Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the U.S. embassy staff in Luanda, Angola on Sunday as he continued his visit to the continent of Africa. A portion of his remarks seemed to reflect the secretary's awareness of the somewhat precarious position he may be in owing to numerous volatile situations currently on his plate (Iran, Syria, Israel-Palestinian peace talks, Ukraine). As he spoke about significant events currently underway in Angola as well as in Africa in general, Kerry expressed his recognition of how limited his time is, and that conceivably it could be abbreviated further if he were to "screw up":
And there’s so much that can be done. I have to tell you, I’m filled with a sense of wow, I wish I had more time. I only have two years and three quarters left as the Secretary, provided I don’t screw up in the next few months, and I have to tell you that I’m looking at all of these opportunities everywhere I go and the changes that are coming.
Earlier in his talk, Kerry referenced the ongoing contentious Senate battle over nominations for diplomatic positions that has left dozens of positions unfilled in U.S. facilities around the world. Kerry thanked the deputy chief of mission in Angola, Heather Merritt, for her service and noted that she'd been "forced into duty because of the absence of an ambassador for an entire year." Kerry expressed frustration at the "political morass" that was causing the delays:
Heather, thank you. I left Heather over here. I’m really proud of the work that Heather is doing. She’s been forced into duty because of the absence of an ambassador for an entire year, which is pretty amazing – very frustrating to me that we have about 45 or so ambassadors that we’re waiting on from the United States Senate. But as you all know, the Senate has been sort of caught up in a very difficult political morass, and we’ve suffered as a result of it. We have a number of nominees that we’re still waiting for.
Democrats in the Senate blame Republicans for obstructionism, but Republicans say that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is responsible due to his invocation of the "nuclear option" which changed rules regarding filibusters for many presidential nominations. In a recent appearance before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Kerry was careful to thank both Republicans and Democrats on the committee for their hard work on nominations, saying of the problem: "[I]t’s not the fault of the committee, but ... a combination of vetting process and public process and so forth and the combination of the slowdown on the floor of the Senate."
In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry made the point that his department is not just concerned with foreign affairs. The State Department tweeted the following comments of the secretary at the hearing:
It's not often officials from the nation’s largest business lobby and an AFL-CIO-affiliated union speak to one another, let alone work together. But last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and North America’s Building Trades Unions held a joint press conference on Capitol Hill in support of the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from Northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. Nearby that same day, exactly five years after Trans-Canada Corp.
The United States Senate voted 94 to 3 to confirm one of its own, John Kerry of Massachusetts, for the office of secretary of state. Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz (both of Texas) and James Inhofe of Oklahoma were the only senators to vote against Kerry's nomination to succeed Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Kerry himself voted "present."
In a joint interview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, Clinton reveals that Obama knew all along that expectations were set too high for him when he first came into office:
"What did he promise you [in order to accept the secretary of state job? And has he kept the promises?" Kroft asked Clinton, seated in front of Obama.
Barack Obama's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, blamed Susan Rice for withdrawing her name from consideration to be the next secretary of state, not Obama. She made the comments this morning on national television:
It was believed that Ambassador Susan Rice, the U.S. representative to the United Nations, would either get the nod for secretary of state or, as a consolation prize, national security adviser. Regardless, the conventional wisdom held, Rice would be promoted in Obama's second term
But after today, it does not look like Rice, who has been under fire for mishandling the response to the Benghazi terror attack, will be appointed to either position.
Hillary Clinton reportedly prefers that her replacement be Senator John Kerry, and not Susan Rice, the current ambassador to the United Nations. Both Kerry and Rice have been rumored to be next in line for the secretary of state job. Clinton intends to step down from the post "days" after President Barack Obama's second inauguration in January.