“This treaty isn’t about changing America. It’s a treaty to change the world to be more like America,” Kerry said.
The Massachusetts Democrat and former presidential nominee is considered a front-runner to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to step down before the start of a second Obama term. Kerry, who was awarded the Silver Star for his service in Vietnam, has also been mentioned as a possible defense secretary, succeeding Leon E. Panetta.
The White House is expected to announce nominations to those positions soon, possibly as soon as this week, but the swirl of speculation has made it difficult for Kerry to navigate between his current job and his possible future.
The secretary of state nomination has already become contentious, as the other leading candidate, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, has come under attack from Republicans for misstatements made in the wake of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Kerry will not say whether he wants the job at State, but he has been boosted by many in the Senate who have attacked Rice and who say he would be a better choice.
Obama has been publicly supportive of Rice and has defended her against the GOP barrage. If he chose to nominate her, it would probably mean a contentious set of confirmation hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee, presided over by none other than John Kerry.
Republicans have signaled that they would welcome a Kerry nomination to any post with near unanimous approval, forcing the White House to think about how much of a fight they want to have over new Cabinet secretaries.
“If they were to nominate Senator Kerry for something, he would be pretty broadly applauded on our side,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.
Many Democrats would prefer Kerry to be the nation’s top diplomat rather than Rice, according to several senators and aides who requested anonymity to speak freely about the president’s choice.
That is in part because the fallout from the Benghazi attack could turn a Rice nomination into the first tough vote of the 2014 election season. Others worry about expending political capital to secure a Rice confirmation during the heated talks to avert a fiscal combination of more than $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts set for January.
More important, however, senior Democrats believe Kerry has earned the nod through his dogged work since returning to the chamber after his narrow defeat to George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election.
“He’d be a great secretary of state,” said former senator Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), who served on the Foreign Relations Committee.