(USA TODAY) -- Secretary of State nominee John Kerry testified Thursday at a confirmation hearing that sounded very much like a coronation.
top State Department job is "a position you have most deservedly
earned," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., acting chairman of the
committee normally led by Kerry himself.
Other senators from both
parties also praised Kerry, as he pledged to keep the United States
strong in the world and to prevent Iran from obtaining the means to make
a nuclear weapon.
"Our policy is not containment, it is prevention," Kerry said of Iran, adding that he and President Obama would prefer a diplomatic solution in Iran, but made clear that force remains an option.
warm feelings toward Kerry weren't unanimous: Police had to remove a
protester who yelled about U.S. policy toward Iran and the Middle East
ejection, Kerry cited the need for all voices to be heard; he also
referred to his own first appearance before Congress, as a Vietnam
protester in 1971.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the committee's top Republican, told Kerry, "I do know that your confirmation is going to be speedy."
his testimony, Kerry pledged to keep the United States strong in the
world. He added that the task includes ending U.S. congressional
"gridlock" on economic policy and other issues. "Now more than ever," Kerry said, "foreign policy is economic policy."
also endorsed another, more embattled Obama nominee: Defense
Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel. While some Republicans have criticized
Hagel's views of Israel and Middle East policy, Kerry said the former
Nebraska Republican senator "will be a strong Secretary of Defense."
Kerry appears to have a much smoother path to Obama's Cabinet.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in formally introducing
Kerry to the committee, said he has "a record of leadership and service
that is exemplary."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also
introducing Kerry, also praised his Senate colleague. McCain discussed
their shared experience as Vietnam veterans, their work on a committee
to investigate the possibility of missing POWs, and their joint support
for U.S. recognition of Vietnam's government. McCain also predicted Kerry's confirmation.
that Kerry needed an introduction: The three-decade senator has been a
member of the Foreign Relations Committee throughout his tenure, the
last four as chairman.
The Kerry hearing comes a day after the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee grilled Clinton over the Sept. 11
attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Kerry will likely be
asked questions about security at U.S. embassies.
questions: Kerry's past outreach to Syria President Bashar al-Assad,
before his crackdown on protesters, the prospect of a nuclear-armed
Iran, relations between Israelis and Palestinians, fallout from the Arab
Spring, and U.S.-Russian relations.
The son of a Foreign Service
officer, Kerry is a Vietnam combat veteran who became a leading critic
of that war. He won election as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in
1982 and claimed a U.S. Senate seat two years later. Kerry captured the
Democratic nomination for president in 2004 but lost to incumbent
President George W. Bush.
Another aspect of Kerry's political career: promoting the national career of Barack Obama.
2004, Kerry tapped Obama, then an Illinois legislator seeking a U.S.
Senate seat, to keynote the Democratic convention. Four years later,
Kerry endorsed Obama at a key point in the latter's presidential
campaign, after he had lost the New Hampshire primary to Clinton.
Last year, Kerry helped Obama prepare for three debates by portraying Mitt Romney in practice sessions.
brings two people closer together than weeks of debate prep," President
Obama said last month in nominating Kerry. "John, I'm looking forward
to working with you instead of debating you."