Slatest PM: John Kerry's Awkward Situation

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 28 2012 4:26 PM

Slatest PM: John Kerry's Awkward Situation

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Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Point McCain: New York Times: "Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said she still harbors serious doubts about the Obama administration’s explanation of its response to the deadly attack on an American mission in Benghazi, Libya, further clouding Susan E. Rice's prospects as secretary of state and dealing another serious blow to the White House. Emerging from an hourlong meeting with Ms. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, Ms. Collins said on Wednesday that she remained deeply troubled that Ms. Rice did not seem to have a good answer for why the White House did not immediately classify the attack as an act of terror."

Point Kerry?: More NYT: "Ms. Collins said she would need additional information before she could support Ms. Rice’s nomination. But in response to a question about support in the Senate for John Kerry of Massachusetts, who is Ms. Rice’s main rival for the job, Ms. Collins said, 'I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues.'"

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Why the GOP Loves John: The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky: "I suspect that the Republicans want to block Rice because they want Obama to name John Kerry because they believe that Scott Brown can win that seat back. ... McCain and Graham have other motivations: getting a scalp, keeping phony impeachment hopes alive, etc. But let's not forget that these guys are politicians, and senators, and they think of politics and the Senate first. One less Democrat in the Senate would make for a nice little cherry on their sundae."

Diplomatic Defense: Associated Press: "John Kerry is angling to be the nation's top diplomat by being, well, diplomatic. ... [He] has largely stayed quiet while President Barack Obama considers him for his next secretary of state. Kerry has asked his supporters to avoid lobbying the White House on his behalf. And he's defended his chief rival for the State Department post ... amid Republican criticism of her explanation of the deadly attack on Americans in Libya."

Diplomatic Offense: Weigel: "[Rice's recent meeting with her GOP critics] have, so far, ended by Rice slipping out and the Republicans reiterating their grave, grave concerns ....  Does the Rice offensive make her more or less impressive as a potential diplomat? Her response to a certain media frenzy was to jump into it, knife in her teeth. If she was naive enough to think that Washington's Heathers would go easy on her because she gave them meetings, that's a strike against her. If she was just playing the game, knowing that the White House can count votes and knows the difference between filibuster and blather, I think that's a point for her."

Why It's So Awkward: More AP: "Kerry's strategy reflects what people close to the senator say is his disdain for some aspects of Washington's personnel politics. But it also underscores his awkward role in the process. If Obama taps Rice for the job Kerry covets, the senator will have to shepherd her nomination through the foreign relations committee he runs."

Happy Wednesday and welcome to The Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

The White House Doesn't Trust BP: Wall Street Journal: "The Obama administration has temporarily blocked BP PLC from obtaining new contracts with the U.S. government, citing a 'lack of business integrity' that resulted in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The suspension will prevent the company from acquiring new oil-drilling leases or other government contracts until the company can prove it meets federal business standards, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday."

Obama Agrees a Filibustering Senator Should Have To Filibuster: Washington Post: "Obama supports Senate Majority Harry Reid’s efforts to reform the filibuster, a White House spokesman said Wednesday. ... The Nevada Democrat  has proposed eliminating the filibuster vote that is needed to formally begin debate on legislation and mandating that filibustering senators actually talk on the floor, 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'-style. Reid intends to use a simple majority vote to pass the reforms. No major rule change has ever been instituted with a unilateral vote by one party."

We Watched the Video So You Wouldn't Have To: Glenn Beck Trolls Liberals With "Obama in Pee Pee"

International Status Seeker: Financial Times: "The Palestinians are set to score a potentially important diplomatic victory at the UN on Thursday, amid clear indications that the majority of UN member states will back a resolution in support of a Palestinian state. Diplomats and officials expect overwhelming support in the UN general assembly for a proposal to raise the Palestinian status at the global body from that of a non-member observer 'entity' to that of a non-member observer 'state'."

What It Would Mean: That may not sound like much, but the move would put Palestine's standing roughly on par with the Vatican in the eyes of the global body, and Palestinian leaders believe the upgrade will also bolster their hand in future negotiations with Israel. As a non-member state, Palestine won't gain a U.N. seat or official recognition as a state, but it will gain access to U.N. organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF and the International Criminal Court. It's that last one that seems to have Israel and its allies the most worried. They fear that Palestinian leaders will flood the court with formal complaints against Israel for what they allege are war crimes.

Damage Control: New York Times: "Israeli officials began to play down the significance of [the] draft resolution... s. Israel has also toned down its threats of countermeasures after the vote in the General Assembly, which is virtually certain to pass, aware that a harsh reaction would only isolate it further. ... While [Israeli government spokesman Mark] Regev acknowledged 'a certain amount of disappointment' over the decision of some friendly European countries to support the Palestinians or abstain from the vote, he said: 'Ultimately what we will see at the United Nations is diplomatic theater. It will in no way affect the realities on the ground."

Meanwhile, in Egypt: Reuters: "The assembly writing Egypt's constitution said it could wrap up a final draft later on Wednesday, a move the Muslim Brotherhood sees as a way out of a crisis over a decree by President Mohamed Mursi that protesters say gives him dictatorial powers. But as Mursi's opponents staged a sixth day of protests in Tahrir Square, critics said the Islamist-dominated assembly's bid to finish the constitution quickly could make matters worse."

And Syria: Washington Post: "Two car bombs blasted crowds in a neighborhood in southeastern Damascus on Wednesday, killing at least 34 people and injuring dozens of others, according to opposition activists and state media. The neighborhood, called Jaramana, is a mixed area of mostly Christian and Druze residents that is generally viewed as supportive of the Syrian government and has been the target of several attacks in recent months."

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