t overshadow other pressing U.S. interests.
Schneider said one priority should be trying to craft better policy toward the Arab and North African political transitions, which she said began with aspirations toward U.S.-style democracy and now are continuing with little or no U.S. leverage — a threat to national security as militants and hard-line Islamists drown out the moderate voices.
“It’s tragic that, in these countries now, the United States is not only not the model, it’s the enemy,” Schneider said. “Losing our soft-power position of moral authority is really regrettable.”
She added that she’s counting on Kerry to address that with a “multi-layered approach” that draws on his record of engaging actors beyond just his governmental counterparts.
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Only the day before his nomination, Kerry presided over a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Benghazi attacks. Although everyone in the room was aware that his nomination was likely imminent, it wasn’t mentioned once as senators quizzed senior State Department officials on an independent panel’s findings that security was “grossly inadequate” at the U.S. posts in Benghazi.
However, Kerry offered a preview of his vision for the State Department in opening remarks that focused on the necessity of striking a balance between a proudly “expeditionary” diplomatic corps and the need for greater security in high-risk posts around the world. He pointedly and repeatedly mentioned the need for Congress to approve sufficient funding for the State Department, one issue of contention as Republicans balk that too many resources there are squandered without enough oversight.
“There will always be a tension between the diplomatic imperative to get ‘outside the wire’ and the security standards that require our diplomats to work behind high walls, concertina wire and full body searches,” Kerry said at the hearing. “We do not want to concertina-wire America off from the world. Our challenge is to strike a balance between the necessity of the mission, available resources and tolerance for risk.”
©2012 McClatchy Washington Bureau
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