WASHINGTON – Thirty-seven years ago, dressed in old battle fatigues, John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a young hero and a critic of an unpopular war that divided Americans and radicalized a generation.
“We are angry because we feel we have been used in the worst fashion by the administration” of President Richard Nixon, Kerry testified on behalf of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Now 65 and a senator from Massaschusetts, Kerry will take over next month as chairman of that committee, which raised questions about the war that ultimately helped lead to the end of the decade-old conflict.
“I am honored to serve as chairman of a committee which I know from my own experience as a young man can impact the course of our security and help advance our values and interests in the world,” he said in a statement.
Kerry’s remarks on Monday came after Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid named him to head the panel.
Kerry had been on the short list of potential nominees to be President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of state.
But with Obama deciding instead to go with Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York as his top diplomat, Reid, as anticipated, recommended to a Democratic steering committee that Kerry lead the Foreign Relations panel. Kerry is virtually certain to get the job.
He would replace Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, who is stepping down to be sworn in next month as Obama’s vice president.
Kerry will be one of only a few new Senate Committee chairs as recommended by Reid.
The others include Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who is stepping down as chairman of the Commerce Committee to take over as head of the Appropriation Committee.
He will replace Robert Byrd, 91, the longest serving senator, who agreed to move aside as head of Appropriations because of concerns about his health and age. Inouye is 84.
Reid recommended that Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia take over as chairman of the Commerce Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California replace Rockefeller as chair of the Intelligence Committee, and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York replace Feinstein as chair of the Rules Committee.
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Photo credit: Reuters/POOL (Kerry meets Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad in 2006)