WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday nominated John Kerry, the five-term Democratic senator from Massachusetts, to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.
Appearing with Kerry at the White House, Obama said that the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had "played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years."
"In a sense, John's entire life has prepared him for this role," Obama said.
Obama picked Kerry after the withdrawal of Susan Rice, his envoy to the United Nations, as his preferred candidate. The White House delayed the announcement to avoid interfering with national mourning over the mass slaying at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
His nomination is likely to sail through Senate confirmation hearings, where he has strong support.
Kerry, 69, a highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran, later helped lead veterans opposed to the divisive war. Obama cited his military service as a special qualification.
"Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power," Obama said. "And he knows, from personal experience, that when we send our troops into harm's way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission and the resources that they need to get the job done."
The nomination risks the loss of what has been a reliable Democratic seat in the Senate. Democrats control the Senate but face midterm elections in two years that could sharply narrow those numbers.
Scott Brown, a Republican who lost his Senate seat in last month's election but remains popular in the commonwealth, could run again in a special election next year. Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator, is among several Democrats who have indicated interest.
Rice withdrew from consideration on Dec. 13 after a campaign by Republicans who said she misled the country after armed militants killed four Americans at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in September.
Kerry has shared Obama's interest in trying to talk without preconditions to adversary regimes, and he shares Obama's desire to shift the U.S. military from the grueling ground wars of the last decade to a "light footprint" abroad.
Kerry "would much rather solve problems by negotiations and diplomacy than by war," said Jonah Blank, a former Kerry aide and South Asia specialist. "He's seen war: He knows it ain't pretty, and very often it doesn't work."
At the beginning of the Obama's first term, Kerry sought to help the White House work out a broad Mideast peace deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad.