President Obama taps John Kerry to give national security speech at Democratic convention

Senator John Kerry visited a US military base in Garmsir district of Afghanistan's Helmand Province on Oct.18, 2009.
Senator John Kerry visited a US military base in Garmsir district of Afghanistan's Helmand Province on Oct.18, 2009.

TAMPA—President Obama is tapping Senator John F. Kerry to deliver a speech focused on national security issues during the closing night of next week’s Democratic National Convention.

The three-day gathering in Charlotte, N.C., will have a heavy national security focus, underscoring the administration’s intention to highlight its work to end combat operations in Iraq, draw down US forces in Afghanistan, and approve a military raid that killed terrorist Osama bin Laden and contrast these accomplishments with the rhetoric of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Kerry is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has served as an unofficial administration envoy to troublespots in the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and Afghanistan.

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The Massachusetts Democrat also is a potential secretary of state if Obama wins reelection. He has been poring over Romney’s record in preparation for his role as the former Massachusetts governor’s stand-in during Obama’s debate preparation sessions.

He will speak in prime time, shortly before Obama and Vice President Joe Biden accept their respective nominations during an outdoor session of the convention at the football stadium used by the Carolina Panthers. It will be the main national security speech of the convention.

“Senator Kerry will speak to how the president has restored America’s leadership in the world, has taken the fight to our enemies, and has a plan to bring our troops home from Afghanistan just like he did from Iraq,” said an Obama campaign official who demanded anonymity to speak about the speech before it was officially announced.

“He will contrast the president’s strong leadership in this area with Mitt Romney, who has embraced the go-it-alone, reckless policies of the past that weakened America’s place in the world and made us less secure here at home,” the official added.

In a sense the speech closes a loop between Kerry and Obama begun in 2004, when Kerry—himself then the Democrats’ presidential nominee—tapped Obama to deliver the keynote address at his nominating convention in Boston.

The speech propelled Obama into the national consciousness and toward the Democratic nomination and the presidency four years later.

During the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Kerry addressed the delegates shortly before Biden accepted his nomination. Kerry used the occasion to highlight Obama’s foreign policy views and dissect those of his fellow Vietnam War veteran, Senator John McCain, then-Republican nominee.

Kerry has also had a long personal relationship with Biden, who preceded him as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.