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Secretary of State Designate John Forbes Kerry

U.S. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts

U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Designate John Kerry of Massachusetts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night, Rachel Maddow questioned why the President has taken so long to start naming the second term cabinet. There really is a simple reason for President Obama waiting 45 days before announcing any nominees. The confirmation process will go to the new Senate. The current Senate has 50 Democrats, 47 Republicans and 2 Independents who caucus with the Dems. The new Senate will have 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and one new and one sitting Independent who will caucus with the Democrats again. Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina will replace Senator Jim DeMint, but there will be no change in party ratios. Waiting until the Senate went on its Christmas recess should make the confirmation process a little less contentious.

Today, President Obama is nominating Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts to be the new Secretary of State. Kerry ran unsuccessfully against President George W. Bush for the presidency in 2004, and the peripheral campaign was extremely vicious toward Kerry. After a four-month tour of duty in Vietnam as officer in charge of a Swift Boat in 1968-69, Kerry became a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, testifying before the Senate on April 22, 1971, about the stories shared by the Winter Warriors, stories of atrocities and mismanagement within the military. Two months later, on June 13, 1971, the New York Times published the first nine excerpts of the 7,000 pages of documents stolen by Daniel Ellsberg. The Pentagon Papers supported every allegation Kerry had made in the Fulbright Hearings.

The independent group who went after Kerry during the 2004 election alleged that Kerry’s final Purple Heart was a fraud and he had shot an unarmed Vietnamese teenager in his last action on the Swift Boat. Too late to effect the election, a journalist traveled to Vietnam and interviewed the people who still live in the village that was the site of that skirmish. There, he was asked why a second person had come to find out what happened, because someone had been there months earlier and been told that Kerry killed an armed Viet Cong soldier. Kerry is still a member of the United States Navy Reserve, with the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade.

Some of my fellow boomers, those who lived or fought through that war, believe that Kerry’s treatment during the campaign and the way service in Vietnam is treated as politically important, means that my generation needs to step aside from the Presidency, hand it off to the next generation. The wounds are too deep and forgiveness has not been given to those of us who opposed the war.

John Kerry celebrated his 69th birthday on December 13. His father, Richard Kerry, was a Foreign Service Officer and an attorney for the Bureau of United Nations Affairs. His mother, Rosemary Forbes, was a World War II nurse who had been born in Paris, France, while her American parents were residing there before World War I. He is old Massachusetts aristocracy, like the Kennedys – not quite as wealthy, but certainly privileged. One of the wealthiest members of Congress, he inherited a total of four trust funds from his mother’s side of the family. She was a Forbes.

Kerry was married in 1970 to Julila Thorne and they had two daughters, Alexandra Forbes Kerry and Vanessa Bradford Kerry. Alexandra is a documentary film maker and Vanessa is a doctor and founder of the non-profit Global Health Service Corps. Thorne and Kerry were divorced in 1988, and their marriage annulled (they are Catholics) in 1997. In 1995, Kerry married Teresa Simöes-Ferreira Heinz, a former United Nations interpreter and the widow of Republican Pennsylvania Senator J. John Heinz, III, who died in 1991. The Heinzes had three sons, H. John Heinz, IV, André Heinz and Christopher Heinz. Teresa Heinz Kerry’s wealth was also an issue during the 2004 campaign, because her late husband was heir to the H. J. Heinz Company, which has manufacturing facilities overseas.

Kerry received his law degree from Boston University. He served from March, 1983 to January, 1985 as Michael Dukakis’ Lieutenant Governor, then entered the United States Senate. Since January 3, 2009, Kerry has served as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, after serving for eight years as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. With Senator John McCain, Kerry has been working for years to recover the remains of America’s MIAs in Vietnam. The global experiences of his family lends itself to a unique understanding of the place of America in the world.

In accordance with Massachusetts state law, there will be a special election to replace Kerry in the Senate. This is not required under the Constitution, where only Congresspersons must be replaced with a special election. Former Senator Scott Brown, who lost his re-election bid to Elizabeth Warren last month, has indicated that he will run to replace Kerry. Brown has been distancing himself even further from the Tea Party that elected him, in hopes of negating the Democratic Party bias of Massachusetts, but will have to once again try to defend his very Republican Party-line voting record while he was Senator. It was Brown who sold his vote for Dodd-Frank if the Democrats would remove some essential ingredients from the law. There are obvious rumors running around about who will run for the seat as a Democrat, ranging from Governor Deval Patrick to newly elected Representative Joseph Kennedy, and, of course, retiring Representative Barney Frank could decide, a month into his retirement, that he really, really misses Washington.



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