Political Animal


January 29, 2013 5:11 PM Kerry Confirmed

By Ed Kilgore

So congrats to John Kerry, who was confirmed as the country’s 68th Secretary of State this afternoon.

The confirmation vote was 94-3. Both the senators from the homeland of the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, Texas, voted “no,” as did the senior senator from the fossil fuel industry, James Inhofe. (Best tweet I saw on the vote was from @pourmecoffee: Both Texas Senators voted against Kerry which was dumb because they will have to deal with him as Sec. Of State after secession).

Kerry’s confirmation induced me to read, for the first time in a good while, a list of U.S. Secretaries of State. It’s a very impressive list, even if you discount the nineteenth-century convention of this being the second most important position in the federal government. Aside from future presidents Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Van Buren and Buchanan, there were near-presidents Henry Clay, Lewis Cass, James Blaine, William Jennings Bryan, and Charles Evans Hughes; the great Marshalls, John and George; and an assortment of other people considered great for other reasons: John Jay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Hamilton Fish, John Sherman, John Hay, Elihu Root, Henry Stimson, Henry Kissinger (yeah, yeah, I know), and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Kerry’s is pretty good company, and I expect him to have a distinguished tenure. But then I’m biased.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • JD on January 29, 2013 6:17 PM:

    What about Dean Acheson? He was one of the forces behind the formation of NATO. While Undersecretary, he also was behind the Truman Doctrine and the implementation of the Marshall Plan. He was also a genuine character with his beautiful moustache and wardrobe, razor sharp wit and contempt for fools like Joe McCarthy.

  • g on January 29, 2013 6:29 PM:

    Let's not forget Madeline Albright.

  • Mudge on January 29, 2013 8:13 PM:

    Henry Seward.

  • JD on January 30, 2013 8:19 AM:

    That would be William Seward.

  • bluestatedon on January 30, 2013 9:09 AM:

    After Scott Brown in sworn in as Kerry's replacement, Obama's selection of Kerry will be properly viewed as one of the stupidest—and entirely unnecessary—political moves by a President in decades. It's highly likely that the Democrats will lose seats in the Senate in the 2014 midterms to begin with, and Obama can ill afford to simply hand another seat to the Republicans the way he's done by taking Kerry out of the Senate. I cannot believe that there are no qualified foreign policy experts who Obama could have selected without endangering the Dem majority in the Senate.

    It may be catastrophic in the event Obama has to nominate a justice for the Supreme Court.

  • Steve LaBonne on January 30, 2013 10:56 AM:

    bluestatedon, what makes you think Kerry was going to run again in 2014? And even if the special election goes awry, Brown will have to run for a full term in 2014. Didn't work out well for him last time.