John Kerry has worn many hats in Washington: senator, presidential hopeful, and secretary of state.
Earlier in the year, as President Barack Obama’s second-term Secretary of State, Kerry’s name was even whispered as a possible 2016 presidential candidate. While he unequivocally denied any intention to seek the nation’s highest office, the mere fact that his name was included as possible contender is proof that he is perhaps receiving the most widespread admiration of his political career.
Even though the president’s desire to scale back the global footprint of the nation has largely informed the State Department’s agenda, Kerry’s career is light years ahead of where it was in the 2004 election, propelled by his role in United States foreign policy. He has now served in both the Senate and in the president’s cabinet, giving him experience as a master politician, a lawmaker, and a negotiator.
The most telling difference between John Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate, and John Kerry, the secretary of state, is philosophical. Political analysts attributed his loss to George W. Bush to a lack of vision. “President Bush put forward a powerful and compelling philosophy of what the government should do at home and abroad: Expand liberty,” wrote Slate’s Chris Suellentrop the day after the election. “John Kerry, on the other hand, campaigned as a technocrat, a man who would be better at “managing” the war and the economy. But for voters faced with a mediocre economy rather than a miserable one, and with a difficult war that’s hopefully not a disastrous one, that message — packaged as “change” — wasn’t compelling enough to persuade them to vote for Kerry.”
But now Kerry has been able to show the electorate that he too has a vision for a better world. As David Rohde wrote in a piece for the Atlantic titled, “How John Kerry Could End Up Outdoing Hillary Clinton,” now, “it’s looking more and more possible that when the history of early 21st century diplomacy gets written, it will be Kerry who is credited with making the State Department relevant again.” If Kerry is indeed “making the State Department relevant again” after nearly 18 months on the job, especially amidst the huge foreign policy challenges facing the United States, there are a few questions that the politician could answer that would shed light on how U.S. foreign policy unfolds.