Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Kerry reports in after Kabul visit

Senator John Kerry, who once aspired to host meetings in the Oval Office, will be visiting President Barack Obama in that room Wednesday to talk about his recent trip to Afghanistan.

Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was credited with playing a key role in AFGHANISTAN/convincing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to agree to a second round of voting in a disputed national election.

A picture of him whispering into Karzai’s ear on Tuesday was splashed across the major U.S. newspapers on Wednesday and news programs gave detailed reports on Kerry’s behind-the-scenes shuttle diplomacy.

ABC news said over the last five days in Afghanistan, Kerry acted more like a secretary of state than a senator as he played a central role in brokering the agreement with Karzai and his main rival Abdullah Abdullah.

In Kabul on Tuesday after hours of talks with Karzai, Kerry said the Nov. 7 run-off would be difficult and made a point to praise the Afghan leader for endorsing the vote.

Specter still finding his way as a Democrat

Old habits are hard to give up, and that seems especially true for newly-minted Democratic Senator Arlen Specter.OBAMA/

As he entered the chamber through the Republican side for a vote on an amendment to a war funding bill, he stopped at the Republican desk where aides put information about the pending measure.

Democratic Senator John Kerry, standing by the Democratic desk, called out across the chamber to Specter: “Arlen, Arlen, we’re over here!”

Kerry to head Senate Foreign Relations Committee

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.
 IRAQ/
“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.

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/POOL (Kerry meets Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad in 2006)

No matter what, one White House hopeful will return to the Senate

WASHINGTON – When all is said and done with the 2008 presidential election, one of the contenders will be returning to the U.S. Senate,  a harsh reality after coming so close to the White House.

For the first time in 48 years a senator will capture the White House, either Republican Sen. John McCain or Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, while the other will go back to being one of 100 in the deliberative body.

But over 48 years, it has happened many times, most recently in 2004 when Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry lost to George W. Bush.

Kerry takes convention stage again, rips McCain

johnkerry1.jpgDENVER – John Kerry, the failed 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, took the stage at this year’s party convention on Wednesday to praise Illinois Sen. Barack Obama – whose career he helped launch — and lambaste John McCain.

Kerry, who said he had been friends with McCain for nearly 22 years, used tough words to criticize the Arizona senator’s evolution from a maverick legislator to a presidential candidate.

“Before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself,” Kerry said, listing what he described as McCain’s shifts on tax cuts, immigration, and climate change.