More than one month after winning a second term, President Barack Obama was last night due to unveil his first move in what will be a wide-ranging reshuffle of his top advisers and cabinet members, formally nominating Senator John Kerry to be America’s next Secretary of State.
It is an uncontroversial choice born of controversy – Senator Kerry had been facing competition for the post from Susan Rice, envoy to the United Nations, until she abruptly withdrew herself from consideration last week after Republicans blamed her for mischaracterising the 11 September attack on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed the ambassador, Christopher Stephens.
Few doubt that Senator Kerry, who ran for president in 2004, losing narrowly to George W Bush, and who has served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since 2006, will sail through the confirmation process early in the year. He will replace Hillary Clinton who, the Benghazi affair aside, is widely regarded to have been an energetic and highly successful Secretary of State.
Not in evidence last night was any mention by the White House of Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska, who had been strongly rumoured as Mr Obama’s preferred choice to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defence. In recent days, however, he has come under fire from a number of quarters for positions he had taken on issues ranging from gay rights to Israel.
Senator Kerry is a decorated Vietnam war veteran who was first elected to the US Senate in 1985. By tapping him, Mr Obama has ensured that there will now be a special Senate election in Massachusetts.
Scott Brown, the moderate Republican who took the seat of Edward Kennedy when he died – and who lost it in November after a race against Elizabeth Warren – is almost certain to contest it.