John Kerry as Diplomatic Utility Man

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Crowley wrote back in December:

[The WikiLeaks cables] support the idea that Kerry has been an effective envoy for the Obama administration–a kind of utility player who can lay diplomatic groundwork for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or step into a crisis where other officials can’t–as when he assuaged an ornery Afghan president Hamid Karzai during last year’s elections at a moment when Karzai wasn’t willing to deal with Richard Holbrooke. Kerry has also waded into the politics of Middle East peace, international climate change, US aid to Pakistan, and preventing civil war in Sudan.

This has prompted a recent spike in the long-running chatter about Kerry’s prospects to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. It’s a job Kerry is known to have wanted, even lobbied for, when Obama first took office. People close to Kerry wave away such talk as a Beltway parlor game, and although Clinton has said she won’t serve more than one term, there’s no sign her departure is imminent (although she has often spoken of the exhausting nature of her job). At a minimum, though, Kerry is positioning himself nicely for the State job if and when it does open up.

Joan Vennochi, writing today in the Boston Globe, makes the case that turmoil in Egypt has put Kerry in a similarly critical role and that he remains interested in succeeding Clinton at State:

AS EGYPT battles over its future, Senator John Kerry is negotiating his own.

The Bay State’s senior senator is running an unofficial campaign to become the next secretary of state. For once, he looks artful, as well as ambitious.

His recent opinion piece in the New York Times said what President Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t: Mubarak must go.

Speculation about Kerry’s designs on Foggy Bottom aside, it’s clear how valuable a strong voice on Foreign Relations can be. In a situation as fluid and fraught as Egypt’s, where every administration statement must be couched in cautious diplo-speak, Kerry is someone who can (and did) take a firmer position early on without knocking the administration’s official stance off kilter.