John Kerry's Name Being Floated for Defense Secretary, Not State

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Though he was an early frontrunner to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, a new report says that Senator John Kerry could be tapped to run the Defense Department instead. The Washington Post reports that President Obama is "considering" asking Kerry to take the post currently occupied by Leon Panetta. The 74-year-old Panetta is expected to step down sometime next year, and when combined with Clinton's planned retirement and the unplanned resignation of David Petraeus at the CIA, the entire national security team will need to be overhauled.

Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, appeared to be the natural choice for State given his devotion to diplomatic issues while a member of the Senate. However, it appears that Obama is determined to nominate Susan Rice, the current ambassador the United Nations, as Clinton's replacement. That still appears to be the plan, even though some Republicans are accusing Rice of botching the administration's response to the Benghazi embassy attack in Libya, and possibly even intentionally misleading the public.

On the other hand, Kerry's appointment would be a fitting coda to his long career, given that his presidential ambitions were derailed by unfair attacks on his military service. Kerry was a highly decorated naval officer who served multiple tours in the Vietnam War, earning two Purple Hearts for being wounded in action. However, during his 2004 presidential campaign a group of fellow veterans accused Kerry of lying about his service. They may have been motivated in part by Kerry's anti-war activism after returning from Vietnam, an extenuating factor that might make Kerry's appointment to the Pentagon slightly awkward. Kerry famously threw some of his military decorations onto the steps of the U.S. Capitol during an anti-war protest and once testified against the war before the Congress, saying, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.