Full Text Political Documents August 30, 2013: White House: US Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

Source: WH, 8-30-13

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.

Background:

The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.

We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.

Preparation:

We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.

To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.

Syria: Damascus Areas of Influence and Areas Reportedly Affected by 21 August Chemical Attack

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Full Text Political Transcripts August 26, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry condemns chemical weapons attack in Syria

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks on Syria

Source: State Dept, 8-26-13

Remarks

John Kerry
Press Briefing Room
Washington, DC
August 26, 2013

Well, for the last several days President Obama and his entire national security team have been reviewing the situation in Syria, and today I want to provide an update on our efforts as we consider our response to the use of chemical weapons.What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.

The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself, and that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all – a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else. There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.

Last night after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us. As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him; the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound; bodies contorting in spasms; human suffering that we can never ignore or forget. Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass.

What is before us today is real, and it is compelling. So I also want to underscore that while investigators are gathering additional evidence on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts informed by conscience and guided by common sense. The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the firsthand accounts from humanitarian organizations on the ground like Doctors Without Borders and the Syria Human Rights Commission – these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us is real, that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses.

We have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead.

Our sense of basic humanity is offended not only by this cowardly crime but also by the cynical attempt to cover it up. At every turn, the Syrian regime has failed to cooperate with the UN investigation, using it only to stall and to stymie the important effort to bring to light what happened in Damascus in the dead of night. And as Ban Ki-moon said last week, the UN investigation will not determine who used these chemical weapons, only whether such weapons were used – a judgment that is already clear to the world.

I spoke on Thursday with Syrian Foreign Minister Muallim and I made it very clear to him that if the regime, as he argued, had nothing to hide, then their response should be immediate – immediate transparency, immediate access – not shelling. Their response needed to be unrestricted and immediate access. Failure to permit that, I told him, would tell its own story.

Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the UN investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them. Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systematically destroying evidence. That is not the behavior of a government that has nothing to hide. That is not the action of a regime eager to prove to the world that it had not used chemical weapons. In fact, the regime’s belated decision to allow access is too late, and it’s too late to be credible. Today’s reports of an attack on the UN investigators, together with the continued shelling of these very neighborhoods, only further weakens the regime’s credibility.

At President Obama’s direction, I’ve spent many hours over the last few days on the phone with foreign ministers and other leaders. The Administration is actively consulting with members of Congress and we will continue to have these conversations in the days ahead. President Obama has also been in close touch with the leaders of our key allies, and the President will be making an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons. But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny.

Thank you.

Political Musings August 2, 2013: President Barack Obama steps up involvement in peace talks, phones Netanyahu and Abbas

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama steps up involvement in peace talks, phones Netanyahu and Abbas

By Bonnie K. Goodman

United States President Barack Obama stepped up his personal involvement in the peace process by calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, August 1, 2013. This is the second time this week Obama…READ MORE

Political Headlines July 7, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry’s wife Teresa Heinz Kerry in critical condition

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry’s wife in critical condition

Source: USA TODAY, 7-7-13

Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Secretary of State John Kerry, is in critical but stable condition in a Massachusetts hospital. Heinz Kerry, 74, was admitted into the emergency room at Nantucket Cottage Hospital about 3:30 p.m….READ MORE

Campaign Buzz June 25, 2013: Democrat Edward Markey wins John Kerry’s US Senate seat in Massachusetts special election

CAMPAIGN BUZZ

Campaign_Headlines

CAMPAIGN HEADLINES….

Democrat Markey wins Kerry’s US Senate seat in Massachusetts special election

Source: Fox News, 6-25-13‎

Long-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey beat out Republican newcomer Gabriel Gomez Tuesday in Massachusetts’ special election for John Kerry’s U.S. Senate seat. Markey’s win helps keep a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 12, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry Defends NSA Program, ‘Welcomes’ Dept. Scrutiny

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Secretary Kerry Defends NSA Program, ‘Welcomes’ Dept. Scrutiny

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-12-13

State Department photo/ Public Domain

At a joint press conference Wednesday with United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the National Security Agency, saying that Congress understands the program, passed it and voted for it several times. He also said the judiciary branch has also reviewed it and the program and has been actively engaged.

“This is a three-branch-of-government effort to keep America safe. And in fact, it has not read emails or looked at or listened to conversations, and — the exception of where a court may have made some decision, which was predicated on appropriate evidence,” said Kerry….READ MORE

Political Headlines April 7, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry to press Turkey on Israel ties, Syrian border, Iraq

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Kerry to press Turkey on Israel ties, Syrian border, Iraq

Source: NBCNews.com (blog), 4-7-13

Kerry arrived in Istanbul some two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama brokered a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel, whose relations were shattered by the killing of nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 6, 2013: John Kerry officially sworn in as Secretary of State

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry officially sworn in

Source: WWLP 22News, 2-6-13

Although he officially took office last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry was sworn-in again today….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 4, 2013: John Kerry’s First Speech as Secretary of State: ‘I Have Big Heels to Fill’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Secretary John Kerry: ‘I Have Big Heels to Fill’

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-4-13

US State Dept

Former Senator John Kerry entered the State Department as the 68th Secretary of State for the first time on Monday morning, greeted by the cheers and applause of hundreds of State Department employees.

A jovial Kerry peppered his remarks with jokes, eliciting laughter from the crowd throughout his roughly 10 minute speech, given in the same spot former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her emotional farewell on Friday.

“Here’s the big question before the country and the world and the State Department after the last eight years:  Can a man actually run the State Department?” joked Kerry, referencing his most recent predecessors, Clinton and Condoleezza Rice. “As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill.”…READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines February 4, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry’s Welcome Remarks to Employees — Speech Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Welcome Remarks to Employees

Source: State.gov, 2-4-13

Remarks

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 4, 2013

Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you very much, Susan. Thank you very much for that welcome. Secretary Nides, who’s an old friend, I’m grateful to him. I told him that’s probably the first and only time he’s ever bowed to me and – (laughter) – I know I’ll never, ever get that again.But anyway, thank God I had a couple of photo IDs so I could get in. (Laughter.) It was – happy for that. Secretary Kennedy, thank you very much for your leadership. Ambassador Marshall, I’m really looking forward to working with you, and with all of you.
I have to tell you, I liked my cubicle over there in transition corner. (Laughter.) But I cannot tell you how great it feels to sort of be liberated to know that I actually get to explore the whole building now. (Laughter.) So I’ve been freed. I’m the first person you guys freed today. This is pretty good. (Laughter.) And if I’m wandering around the building later, and I sort of wind up in your office, it’s not because I’m there for a meeting, it’s because I’m lost and I need directions. (Laughter.) So just tell me who you are, tell me what you do, and tell me where I am – (laughter) – and we’ll rely on that.

So here’s the big question before the country and the world and the State Department after the last eight years: Can a man actually run the State Department? (Laughter.) I don’t know. (Applause.) As the saying goes, I have big heels to fill. (Laughter.) But this is beyond a pleasure. I’m going to utter five words that certainly no sitting senator, and probably a former senator, have ever uttered, and that is: These remarks will be brief. (Laughter.) And I promise you that, because I don’t know what we’re doing for the productivity of the building right now. (Laughter.) If this goes on too long, I may get a phone call from the President on a recall. (Laughter.)

I want to begin by thanking my predecessor, Secretary Clinton, and I want to thank her entire team. They tirelessly advocated the values of our country and pushed for the accomplishment of any number of things to advance the interests of our nation. I know from my conversations with Hillary how passionate she was about this undertaking and how much confidence and gratitude she had for the work that every single one of you do, and I just want to join with all of you today in saying to her: Job well done, the nation is grateful, the world is grateful. Thank you, Hillary Clinton, and thank you to her team. Thank you. (Applause.)

Also, I want to thank President Obama for his trust in me to take on this awesome task, and for his trust in you, every single one of you, and what you do every single day. I think it is beyond fair to say that this President’s vision and what he has implemented through your efforts over the course of the last years, without any question, has restored America’s reputation and place in the world, and we thank you for what you have done to do that. (Applause.)

Now, I said the other day at the hearings, if any of you had a chance to see any of it, that – I said that the Senate was in my blood, and it is after 28-plus years. But it is also true that the Foreign Service is in my genes, and everything that we do here is. I have a sister who worked for most of her career in New York at the UN, and most recently at the UN Mission. My wife, who was born in Mozambique, and you will see here on Wednesday, speaks five languages; at some occasion did some translating, but mostly worked with the then-UN Trusteeship Council, and has powerful beliefs in the mission of this great Department and of USAID. And my father, as was mentioned, spent a number of years as a Foreign Service Officer, and I come here with these 28 years of stewardship of the Foreign Relations Committee and oversight of the foreign – of the Department, oversight of the budget, oversight of everything we do. And so I’m glad to represent your favorite committee among many favorite committees on the Hill. (Laughter.)

But I will tell you that I have things to learn, for sure, and I know that, and as much as I have to learn, I have learned some things. And some of what I’ve learned is how difficult life can be for people in the Foreign Service who have to uproot kids and uproot families and move from school to school and struggle with those difficulties. It’s not hard – not easy. It’s particularly not easy in this much more complicated and dangerous world. So I understand that. I also understand how critical it is that you have somebody there advocating for you. The dangers could not be more clear. We’re reminded by the stars and names on the wall, and we are particularly reminded by Chris Stevens and Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith. And I know everybody here still mourns that loss, and we will.

So I pledge to you this: I will not let their patriotism and their bravery be obscured by politics, number one. Number two, I guarantee you – (applause) – and I guarantee you that, beginning this morning when I report for duty upstairs, everything I do will be focused on the security and safety of our people. We have tough decisions to make, but I guarantee I’ll do everything I can to live up to the high standards that Secretary Clinton and her team put in place.

Now I mentioned earlier the sort of earlier part of my life. I will tell you, I was back in Boston two weeks ago and I was rummaging through some old stuff and I found the first evidence of my connection to this great diplomatic enterprise – my first diplomatic passport. (Applause.) There it is. Number 2927 – there weren’t a lot of people then. (Laughter.) And if you open it up, there’s a picture of a little 11-year-old John Kerry and no, you will not get to see it. (Laughter.) And then in the description it says, “Height: 4-foot-3.” (Laughter.) “Hair: Brown.” So as you can see, the only thing that’s changed is the height. (Laughter.)

And the first stamp in it, the first arrival, was 1954 in Le Havre. And back then the State Department, we went over – we spent six days at sea on the S.S. America and the State Department and the United States Government sent us over, the entire family, first class. Don’t get any ideas. (Laughter.) Anyway, I – we went to Berlin, and this was not too long after the war, and I used to ride my bicycle around Berlin, it was my pastime, my passion, and rode everywhere, the Grunewald, around the lakes, up and down the Kurfurstendamm, the church where the steeple burned down, past the Reichstag, burned out, past Brandenburg Gate, past Hitler’s tomb with these amazing, huge concrete slabs blown up. And I just roamed around. It was stunning how little control there was.

And one day – in my sense of 12-year-old adventure, I think it was then – I used this very passport to pass through into the East Sector, the Russian sector, and I bicycled around, and I’ll tell you, as a 12-year-old kid, I really did notice the starkness, the desolation. In fact, I was thinking about it the other day. If the tabloids today knew I had done that, I can see the headlines that say, “Kerry’s Early Communist Connections,” something like that. (Laughter.) That’s the world we live in, folks.

But I would reassure them by saying I really noticed the difference between the east and west. There were very few people. They were dressed in dark clothing. They kind of held their heads down. I noticed all this. There was no joy in those streets. And when I came back, I felt this remarkable sense of relief and a great lesson about the virtue of freedom and the virtue of the principles and ideals that we live by and that drive us. I was enthralled.

Now when my dad learned what I’d done, he was not enthralled. (Laughter.) And I got a tongue-lashing, I was told I could’ve been an international incident. He could’ve lost his job. And my passport, this very passport, was promptly yanked – (laughter) – and I was summarily grounded. Anyway, lessons learned.

But that was a great adventure and I will tell you: 57 years later today, this is another great adventure. I am so proud to enter into the Harry Truman building – the mothership, as I think you call it – and I’ll tell you. Harry Truman, whose office was just down the hall from mine in the United States Senate, within about a year of being president came and said the principles of American foreign policy are firmly the or the foundation is firmly rooted in righteousness and justice. We get to do great things here. This is a remarkable place. And I’m here today to ask you, on behalf of the country, I need your help. President Obama needs your help, to help us to do everything we can to strengthen our nation and to carry those ideals out into the world.

Here, we can do the best of things that you can do in government. That’s what excites me. We get to try to make our nation safer. We get to try to make peace in the world, a world where there is far too much conflict and far too much killing. There are alternatives. We get to lift people out of poverty. We get to try to cure disease. We get to try to empower people with human rights. We get to speak to those who have no voice. We get to talk about empowering people through our ideals, and through those ideals hopefully they can change their lives. That’s what’s happening in the world today. We get to live the ideals of our nation and in doing so I think we can make our country stronger and we can actually make the world more peaceful.

So I look forward to joining with you as we march down this road together living the ideals of our country, which is the best – imagine: What other job can you have where you get up every day and advance the cause of nation and also keep faith with the ideals of your country on which it is founded and most critically, meet our obligations to our fellow travelers on this planet? That’s as good as it gets. And I’m proud to be part of it with you. So now let’s get to work. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)

Political Headlines February 1, 2013: John Kerry Sworn in as Secretary of State

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry Sworn in as Secretary of State

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-1-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Meet Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry, the longtime Democratic senator from Massachusetts, was sworn in Friday on Capitol Hill, succeeding Hillary Clinton.

“I was very honored to be sworn in and very anxious to get to work, so I will be reporting Monday morning at 9 o’clock,” Kerry told reporters, with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, by his side.

Kerry was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan inside the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room. He was surrounded by his wife, daughter Vanessa, brother Cam and staff for a private ceremony….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 1, 2013: Scott Brown Will Not Run in Massachusetts Senate Seat Special Election

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Scott Brown Won’t Run in Special Election

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-1-13 

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

Former Massachusetts Republican senator Scott Brown will not seek out his old job in the June 25 special election to fill John Kerry’s seat, sources tell ABC News.

Brown, 53, was considered the strong favorite to win his party’s nomination if he had wanted to run, and polling indicated that he would have been well-positioned to win the race. However, over the past several weeks several reports indicated that Brown was leaning against declaring his candidacy and was instead eyeing the governor’s mansion as his next political target….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 30, 2013: John Kerry defends Senate, bidding farewell to a ‘great’ institution

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry defends Senate, bidding farewell to a ‘great’ institution

Source: WaPo, 1-30-13

Video: Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) gave a more than hour-long farewell speech to the Senate Wednesday, the day after he was confirmed as secretary of state. He hailed the Senate’s history and said the legislative body would always be in his soul.

n an unusually emotional speech, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) bid farewell to his colleagues Wednesday by rejecting criticisms of a “broken Senate,” forcefully defending the chamber and all its unique rules as an institution that is meant to forge great compromise among competing personalities.

The next secretary of state — once considered aloof and always searching for a promotion out of the Senate — tearfully sketched out a 50-minute rebuttal to the growing cacophony that deems the Senate’s customs and procedures outdated in today’s political environment. He declared the current version of the chamber “a lasting memorial to the miracle of the American experiment.”…READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines January 30, 2013: John Kerry’s Senate Farewell Speech

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Text of John Kerry’s farewell speech

Source: Boston.com, 1-30-13

Below is the full text of John Kerry’s farewell address to the Senate, as delivered.

I want to begin by thanking my colleagues, all of them for their unbelievably generous comments to me personally, in the committee, and on the floor, in the halls, meetings over the course of the last weeks. I will always be grateful for our friendships, and I thank my wife Teresa who is here sitting in the family gallery, and my entire family for their unbelievable support through this journey.

Five times Massachusetts has voted to send me to the United States Senate. Yesterday, nearly three decades after the people of Massachusetts first voted me into this office, the people I worked with in the Senate voted me out of it.

As always, I accept the Senate’s sound judgment!

Eight years ago, I admit that I had a very different plan, slightly different anyway, to leave the Senate, but 61 million Americans voted that they wanted me to stay here with you.

And so staying here – I learned about humility, and I learned that sometimes the greatest lesson comes not from victory, but from just dusting off a defeat and starting over when you get knocked down.

I was reminded throughout this journey of something that’s often said but not always fully appreciated. All of us Senators are only as good as our staff. Staff that gives up their late nights and weekends; postpones vacations; doesn’t get home in time to tuck children in to bed—and all of these lost moments because they’re here helping us serve. They’re not elected, they didn’t get into public service to get rich, that’s for sure, and their names are rarely in the newspapers, but from the staff in the mailrooms to the people who answer the front phones to the policy experts and the managers — the legislative correspondents who write the letters, the caseworkers who make government accountable, and the people everywhere in between — they make the Senate work for people. I’ve been blessed to have a spectacular staff and while I know every one of my colleagues would say the same about their staffs – its true about mine.

If I start naming names I’m sure to miss someone –so I’m not going to – but I think everyone on my staff will understand why I want to acknowledge five who are not with us any longer. They’re up in heaven looking down on all of us and Ted Kennedy’s probably drafted them all: Jayona Beal, Jeanette Boone, Bill Bradley, Louise Etheridge and Gene Heller, the latter two of whom were senior citizen volunteers in my Boston office who opened our mail for over a decade, not paid, they just did this out of their love for country. What a special twosome they were. We miss them all, and we thank them for their selflessness and their contribution, as I do the entire staff of 561 incredible men and women in Massachusetts and Washington that I’ve been privileged to work with through these 28 plus years.

I also think about the interns – 1,393– who have come in and out of our offices from Washington to Worcester. And I’m especially proud of those who started as interns and ended as my Chief of Staff, Legislative Director, senior policy staffers, or the Kerry interns who went on to work not just for me, but who have for the last four years been top speechwriters, trip directors, and senior communications staff at the White House for the President of the United States. I’m proud of our internship program, and grateful to the people who built it and who sustain it.

I also want to thank the incredible group of unsung heroes who literally make the Senate work – people who work not for individual Senators but for all of us, in every room and nook and cranny of this great series of buildings, the men and women who operate the Senate subways, Darrell, many others and the trains and elevators. They take us to and from votes and meetings. They are really the glue and we couldn’t function without them. The Capitol Police who protect us, police who many started to notice a little bit more after that awful day in 1998 when two were shot and killed on a busy Wednesday afternoon.

The parliamentarians and the clerks and staff here on the floor — including Gary, Tim, Tricia, Meredith, and all the folks on the cloakroom and Dave on the other side and all the folks in the Republican cloakroom, all of whom help keep us going and are unfailingly patient when we call for the umpteenth time to find out whether the vote schedule is going to let us make it home to a child’s dance recital or birthday party. I want to thank the many Bertie Bowmans who came here more than forty years ago, dug in, and made the Senate their cause and their concern. People like Meg Murphy of the Foreign Relations Committee who makes everybody’s life easier.

And, I thank the reporters who catch us in the hallways, trap us, ambush us in the hallways —- , despite all the changes and challenges in their own business, still dutifully document the first drafts of American history. I thank all the incredible people who travel through these halls working incredibly hard to get it right, people of character who cover this place as a public service not a sport – and I thank them. I thank David Rogers for all he’s stood for so long in this institution. It is hard to imagine my job without seeing him in that long green coat waiting by the elevators after a late night vote.

Sometimes in politics, it’s now almost a sport in America to dismiss the contributions of the people who work in government, people who make the Senate work, but people that the public never see. I admired the way our former colleague Ted Kaufman used to come down here once a week and tell the story of one individual federal worker. The stories are legion. Instead of tearing these people down, we should be lifting them up, and I thank them all for the part they play in our democracy.

I will share with you that now that I’ve come to this moment in the journey, I can say without reservation that nothing prepares you for it.

Many times now in 29 years, I’ve been at my desk here on the floor, starting way over there, number 99, listening as colleagues bid the Senate farewell. Sometimes a farewell speech signals a complete departure from public life, sometimes a new journey altogether. Sometimes a forced departure. Sometimes a leap for freedom. I’m grateful that at this moment, thanks to my colleagues, serendipity and the trust of our President, while I’m closing a chapter, it’s not the final one. But I assure you, amid the excitement and the possibility, I do feel a wistfulness about leaving the United States Senate. And that’s because, despite the obvious frustrations of recent days and years, a frustration we all share — this place remains one of the most extraordinary institutions of any kind on the face of the earth.

On occasion we’ve all heard a Senator take their leave condemning the Senate for being broken, or for having become an impossible setting in which to do the peoples’ business.

Of course, many have later confessed just how much they missed and appreciated the Senate’s unique character after they’d bid it farewell.

I want to be very clear about my feelings: I do not believe the Senate is broken — certainly not as an institution. There is nothing wrong with the Senate that can’t be fixed by what’s right about the Senate – the predominant and weighty notion that 100 American citizens, chosen by their neighbors to serve from states as different as Massachusetts and Montana, can always choose to put parochial or personal interests aside and find the national interest.

I believe it is the honor of a lifetime, an extraordinary privilege to have represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States Senate for more than 28 years, just like each of you feel about your state. What a remarkable gift it has been to carry the banner of Senator from Massachusetts, a banner passed from the sons of the American Revolution like Daniel Webster to the sons of immigrants like Paul Tsongas, and to know that a state where the abolitionists crusaded at Faneuil Hall and the suffragettes marched in Quincy Market could send to Washington sons like Ted Kennedy and Ed Brooke who fought to expand civil rights – and now a woman, Elizabeth Warren, who proved that in Massachusetts the glass ceiling has finally been forever shattered.

And what a remarkable gift Massachusetts has given me to come here and learn so much about the rest of our country. I’ve had the privilege of learning what really makes our nation tick. What a gift to have been the nominee of my party, to have come within a whisper of winning the Presidency against a wartime incumbent, but more importantly, to have experienced the magic of our nation in such personal ways.

To experience the gift of traveling along the banks of the mighty Mississippi, through Iowa and South Dakota and along the rivers where Lewis and Clark marked and measured the dream of our first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who foresaw an America that would advance into the West. To experience a journey that took me to Alabama where I stood silently in the very pulpit from which Dr. King preached his dream of an America united and dipped my fingers into the fountain in Birmingham, where water flows over the names of those murdered trying to vote, or just registering to vote; to see the water trickle over the words of Dr. King’s prayer that justice might “roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” I drove across the Hoover Dam and wondered as I did at what America can accomplish when we want to; driving across the Golden Gate Bridge at dawn and reminded that it was built at the height of the Great Depression when so many feared our best days were behind us. What I’ve seen and heard and learned in traveling across our country as a Senator from Massachusetts has prepared me more for my travels to other countries as a Secretary of State than any travel to any foreign capital.

I already know I will miss the best reward of carrying the title Senator, and that’s when you open a letter from someone who has traveled every route and exhausted every option, and who ultimately turned to you as the last resort and they finally got the help they needed. There is nothing that beats a letter that says, “I tried everything and no one would listen but you got it done!” Or, sometimes when you’re walking a street in a community at home and someone thanks you for a personal response they never expected to receive. That’s when public service has more meaning than the war of words our constituents dodge on the cable news.

Standing here at this desk that once belonged to President Kennedy and to Ted Kennedy, I can’t help but be reminded that even the nation’s greatest leaders — and all the rest of us — are merely temporary workers. I am reminded that this chamber is a living museum, a lasting memorial to the miracle of the American experiment.

No one has captured this phenomenon more eloquently or comprehensively as Robert Caro did in his masterpiece about the Senate, called Master of the Senate. I’m sure many in this room have read it. In that book, before we learn of the levers that Lyndon Johnson pulled to push our nation toward civil rights, Caro described the special powers that the Founders gave the Senate — and only the Senate. “Powers,” Caro writes, “designed to make the Congress independent of the President and to restrain and act as a check on his authority: power to approve his appointments, even the appointments he made within his own Administration, even appointments to his own Cabinet.” This body has now exercised that power on my behalf, and I will always be grateful.

Another master of the Senate, Massachusetts’ Daniel Webster, delivered 183 years ago this week what has often been praised as the greatest speech in Senate history. He stood at the desk that now belongs to the senior Senator from New Hampshire and argued forcefully in favor of the very idea that makes us the United States: that we’re all in this together, that we each have a stake in the successes and failures of our countrymen, that what happens in Ohio matters to those in South Carolina, or in Massachusetts or to Montanans. “Union and Liberty,” Webster shouted. “Now and forever, one and inseparable!”

As Caro retells it, “those words, spoken among the desks, in the Senate” left those in the gallery in tears and cast a model for how those of us in this chamber must consider the constituents of our colleagues, as well as our own.

But the truth is that none of us ran for office because of a great debate held centuries ago. None of us moved here because of the moving words of a Senator long since departed. We honor this history, but we’re here because of the legacy that we can and want to leave. It is up to us–to my colleagues here today and those to come after us, it is up to us to keep the Senate great. I fully believe we will meet that obligation— if, as the President told the nation and the world last week, we seize this moment together.

Yes–Congress and public life face their difficulties these days, but not because the structure that our Founding Fathers gave us is inherently flawed. For sure, there are moments of great frustration — for the American people and for everybody in this place. But I don’t believe they are the fault of the institution itself. It’s not the rules that confound us per se. It’s the choices people make about those rules. The rules we work by now are essentially the same ones that were here when I joined the Senate and found things to move much more easily than they do today.

They are essentially the same rules under which Daniel Webster and Lyndon Johnson operated, and they did great things. They are almost the same rules Mike Mansfield, Everett Dirksen, Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch used to pass great pieces of legislation. They are the same rules under which the Senate Democrats and President George H.W. Bush passed an agreement including tax increases to at last begin to tackle the deficit. I would remind everyone here, as I take my leave from the Senate, when President George H.W. Bush returned from agreeing to a deficit reduction deal at Andrews Air Force Base, he wrote in his diary that he might well have sealed his fate as a one term President. He did what he thought was right for the country and laid the groundwork for our ability to three times balance the budget at the end of the 1990s. That’s courage and the Senate and the Congress and the country need more of it.

Frankly, the problems we live through today come from individual choices made by Senators themselves—not the rules. When an individual Senator – or a colluding caucus — determine that the comity essential to an institution like the Senate is a barrier to individual ambition or party ambition, the country loses. Those are the moments in which the Senate fulfills, not its responsibility to the people, but its reputation as a sanctuary of gridlock.

I ask colleagues to remember the words of Ben Franklin as that long Philadelphia summer yielded our remarkable Constitution. Late at night, after their work was complete, Dr. Franklin was walking down the steps of Constitution Hall, of Independence Hall, and a woman called out to him and she said: “Well, Doctor, what have we got– a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin answered: “A republic — if you can keep it.” Sustaining a functioning republic is work and it’s more than ever, I believe, our challenge today.

I’m hardly the first and will not be the last to call on Congress to remember why we’re here, to prioritize our shared interests above the short-term, to bridge the breadth of the partisan divide and reach across the aisle and take the long view.

Many have stood here, delivering farewell speeches and lamented what became of the Washington where President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill could cultivate an affiliation stronger than party, or a Congress that saw true friendships between Senators like Kennedy and Hatch, Inouye and Stevens, Obama and Coburn—the odd couples as they have been dubbed.

I can’t tell you why, but I think it’s possible this moment may see a turn in the spirit of the Senate. There are new whispers of desire for progress, rumors of new coalitions, and sense of possibility whether it is on energy or immigration. I am deeply impressed by a new generation of Senators who seem to have come here determined not to give in to the cynicism but to get the people’s business done. I am confident that when today’s freshmen take their turns in leaving the Senate, they will be able to tell of new Senators added to that inestimable list of odd couples. And with any luck, by then it will not be odd.

So I leave here convinced that we can keep our republic strong. When President Kennedy observed that “Our problems are manmade; therefore they can be solved by man,” he was talking about a much more literal kind of nuclear option than the euphemism we use today to discuss Senate rules. But his vision is just as important for us to recognize in our time, whether we are talking about the ability of Senators to debate and vote, or about any of the issues on which they do so. It is still true today, as he said 50 years ago, that “reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe he said they can do it again.” I believe that too.

So what effort do we need to put our reason and spirit into? I believe there are three challenges that have conspired to bring about a dangerous but reversible erosion in the quality of our democracy: the decline of comity, the deluge of money and the disregard for facts.

First, I have witnessed what we all have: a loss of simple comity, the respect that we owe one another and the sense of common cause that brings all of us here. The Senate as a body can change its rules to make it more efficient, sure. But only Senators, one by one, in their own hearts, can change their approach to legislating, which Henry Clay correctly defined as the art of consensus.

I came to the Senate in 1985 as a member of a hopeful and hard-charging class of freshmen. Paul Simon, Tom Harkin, Al Gore, Phil Gramm, Jay Rockefeller and I all have at least three things in common: we were all sworn in as Senators on the same day, we each explored running or ran for the White House, and none of us made it there. The last remaining member of that class, Senator Mitch McConnell, has now again been elevated by his peers as the Republican Leader.

I see a lot of a very similar aspiration to what we felt when I came here in 1985, and today’s freshmen and sophomores. Many came to the Senate running on the premise that it’s broken beyond repair. I encourage each and every one of them to reject this premise in order to restore the promise of the Senate. The Senate cannot break unless we let it. After all, the value of this institution, like any instrument of power, is in how we use it.

But we cannot ignore the fact that today, treaties that would have years ago passed 100-0 don’t pass at all. People who want to vote for something that they believe in actually don’t do so, for fear of retribution. That is a reflection on all of us. As I prepare to represent our nation in capitals around the world, I’m conscious that my credibility as a diplomat – and ours as a country – is determined to a great degree by what happens in our own capital city. The antidote to that, and it is pushed by rival countries is to demonstrate that we can get our economic house in order. We can be no stronger abroad than we are at home.

The unwillingness of some to yield to national interest is damaging to America’s prospects in the world. We are quick to talk about the global economy and about global competition, but it’s our own procrastination and outright avoidance of obvious choices that threatens our own future. Other nations are both quick and glad to fill the vacuum that’s brought about by our inaction.

If the Senate favors inaction over courage and gimmicks over common ground, the risk is not that we will fail to move forward. It is that we will fall behind, we will stay behind and we will surrender our promise to those who are more than willing to turn our squandered opportunity into their advantage. The world keeps turning; the Senate cannot afford to forever stand still.

Just as failing to deal with our deficit and our debt puts our long-term interests at risk, so does taking America to the brink of default. Our self-inflicted wounds reduce our leverage and influence in the world. And by failing to act, Congress is making it harder to actually advance America’s interests, and making it harder for American business to compete and for American workers to succeed. If America is to continue to lead the free world, this must end.

Now we’ve all bemoaned the lack of comity in the Senate, but you who remain here will have the power to restore it. The choice to work respectfully with one another is about as simple as it gets.

One suggestion perhaps while I’m honored by the presence of so many colleagues here now, Republicans, Democrats, I have to say we would all look forward to more days when United States Senate desks are full with Senators debating and deliberating, learning, listening, and leading. We would all be stronger if this Chamber is once again crowded because it is the world’s greatest deliberative body, the home of debate and deliberation, and not only when it becomes a departure lounge.

There is another challenge we must address – and it is the corrupting force of the vast sums of money necessary to run for office. The unending chase for money, I believe, threatens to steal our democracy itself. I’ve used the word corrupting – and I mean by it not the corruption of individuals, but a corruption of a system itself that all of us are forced to participate in against our will. The alliance of money and the interests it represents, the access it affords those who have it at the expense of those who don’t, the agenda it changes or sets by virtue of its power, is steadily silencing the voice of the vast majority of Americans who have a much harder time competing, or who can’t compete at all.

The insidious intention of that money is to set the agenda, change the agenda, block the agenda, define the agenda of Washington. How else could we possibly have a US tax code of some 76,000 pages? Ask yourself, how many Americans have their own page, their own tax break, their own special deal?

We should not resign ourselves Mr. President to a distorted system that corrodes our democracy. This is what contributes to the justified anger of the American people. They know it. They know we know it. And yet nothing happens. The truth requires that we call the corrosion of money in politics what it is: it is a form of corruption and it muzzles more Americans than it empowers, and it is an imbalance that the world has taught us can only sow the seeds of unrest.

Like the question of comity in the Senate, the influence of money in our politics also influences our credibility around the world. And so too does the difficulty, the unacceptable and extraordinary difficulty, we have in 2013 in operating the machinery of our own democracy here at home. How extraordinary and how diminishing that more than 40 years after the Voting Rights Act, so many of our fellow citizens still have great difficulty when they show up on election day to cast their vote and have their voice heard. That too is an issue that matters to all of us – because for a country that can and should extol the virtues of democracy around the world, our job is made more difficult when through long lines and overt voter suppression, and efforts to suppress people’s ability to exercise the right that we extol, so many struggle still to exercise that right here at home.

The last of these three obstacles that we have the ability, if not yet the will, to overcome is the unbelievable disregard for facts and science in the conduct of our affairs. It, like the first two, degrades our credibility abroad as well as at home.

My friends, the persistent shouting match of the perpetual campaign, one that takes place in parallel universes thanks to our polarized, self-selecting media, makes it harder and harder to build consensus among people. The people don’t know what to believe. So in many ways it encourages an oversimplification of problems that too often retreat to slogans, not ideas for real solutions.

America, I regret to say, is increasingly defaulting rather than choosing — and so we fail to keep pace with other nations in the renewal of our infrastructure, in the improvement of our schools, in the choice of our energy sources, in the care and nurturing of our children, in the fulfillment of our God-given responsibility to protect life here on earth. That too must change or our experiment is at risk.

To remain a great nation, we must do the business of our country. That begins by putting our economic house in order. And it begins by working from the same set of facts.

Though I believe we can’t solve any of these problems unless you really solve all of them, I note these three challenges because I believe the Senate is going to be locked into stalemate or our politics are going to be irreversibly poisoned unless we break out. I do so hopefully, as someone who respects and loves this institution and loves this country and wants to see us move forward.

Some things we know are moving forward. In the same time that comity has decreased and the influence has money has increased, I have seen the Senate change for the better. These halls used to be filled with the voices of men and men only. Decisions affecting more than half the population were made by people representing the other half. When I walked into the Old Senate Chamber to take my first ceremonial oath 28 years ago, I was joined by my two teenage daughters. It struck me that I had twice as many daughters as there were women in the Senate. Today, with the service of 20 women, including Massachusetts’ new junior Senator, this is a stronger, smarter place; more representative of our belief that out of many, we are one; more capable of fulfilling the vision carried from Washington to Webster to our current President that we are a stronger nation when our leadership reflects our population.

We have made huge strides in turning the page on gay rights. In 1993, I testified before Strom Thurman’s Armed Services Committee pushing to lift the ban on gays serving in the military and I ran into a world of misperceptions. I thought I was on a Saturday Night Live skit. Today at last, that policy is gone forever and we are a country that honors the commitment of all willing to fight and die for our country. We’ve gone from the Senate that passed DOMA over my objections to one that just welcomed its first openly gay Senator. There are good changes that have taken place for our Senate and our country. But we have more work to do. This place needs more women, more people of color, more diversity of background and experience.

But it is still a remarkable place. I’m reminded of the letters Harry Truman used to write home to his wife, Bess, as he sat in the back row of the chamber. Late one night, after one of the great debates of the New Deal era, he wrote, “I hear my colleagues, and I pinch myself and ask, ‘How did I get here?’” Several months later, he wrote Bess once more: “Again it is late at night and I am sitting here listening to the debate, I look across the aisle at my colleagues and I listen and listen, and I hear my colleagues and I ask myself, How did they get here?”

Well, I have no doubt that colleagues have asked that question about me or any one of us. Its been back and forth. But, 29 years after I came here, I have learnt something about how you solve that.

I learned that the Senate runs on relationships. I know that some of my more recent colleagues, sent here in tumultuous election cycles, hear that and think it’s code for checking their beliefs at the door, and “going Washington.” It’s not — and I’d add, don’t kid yourself: no one got here on a platform of pledging to join an exclusive club and forget where they came from.

When I say that relationships matter, I don’t mean back-slapping, glad-handing, hail-fellow well-met, go-along-to-get-along relationships. I mean real relationships.

And today’s hard charging colleagues who came to Washington to shake things up, I’d remind them: so did I, so did Tom Harkin, and the others I mentioned. If I told you that a 40-year-old newly minted Senator John Kerry was going to tell you that relationships matter most, I would have looked at you like you had three heads. I cut my teeth in grassroots activism. I didn’t come up through the political ranks. I burst onto the scene as an activist and when you’re an activist, all that singularly matters to the exclusion of almost all else are the issues. Where are you on an issue. Right or wrong and that’s the ballgame. Wrong, that’s not the ballgame.

That’s not what makes a good Senator. That’s not what makes the Senate work.

My late colleague of 25 years, Ted Kennedy, taught me that. I saw him late nights on the Senate floor sitting with his colleagues. Talking. Listening. He wanted to know about your state. He wanted to know about your family. He wanted to know why you came here. He had a unique ability to know not just what he needed from you, on a vote or a piece of legislation, but to know what you needed on a personal level, as a friend, as a colleague, as a partner. My old friend now Vice President, Joe Biden, had a saying in his family: “if you have to ask, it’s too late.” With Teddy, you never had to ask, he already knew – and he was there. He was there on a foggy morning on Nantucket when my father passed away, when Teddy just materialized almost out of nowhere, and there he was there at my front door. He didn’t call ahead. He didn’t ask. He just came to mark the passage. He came to listen. He was there. It was an instinct for people and an impulse to help. He taught that to so many of during that period time somewhere along the line, he passed it on not just to me, but to others in my class of Senators who came here in 1984. I will never forget in 2007, on the day when I announced I wouldn’t be running again for President, a tough day, another passage, when I got a call that Tom Harkin wanted to come see me. My staff surmised that he was probably coming to ask for money for the Iowa Democratic Party. They were wrong. It was a visit where Tom came just to share a few words that were very simple but which meant the world to me. A colleague visiting just to say he was proud that I was our party’s nominee in 2004 and that he looked forward to working with me more in this institution. Let me tell you, those are the conversations that make the difference, that you never forget, and that is the Senate at its best, the place where relationships matter most.

And it matters. Because Teddy and Tom Harkin and so many others here understood instinctively that if 100 Senators really knew each other, and our leader has worked very hard to try to find a way to make this happen, then you can find ways to work together.

And, to my surprise, I learned it and lived it in my time here in ways I never could’ve predicted, alongside people I never thought I’d count among my proudest friends.

John McCain last week introduced me at my confirmation hearing. John and I met here in the Senate coming from very different positions and perspectives. We both loved the Navy. I still do to this day, but I had different feelings from John about a war. For both of us, Vietnam was a demarcation point in our lives the way it was for so many of our generation.

But here in the Senate, late one night on a CODEL – for people listening who don’t know, it’s a trip of Senators, Congressmen going somewhere in the world – we were going to Kuwait after the first Gulf War, John and I found ourselves on a C-130 sitting opposite each other. Neither one of us could sleep, so we talked. We talked late into the night about our lives and our war.

Shortly thereafter, George Mitchell and Bob Dole threw us together on a select committee to investigate the fate of Americans still missing from the war in which we’d fought. It was a tough time and an emotional issue in an era where Rambo was a box office smash and Newsweek magazine cover printed provocative photos which asked whether Americans were still alive over there.

Into that cacophonous cauldron, John McCain and I were thrown together. Some were suspicious of both of us. But together we found common ground. I will never forget standing with John in the very cell in the Hanoi Hilton in which he spent a number of years of his life, just the two of us, alone in the cell listening to him talk about that experience. I will always be grateful for his partnership in helping to make real peace with Vietnam by establishing the most significant process in the history of our country, or of any country, for the accounting for missing and dead in any war, and afterwards then working to lift the embargo and ultimately normalizing relations with an old enemy. John had every reason to hate but he didn’t. Instead, we were able to heal deep wounds and end a war that divided an awful lot of people for much too long. And that is a common experience and only the relationships forged in the Senate could have made that happen.

John has this great expression, “a fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed.” He loves to debate, he loves to battle. And so do I. But I’ll tell you having fought besides him and fought against him, I can tell you it’s a heck of a lot better and more fun to have John fighting alongside you.

And we still have differences. There’s been a lot of newsprint has been used up covering some of them. But we both care about the Senate as an institution, and we both care about our country’s leadership in the world, even when we see it differently. And we both know that at some point, America’s got to come together.

We’ve shared this common experience and we’ve seen a lot together. We both were able to travel the country as the presidential nominee for our party and both returned to the Senate to carry on in a different way. Few people know what all that feels like. But just being by his side in Hanoi made it impossible not to be overwhelmed by his sense of patriotism, and his devotion to country. But it meant something else: if you can stand on the kind of common ground we found at the Hanoi Hilton, finding common ground on issues isn’t hard at all. I will always thank John McCain for that lesson. One of the magical things about the Senate is this amazing mix of people and how they can come together to make something happen.

I have learned and been impressed by the experiences of every single one of my colleagues and I honestly marvel at each state’s special character in the people they send here. I have learned from all: from the fiery, street-smart social worker from Maryland; from a down-to-earth, no-nonsense farmer from Montana; from a principled, conservative doctor from Oklahoma; from an amazingly tenacious advocate for women and the environment who blazed a trail from Brooklyn to Rancho Mirage and the United States Senate, who teams with a former Mayor of San Francisco who took office after the assassination of Harvey Milk and is committed to stand against violence and for equality; from a cantankerous, maverick patriot and former prisoner of war from Arizona; from a songwriting, original compassionate conservative from Utah; from a fervent, gravel-voiced people’s champion from Ohio; from a soft-spoken, loyal Medal of Honor winner from Hawaii who used to sit right here, from a college professor turned proud prairie populist and Senate Pied Piper taken from all us far too soon and far too quickly. From every member of the Senate, there are characteristics, passions, quirks and beliefs that bring this place alive and unite to make it the most extraordinary legislative body on earth.

That’s what I love about the Senate.

I love that instead of fighting against each other, Bill Frist, the former Republican Leader, and I were able to join forces to fight HIV and AIDS around the globe, and to convince an unlikely conservative named Jesse Helms to support and pass a bill unanimously that has saved millions of lives on our planet. That’s what makes this place so special.

Instead of ignoring a freshman Senator, Chairman Claiborne Pell allowed me to pass my very first amendment to change our policy on the Philippines, and so I found myself with Dick Lugar paired as Senate election observers who helped expose the voter fraud of the Marcos regime, ending a dictatorship and giving a nation of more than 90 million people the opportunity to know democracy again. That’s what the Senate can do, and that’s what I love about it.

Instead of focusing on our different accents and opposite ideologies, Jesse Helms and I found that our concern for illegal drugs was greater than any political differences between us, and so Jesse made it possible for an investigation to proceed and for the Senate to expose the linkages between the Contras in Nicaragua and the flow of drugs to American cities. That’s what the Senate can do.

Mr. President, the Senate can still work if we learn from and listen to each other — two responsibilities that are, like Webster said about liberty and union, “one and inseparable.”

And so as I offer my final words on the Senate floor, I remember that I came of age in a Senate where freshman Senators didn’t speak all that often.

Senators no longer hold their tongues through whole sessions of Congress, and they shouldn’t. Their voices are just as valuable, and their votes count just as much as the most tenured member of this body. But being heard by others does not exempt them from listening to others.

I came to the National Mall in 1971 with fellow veterans who wanted only to talk to our leaders about the war. President Nixon tried to kick us off the Mall. We knocked on door after door on Capitol Hill, but too often couldn’t get an audience with our representatives. A precious few, including Ted Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, came to where we were camped out and heard what we had to say. And I saw first-hand that our political process works only when leaders are willing to listen — to each other, but also to everyone else.

That is how I first came to the Senate — not with my vote, but with my voice — and that is why the end of my tenure here is in many ways a bookend.

Forty-two years ago, I testified before Senator Fulbright’s Foreign Relations Committee about the realities of war in Vietnam.

It wasn’t until last week that I would sit before that Committee again, this time testifying in my own confirmation hearing. It completed a circle, which I could never have imagined drawing, but one our Founders surely did: That a citizen voicing his opinion about a matter of personal and national consequence could one day use that voice as a Senator, as the Chairman of that same Committee before which he had once testified a private citizen, and then as the President’s nominee for Secretary of State — that is a fitting representation of what we mean when we talk about a government “of the people, for the people and by the people.”

In the decades between then and now, this is what I’ve learned above all else: The privilege of being here is in being able to listen to your constituents. It is the people and their voices – much more than the marble buildings and the inimitable institutions they house – that determine whether or not our democracy works.

In my first appearance before the United States Senate, at the Fulbright Hearings, I began by saying, “I am not here as John Kerry. I am here as one member of the group of one thousand, which is a small representation of a much larger group.”

I feel much the same way today, as I leave. We are still symbols, representatives of the people who have given us the honor to speak and advocate and vote in their name. And that, as the Bible says, is a “charge to keep.”

One day the 99 other Senators who continue on for now and soon to be a 100 again in a few days, will also leave in their own turn — some by their own choosing and some of the people’s. Our time here is not meant to last forever.

If we use the time posture politically in Washington, we weaken our position across the world. If democracy deadlocks here, we raise doubts about democracy everywhere. If we do not in our deeds prove our own ideals, we undermine our security and the sacred mission as the best hope of earth.

But, if we do our jobs right, if we treat our colleagues with respect and build the relationships required to form consensus – and find the courage to follow through on our promises of compromise – the work we do here will long endure.

So let us in the Senate and the House be bigger than our own districts, our own states. Let us in spirit and purpose be as big as the United States of America. Let us stand for our beliefs, but above all let us believe in our common history, our common destiny, and our common obligation to love and lead this exceptional nation.

They say politics stops at the water’s edge. That is obviously not always true, but if we care for our country, politics has its limits at home and abroad. As I leave here, I do so knowing that forever the Senate will be in my soul – and that our country is my cause – and yours.

I thank you all for your friendship and the privilege of serving with you.

Political Headlines January 29, 2013: John Kerry confirmed as secretary of state

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry confirmed as secretary of state

Source: WaPo, 1-29-13

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Senate voted 94 to 3 Tuesday to approve Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) as the next secretary of state, with bipartisan tributes and a few words of caution.

Kerry is set to formally take over from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday, becoming the 68th top U.S. diplomat and the first white male to hold the post since Warren Christopher in 1997….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Sen. John Kerry Closer to Being Confirmed as Secretary of State

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Sen. John Kerry Closer to Being Confirmed as Secretary of State

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-29-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry could be cleared to be Secretary of State by the end of Tuesday.

By a unanimous voice vote Tuesday morning, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Kerry used to head, approved his nomination to take over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s post.

The nomination will now move to the full Senate — likely as early as Tuesday afternoon — for final confirmation….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Election to Replace Sen. John Kerry’s Massachusetts Senate Seat Likely June 25

Election to Replace Sen. John Kerry Likely June 25

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-29-13

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

With Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s confirmation for Secretary of State proceeding at a smooth and quick pace, the question now becomes who will replace him and when?

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin gave an answer to that second question this week, saying that the special election would likely be set for June 25….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 24, 2013: John Kerry Tears Up During His Secretary of State Senate Confirmation Hearing

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry Tears Up During His Confirmation Hearing

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-24-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

First there were near-tears, and then a protester had to be forced out, but Sen. John Kerry took it all in stride.

Kerry choked up at his secretary of state confirmation hearings Thursday morning when discussing his father’s history in the U.S. Foreign Service, and how he was “equally proud” of both that history and his own as part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“If you confirm me, I would take office as secretary proud that the Senate is in my blood, but equally proud that so, too, is the Foreign Service,” the Massachusetts Democrat told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 4, 2013: Barney Frank Seeks Massachusetts Senate Appointment

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Barney Frank Seeks Senate Appointment

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-4-13

United States Senate

It’s only his second day of his retirement, and already Barney Frank wants back in the game.  The former Massachusetts congressman confirmed on Friday morning that he’s interested in the interim appointment to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat.

“A month ago, a few weeks ago in fact I said I wasn’t interested,” Frank said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Friday.  “But that deal now means that February, March and April are going to be among the most important months in American financial economy.”

Frank was referring to the agreement passed in the House and Senate this week that puts America past the so-called “fiscal cliff,” but left the automatic spending cuts associated with the sequester slated to take shape on March 1.  Another Congressional head-to-head is expected in the coming months over those cuts, and Frank said he wants to be part of that fight….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 28, 2012: Rep. Ed Markey to Run for John Kerry’s Massachusetts Senate Seat

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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Rep. Ed Markey to Run for John Kerry’s Senate Seat

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-28-12

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Democratic Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts announced plans on Thursday to run in 2013 for the U.S. Senate seat from his state that is expected to be available in the wake of Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s nomination to be the next secretary of state.

Markey, who just won his 20th term in the House, issued a statement Thursday, saying in part, “I have decided to run for the U.S. Senate because this fight is too important.  There is so much at stake.”

“We need a Senator who will work with President Obama, and anyone else, to move our country and our Commonwealth forward.  I look forward to traveling to every corner of the Commonwealth and meeting with the people who make Massachusetts so great,” Markey said….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 21, 2012: President Barack Obama Nominates John Kerry for Secretary of State

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry Nominated to Head the State Department

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-12

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama announced Friday that he has nominated Sen. John Kerry to be his next Secretary of State, likely succeeding Hillary Clinton if confirmed by Congress.

With the senator and wife Theresa Heinz-Kerry standing beside him, the president said Kerry’s “entire life has prepared him for this role.”

“As the son of a foreign service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women of the State Department; the role they play in advancing our interests and values; the risks that they undertake and the sacrifices that they make along with their families,” he said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Nominating Senator John Kerry for Secretary of State

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Nominates Senator John Kerry to Serve as Secretary of State

Source: WH, 12-21-12

President Barack Obama announces the nomination of Sen. John Kerry to serve as Secretary of State (December 21, 2012)President Barack Obama announces the nomination of Sen. John Kerry, right, to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 21, 2012. Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, watch at left. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This afternoon, speaking from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Obama nominated Senator John Kerry to serve as Secretary of State.

“Over these many years, John has earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world,” the President said. “He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training. He has earned the respect and trust of his Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans. I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry. And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead.”

The President also made a point to thank Teresa Heinz Kerry, Senator Kerry’s wife.

“As someone who came to this country as an immigrant, she understands the shining values that America represents to the world,” he said. “As a former interpreter at the United Nations, she appreciates how our interests can be advanced in partnership with others. Teresa, thank you so much for being John’s partner in this next endeavor.”

Read the full remarks here

Remarks by the President at Nomination of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State

Roosevelt Room

1:40 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  When I took office, our nation was engaged in two wars, and al Qaeda was entrenched in their safe havens.  Many of our alliances were frayed, and America’s standing in the world had suffered.

Over the past four years, we’ve begun a new era of American leadership.  We ended the war in Iraq, put the al Qaeda core on the path to defeat, and we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan.  We’ve strengthened our alliances, including in Asia; forged new coalitions to meet global challenges; and stood up for human dignity, from North Africa to the Middle East to Burma.  We still, of course, face great challenges.  But today, I can say with pride that the United States is safer, stronger and more respected in the world.

In this work, I’ve been grateful for an extraordinary national security team.  Tom Donilon has been a part of that, and I’m grateful to him.  Of course, one of the most important people in this whole transformation has been our outstanding Secretary of State, my friend, Secretary Hillary Clinton.  Hillary wanted very much to be here today, but she continues to recuperate.  I had a chance to talk to her earlier today, and she is in good spirits and could not be more excited about the announcement that I’m making.

Over the last four years, Hillary has been everywhere — both in terms of her travels, which have seen her represent America in more countries than any previous Secretary of State, and through her tireless work to restore our global leadership.  And she’s looking forward to getting back to work, and I am looking forward to paying tribute to her extraordinary service in the days to come.

Today, though, I’m looking ahead to my second term, and I am very proud to announce my choice for America’s next Secretary of State — John Kerry.

In a sense, John’s entire life has prepared him for this role.  As the son of a Foreign Service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women of the State Department — the role they play in advancing our interests and values, the risks that they undertake and the sacrifices that they make along with their families.

Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power.  And he knows, from personal experience, that when we send our troops into harm’s way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done.

In an extraordinarily distinguished Senate career — and as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee — John has played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years.

As we turn the page on a decade of war, he understands that we’ve got to harness all elements of American power and ensure that they’re working together — diplomatic and development, economic and political, military and intelligence — as well as the power of our values which inspire so many people around the world.

As John has said, we are an exceptional nation “not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things.”  And I’d say that one of the more exceptional things we’ve seen in recent decades was when John helped lead the way, along with folks like John McCain and others, to restore our diplomatic ties with Vietnam.  And when he returned to the country where he and so many others had fought so long ago, it sent a powerful message of progress and of healing.

Over these many years, John has earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world.  He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job training.  He has earned the respect and trust of his Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans.  I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry.  And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead.

On a personal level, John has been a great friend.  I’ve appreciated John’s partnership in helping to advance so many of my foreign policy priorities, including the ratification of the New START Treaty.  I’ve called on his talents and diplomatic skills on several occasions, on complex challenges from Sudan and South Sudan to the situation in Afghanistan.  And each time he has been exemplary.

Of course, I also have to say thanks because John invited a young Illinois state senator to address the Democratic Convention in Boston.  I was proud to serve with him on the Foreign Relations Committee under the tutelage of Joe Biden — (laughter) — and where we all became friends.  But of course nothing brings two people closer together than weeks of debate prep.  (Laughter.)

John, I’m looking forward to working with you instead of debating you.  (Laughter.)

Finally, I want to thank Teresa.  As someone who came to this country as an immigrant, she understands the shining values that America represents to the world.  As a former interpreter at the United Nations, she appreciates how our interests can be advanced in partnership with others.  Teresa, thank you so much for being John’s partner in this next endeavor.

I have to say I think I speak for John and Joe and myself  — we just left Danny Inouye’s funeral, a man who exemplified the very best of the U.S. Senate tradition.  And so, I know that, John, it won’t be easy to leave the Senate that you love.  And I think it’s fair to say that there are going to be some great challenges ahead.  An uncertain world will continue to test our nation.

But even with all the challenges that we face, I have never been more confident, more optimistic, that if we act with wisdom and with purpose, and if we’re guided by our values, and we remind what binds us together as Americans, the United States will continue to lead in this world for our lifetimes.

So, John, I am very grateful that you’ve agreed to take on this new assignment.  I’m confident that the Senate will confirm you quickly.  I guess you won’t be able to actually appear and preside at the same time — (laughter) — so we’ll have to figure out how that works, but I know that you are going to be an outstanding Secretary of State.

Thank you so much.  Congratulations.  (Applause.)

END
1:45 P.M. EST

Political Headlines December 21, 2012: President Barack Obama to Nominate John Kerry to Succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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John Kerry to Be Nominated to Succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-21-12

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

President Obama will on Friday nominate Sen. John Kerry to be secretary of state, likely succeeding Hillary Clinton, sources confirmed to ABC News.

Kerry, 69, the Massachusetts Democrat who was his party’s nominee for president in 2004, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is unlikely to face fierce opposition from senators across the aisle….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 16, 2012: John Kerry to Be Nominated to Be Secretary of State, Sources Say

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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John Kerry to Be Nominated to Be Secretary of State, Sources Say

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-16-12

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Sources tell ABC News that President Obama has decided that he will nominate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. to be secretary of state.

For a variety of reasons, including the finalization of the process, other pending Cabinet decisions, and — more immediately — the national reaction to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the news will not be announced in the next few days….READ MORE

Political Headlines December 13, 2012: John Kerry Secretary of State Nomination Could Create Musical Chairs for Scott Brown in Senate

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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John Kerry Nomination Could Create Musical Chairs for Scott Brown in Senate

Source: ABC News Radio, 12-13-12

State Department photo

News that Amb. Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for Secretary of State may have brightened the days of both senators from Massachusetts.

Prior to Rice’s withdrawal, she was considered one of the top two contenders for the job — the other is Sen. John Kerry, and with Rice out of the running, Kerry is “all but certain” to get the nomination, according to ABC’s Jake Tapper.  That means a vacant seat and a special election, which could benefit out-going Sen. Scott Brown, who lost his bid for reelection to Elizabeth Warren in November….READ MORE

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