Obama nominates John Kerry as secretary of state

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama Friday nominated Sen. John Kerry as his next secretary of state, elevating the longtime lawmaker and foreign policy expert to the top diplomatic job he had coveted.

"He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training," Obama said, standing alongside Kerry at the White House. "Few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our policies as firmly as John Kerry."

If confirmed by the Senate, Kerry would replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who plans to leave Obama's cabinet early next year. Clinton, who is recovering from a concussion sustained in a fall, did not attend the Roosevelt Room announcement.

The 69-year-old Democrat is expected to be easily confirmed by his Senate colleagues. He would be the first of what are expected to be several new faces on Obama's national security team, including a new defense secretary and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The son of a diplomat, Kerry has served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a decorated Vietnam veteran who was critical of the war effort when he returned home to the United States. He has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1985.

"John's entire life has prepared him for this role" said Obama, who praised Kerry for his belief that the country must harness "all elements" of American power.

The president picked Kerry even though his nomination could create a political problem in Massachusetts. Republicans are eyeing Kerry's Senate seat, and recently defeated GOP Sen. Scott Brown would be a favorite of his party for the job.

Kerry's nomination could bring to a close what has become for the White House a contentious and distracting effort to find a new secretary of state.

His only other rival for the job, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, faced harsh criticism from congressional Republicans for her initial accounting of the deadly September attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Obama vigorously defended Rice, a close friend and longtime adviser, but GOP senators dug in, threatening to hold up her nomination if the president tapped her for the post.

Rice withdrew her name from consideration last week, making Kerry all but certain to become the nominee.

The cabinet nomination of Kerry is the first Obama has made since winning a second term. The president is also expected to nominate a new defense secretary to take over for retiring Leon Panetta and a new director of the Central Intelligence Agency to replace former spy chief David Petraeus, who resigned last month after admitting to an affair with his biographer.

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