President Barack Obama has nominated failed presidential candidate and current Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry to be secretary of state.
Kerry has long coveted the position. It would place him as close to the presidency as he has ever officially been, as the secretary of state is the highest-ranking cabinet post. Secretary of state is fourth in the line of succession for the Oval Office, behind the vice president, the speaker of the House, and the president pro tempore of the Senate.
He ran for president in 2004, receiving the Democratic Party’s nomination only to lose to George W. Bush by three points.
During that campaign his mixed and often negative view of the United States military surfaced. He also came to be seen as a “flip-flopper” who did not hold consistent views on issues.
He received numerous medals for his service in the Vietnam War but he discarded at least some, if not all, during public protests against the war. It is unclear precisely what he discarded, however, because he contradicted his story multiple times. He admitted to discarding his ribbons—and conceded that the military does not distinguish between ribbons and medals—but he claimed to still have his medals.
What is certain, though, is that after returning from serving in Vietnam, Kerry became a vocal critic of the war, testifying before Congress that he was “ashamed of and hated” the service his country demanded of him.
His flamboyant opposition featured prominently in an outside advertisement in the 2004 Presidential campaign attacking Kerry for discarding his medals.
His experience in Vietnam shaped his views on American military action. He told the Harvard Crimson in 1970 while running for Congress, “I’d like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations.”
He seemed to advocate for a version of this view in the first presidential debate in 2004, when he called for a “global test” for American military action.
Often called a New England elitist, he once said that kids who do not do well in school will “get stuck in Iraq.” He later said it was a “botched joke.”
This was not the first time Kerry made an off-color joke. He once criticized Vice President-elect Dan Quayle’s qualifications by saying, “The Secret Service is under orders that if Bush is shot, to shoot Quayle.”
As secretary of state, Kerry will deal primarily with international affairs, which could be good for him as he has a demonstrated illiteracy with American culture. He once referred to the Green Bay Packers’ stadium as “Lambert Field,” fully pronouncing the letter “t.”