Sen. John Kerry's speech to the Democratic National Convention Thursday night is an audition of sorts for secretary of state if President Barack Obama is re-elected.
The current job-holder, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has indicated that she won't return after four years of punishing high-stakes diplomacy that so far has involved travel to 110 countries and covered more than 900,000 miles. That would leave a critical job wide open and some possible candidates, among them Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
If it were a job interview, Kerry could point to his work for the administration in the Senate and abroad.
The Massachusetts lawmaker shepherded a new arms control treaty with Russia to Senate ratification over conservative opposition in December 2010. He has served as an unofficial negotiator with Afghanistan and Pakistan. More recently, he has led what looks like a quixotic fight for a treaty governing the seas that the administration hopes the Senate will approve by year's end.
Kerry has met numerous times with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, assisting with U.S. efforts to convince the Afghan leader to hold a runoff election, take steps to address widespread corruption and eventually agree to the strategic partnership agreement between Washington and Kabul.
Kerry also has been a good Democrat in challenging Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's foreign policy pronouncements, in both editorials and speeches in the Senate.
When Romney called Obama "feckless" for his dealings with Iran this past spring, Kerry penned an editorial titled "Romney's wrong-headed assertions about Iran" and offered a strong endorsement of Obama in a speech on the Senate floor.
"We must prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That is why President Obama, even as he builds pressure for a diplomatic solution, keeps reiterating that all options are on the table. And he's underscored that — as he said — 'I don't bluff.' And you can ask Osama bin Laden what he means when he says that," Kerry said.
It was Kerry, the party's presidential nominee in 2004, who tapped an unknown Illinois Senate candidate named Barack Obama to deliver the keynote address at the national convention in Boston that year. That speech propelled Obama to the political forefront and eventually the presidency.
In the coming weeks, Kerry will play Romney in practice sessions with Obama for the three presidential debates in October.
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