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Posted Jan 24, 2013, 10:18 am
U.S. Sen. John Kerry should be appointed Secretary of State because of his "extraordinary diplomatic skills," U.S. Sen. John McCain said Thursday at the Massachusetts Democrat's nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry will "acquit himself in that office with distinction, and use his many talents and his indefatigable persistence to advance our country's interests," McCain said.
Kerry was nominated to succeed Hillary Clinton, who announced last year that she would step down from the post of America's chief diplomat after serving throughout President Barack Obama's first term.
The Arizona Republican's statement:
Mr. Chairman, I'm not here to introduce my friend, Senator Kerry, to the committee. Obviously, the nominee doesn't need to be introduced to the committee on which he as has served for over a quarter century, and as its chairman for the last four years. So, I can dispense with the customary summary of the nominee's record of public service and qualifications for the office for which he has been nominated. They are well known to you and to all our colleagues.
But I would like to take a few minutes to attest to the personal qualities that Senator Kerry would bring to the office of Secretary of State, which I think are very well suited to the position.
He and I have been friends for quite a long time, now. We've had our disagreements, which is unsurprising given our political differences. And, as is often the case in our business, our friendship has been affected from time to time by our enthusiasm for our differing views, and by the competitive nature of politics. But the friendship has endured because, I believe, it is based in mutual respect.
Some observers have attributed that respect to the fact that when we were much younger, nicer and better looking men than we are now, Senator Kerry and I spent some time, at the Navy's behest, in a certain Southeast Asian country, in less pleasant circumstances than we're accustomed to in the U.S. Senate. While I've always respected and honored Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam, my respect for John as a senator and my support for his nomination today originated in a different experience. Although, that experience, too, concerned the country and the war he and I were privileged to serve in, it did not require martial valor. On the contrary, it required, at least on Senator Kerry's part and considerably less so on mine, extraordinary diplomatic skills.
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The administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush had pursued limited engagement with the Government of Vietnam for the purpose of encouraging Vietnam to provide answers to the fates of many Americans who were still listed as POW/MIAs. The effort was led by a man both John and I respect enormously, General John Vessey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who continued as the President's Special Emissary to Vietnam in President Clinton's administration.
By the early nineties, I think both John and I had come to the view that it would be better for our country to have a relationship with Vietnam that served our current and future interests than one that continued to nurse the hostilities of our recent, tragic past. But we both understood that could never be the case unless we knew American soldiers were not still kept against their will in Vietnam and until Vietnam fully cooperated in helping us account for Americans who didn't return home from the war.
To help find answers to their fates, in 1991, then Senate Majority Leader Mitchell and Minority Leader Dole appointed a select committee, which John and Senator Bob Smith chaired. I was appointed a member as well.
Members of that committee had passionate and conflicting views on the subject of whether or not Vietnam still kept American POWs. The subject was controversial and provoked the strong passions of many Americans, not the least, of course, were the families of the missing. Most Americans who cared about the issue were people of sincere good will and honesty, but there were also a few charlatans and con artists involved in the activist community, who, for various reasons, promoted all kinds of conspiracy theories and implausible scenarios. On many occasions our public hearings became a circus. Behind the scenes, arguments between members often became as heated and personal as any I've ever experienced. Getting information about POW/MIAs from the intelligence community was fraught with the usual objections and difficulties, and getting information from the Vietnamese even more so.
It wasn't a pleasant experience, to say the least. But through it all, John led the committee with fairness to all sides, with persistence in the pursuit of the truth, and with an absolutely unshakeable resolve to get a result that all members could accept. Really, no matter how contentious, and, at times, crazy things got, John always believed he would eventually get all the committee to see reason and provide an answer that could be accepted by most veterans, and most, if not all, Americans who cared so much about the issue. And he did. He got all the members to agree to an exhaustive investigative report that concluded there wasn't credible evidence that Americans remained in captivity in Vietnam. It was a masterful accomplishment.
After that experience, John and I worked together to encourage the Clinton Administration and the Government of Vietnam to begin normalizing relations. I witnessed John's diplomatic skills in practice again – his patience, his persistence, his persuasiveness, his tact and his singular focus on getting the best result possible – in negotiations with a diverse array of government officials in both countries, convincing a reluctant administration to make what the president's advisors considered a politically perilous decision and reluctant fellow senators to vote for a resolution recommending normalization. It was an impressive performance, to say the least.
Helping to establish a relationship with Vietnam that serves American interests and values rather than one that remained mired in mutual resentment and bitterness is one of my proudest accomplishments as a senator, and I expect it is one of John's as well. Working toward that end with John, and witnessing almost daily his exemplary statesmanship is one of the highest privileges I've had here.
Should he be confirmed, and I'm confident he will be, and become our next Secretary of State, I'm sure we'll have our disagreements, which I know neither of us will hesitate to bring to the other's attention. But I know he will acquit himself in that office with distinction, and use his many talents and his indefatigable persistence to advance our country's interests, and I commend his nomination to you without reservation.