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Opinion | Obama should avoid political fight, nominate Kerry for State

Andrew's Assessments

Columnist

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 26, 2012 22:11

Since President Barack Obama is an incumbent president, there’s no transition to hurry through—the entire executive branch need not be staffed. Many of Obama’s key team players will be sticking around, and for those who don’t, junior-level staffers are likely seasoned enough to step in at this point.

Really his main focus simply must be staffing his cabinet—filling the informal, but institutionalized body with able and easy-to-confirm members.

And with the Petraeus scandal likely to occupy far too much of the executive branch’s time, close followers of American politics assume the President would not seek out any unnecessary nomination fights over his new cabinet positions.

Plus, many of these nominations should be easy money. Career politicians with plenty of good will in our nation’s capital often inherit these 15 cushy positions.

Folks like Senator John Kerry, a good solider Democrat who has admirably carried his party’s banner for years and has always wanted to be Secretary of State—a position certain to become open soon since Hillary Clinton has said she’s done after an exhausting four years—tend to fill these slots.

Also, fellow senators who aren’t completely hated by their colleagues (see Tower, John) tend to do pretty well in the confirmation process.

But President Obama would rather not reward Senator Kerry after his years of service with the State Department. Instead, the president and his team favor Susan Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

Rice, a career diplomat and a good soldier Democrat, has certainly been groomed for the role for a while. She has always been high on team Obama’s list—picking fights with Senator John McCain and other neo-conservative hawks during the 2008 campaign.

And those very fights are where the problem lies. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have promised to block Rice’s nomination in the Senate. Hanging their hats on comments Rice made on the Sunday shows after the tragedy in Benghazi that contradicted the intelligence gathered at that point in time.

The two neo-cons have seized on the mistakes of their old nemesis, and are using her words as their sole rational to block the nomination.

Whether they make good on their threats to filibuster or not is beside the point (though I’m of the opinion the two should drop it). In the real world, the fight is going to happen. The point is this fight is an unnecessary one for President Obama as he opens up his second term.

Senator Kerry is a perfect fit for State after years of service at the top of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and there would likely be no fight over his nomination. Smooth sailing for an administration that’s always had rocky relations with Congress.

Instead, President Obama, our hubristic leader, has decided one person, and one appointment is worth valuable political capital he needs in fiscal cliff negotiations.

Which seems to be more important?

Beating an old foe (who you’ve already stomped before) and giving a friend an important job, or putting an able politician in an important position that he’ll likely excel in with almost no collateral political damage.

President Obama need not make his political positioning any more perilous. And though our supercilious leader thinks he can win them all, he can’t.

And as he should have learned with healthcare—sometimes even when you win, you end up losing with the public.

President Obama, nominate Senator Kerry for Secretary of State. Use your political capital on securing an acceptable deal for your party.

Don’t fight with the Senate. It’s a waste of your time, and support.

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