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Kerry's Bid for Secretary of State Begins; Live Coverage of Kerry's Confirmation Hearing

Aired January 24, 2013 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: After that experience, John and I worked together to encourage the Clinton administration and the government of Vietnam to begin normalizing relations. I witnessed John's diplomatic skills in practice again: his patience, his persistence, his persuasiveness, his tact, and his singular focus on getting the best result possible in negotiations with a diverse array of government officials in both countries, convincing a reluctant administration to make what the president's advisers considered a politically perilous decision, and reluctant fellow senators to vote for a resolution recommending normalization. It was an impressive performance, to say the least.

Helping to establish a relationship with Vietnam that serves American interests and values, rather than one that remained mired in mutual resentment and bitterness, is one of my proudest accomplishments as a senator. And I expect that it's one of John's as well. Working toward that end with John and witnessing almost daily his exemplary statesmanship is one of the highest privileges I've had here.

Should he be confirmed, and I'm confident he will be, and become our next Secretary of State, I'm sure we will have our disagreements, which I know neither of us will hesitate to bring to the other's attention. But I know he will acquit himself in that office with distinction and use his many talents and his indefatigable persistence to advance our country's interests.

I commend his nomination to you without reservation.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Wow, you might want to rest your case there, Mr. Chairman, with our thanks to this distinguished panel. We thank you very much, Madam Secretary. Thank you again to our colleagues.

And now we call up Chairman Kerry to the...

Mr. Chairman, we welcome you to the other side of the committee and look forward to your testimony and any introductions you may want to make.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Corker, and members of the committee, thank you very, very much. I'm in awe of the wonderful comments that were just made and I appreciate them, and I'll say a little bit more about them. Before I begin, I would like to have the privilege of just introducing very quickly. I think most of you know my wonderful wife Teresa, who's been part of this great journey for a long time; my brother Cam, who is serving over in the Commerce Department as counsel there, and I trust they know he's here and have given him time off. And my daughter Vanessa and her husband Brian, both of whom are working as physicians at Mass. General in Boston; and another daughter is not here, Alexandra and three stepsons who likewise are spread around the world. But we are thinking about them as -- as we embark on this wonderful journey.

For 29 years, I've sat up on the dais where you all are, and I've kind of looked down at the witnesses and wondered what they're thinking sometimes as we questioned them. And I don't want this to affect your opening questions, but let me say I've never seen a more distinguished and better looking group of public officials in my life.

(LAUGHTER)

Suddenly, I am feeling a lot of sympathy for the folks who sit down here. I want you to know that a couple of nights ago I was watching Godfather II. So be forewarned, if someone suddenly shows up with my long lost brother back in the audience, all bets are off, folks.

(LAUGHTER)

And I am enormously grateful for the generous comments of the chair and the ranking member. Thank you very, very much. Thank you also for your tremendous cooperation over the course of the last years. And providing that you get me out of here quickly, I will be able to congratulate you more fully when you officially assume your responsibilities.

I will tell you -- all of you on this committee, the new members particularly, that I have enjoyed chairing this committee and working with you as much as anything that I have done or been privileged to do in all of my career.

I think this is one of the great committees of the United States Senate, and it is the only major committee that I have served on since day one when I arrived in the Senate in 1985.

As you know, the committee carries special consequential responsibilities with respect to the security of our nation, and I thank each and every one of you for the serious consideration you give and have given to the challenging issues and for the remarkable cooperation that I have had as chairman of the committee.

If confirmed I will be forward to continuing to work particularly closely with all of you as we tackle some of the toughest issues and challenges that I have seen in the entire time I've served on this committee, and I particularly welcome the new members in that regard.

I'm very grateful to President Obama for nominating me and entrusting me with this important responsibility, and I am particularly grateful to Secretary Clinton, Senator McCain and Senator Warren for their introductions of me just now.

I will not take it personally that this may be the one item in Washington that seems to unite Democrats and Republicans to get me out of the Senate quickly.

(LAUGHTER)

Their -- Secretary Clinton, particularly, has served above and beyond the call of duty. I think everybody on this committee would agree. Her service has been superb and we all thank her for a job well done, for her tireless efforts on behalf of our nation. She has set a very high mark for the stewardship of the State Department and her commitment to country. And I can pledge to you that with the consent of the Senate, I will do everything in my power, summon every energy and all of my focus to build on her record and on the president's vision.

Senator McCain, as he mentioned, is a longtime friend. We met here in the Senate coming from very different political positions and perspectives, but, you know, we found common ground. I will never forget standing with him in Hanoi, in the cell -- in the Hanoi Hilton in which he spent a number of years of his life just the two of us listening to him talk about that experience.

I will always be grateful for his partnership in helping to make real peace with Vietnam by establishing the most significant process in the history of our country, or in any country, for the accounting of missing and dead in any war. And then for working to lift the embargo and ultimately normalize relations with an old enemy.

John had every reason to hate, but he didn't and instead we were able to help heal deep wounds and end a war that had divided too many people for much too long.

And as we talk about war and peace and foreign policy, I want all of us to keep in our minds, as I think we do, the extraordinary men and women in uniform who are on the front lines even as we meet here today, the troops at war who helped protect America. I can pledge to you as a veteran of war, I will always carry the consequences of our decisions in my mind and be grateful that we have such extraordinary people to back us up.

I also thank my new colleague, Senator Warren, for her generous comments. She's a longtime fierce fighter for what is just and fair. And if her testimony has any affect today and helps win votes for my confirmation she will become the senior senator of our state in a record few legislative days.

I spent 29 years.

(LAUGHTER)

It's humbling to be here before you in this new role as President Obama's nominee for Secretary of State, but my approach to this role, if confirmed, is also deeply informed by the 28-plus years that I have been privileged to spend in the Senate. That perspective will remain with me, if confirmed, as secretary. And I'm already excited by the many ways that we can work together and in which we must work together in order to advance America's security interests in a complicated and ever more dangerous world.

I would add that I'm particularly aware that in many ways the greatest challenge to America's foreign policy will be in your hands, the greatest challenge to America's foreign policy will be in your hands, not mine. Because while it's often said that we can't be strong at home, if we're not strong in the world, in these days of fiscal crisis, and as a recovering member of the super-committee, I am especially cognizant of the fact that we can't be strong in the world, unless we're strong at home.

And the first priority of business which will affect my credibility as a diplomat, and our credibility as a nation, as some -- as we -- as we work to help other countries create order, the first priority will be that America at last puts its own fiscal house in order. I really can't emphasize to you enough how imperative this is. People all over the world are looking to the United States for leadership. We are known as the indispensable nation for good reason. No nation has more opportunity to advance the cause of democracy.

No nation is as committed to the cause of human rights as we are. But to protect our nation and make good on our promises, as well as to live up to our ideals and meet the crisis of this moment, it is urgent that we show people in the rest of the world that we can get our business done in an effective and timely way. It is difficult enough to solve some of the problems that we face. But I will tell you, it becomes impossible, or near impossible if we ourselves replace our credibility and leverage with gridlock, and dysfunction.

I've heard it in my trips, and Secretary Clinton has heard it in her trips. And any of you who travel, will begin to hear questions about whether or not the United States can, or will deliver. Moreover, more than ever foreign policy is economic policy. The world is competing for resources in global markets. Every day that goes by where America is uncertain about engaging in that arena, or unwilling to put our best foot forward and win, unwilling to demonstrate our resolve to lead, is a day in which weaken our nation itself.

My plea is that we can summon across party lines, without partisan diversions, an economic patriotism which recognizes that American strength, and prospects abroad depend on American strength, and results at home. It's hard to tell the leadership of a number of countries that they have to deal with the IMF, balance their budget, create economic order where there is none, if we don't provide it for ourselves. It's also imperative that in implementing President Obama's vision for the world, as he ends more than a decade of war, that we join together to augment our message to the world. President Obama and every one of us here knows that American foreign policy is not defined by drones, and deployments alone. We cannot allow the extraordinary good that we do to save and change lives, to be eclipsed entirely by the role that we have had to play since September 11. A role that was thrust upon us. American foreign policy is also defined by food security, energy security, humanitarian assistance, the fight against disease, and the push for development, as much as it is by any single counterterrorism initiative. And it must be.

It is defined by leadership on life-threatening issues like climate change, or fighting to lift up millions of lives by promoting freedom and democracy, from Africa to the Americas, or speaking out for the prisoners of gulags in North Korea, or millions of refugees and displaced persons, or victims of human trafficking. It is defined by keeping faith with all that our troops have sacrificed to secure for Afghanistan. America lives up to her values when we give voice to the voiceless. I share with the president the conviction that it is equally imperative that we assert a new role in the world of increasing failed, and failing states.

Burgeoning populations of young people hungry for jobs, opportunity, individual rights, and freedom are rebelling against years of disenfranchisement and humiliation. A fruit vendor in Tunisia who ignited the Arab awakening, wanted dignity and respect. He wanted to sell his fruit without corruption and abuse. That's what led him to self-immolate.

The youth of Tahrir Square who brought Egypt its revolution represented a generational thirst for opportunity, an individual participatory rights of governance, not a religious movement.

The developed world can do more to meet the challenge and responsibility of these aspirations. With the help of all the members of this committee, I am determined to help President Obama meet this moment. It is vital for our nation that we do so.

The world is well aware that we face a number of immediate, dangerous challenges, particularly in the Middle East and South Central Asia. Given our extraordinary interests in non-proliferation, we must resolve the questions surrounding Iran's nuclear program. The president has made it definitive. We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and I repeat here today, our policy is not containment. It is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance.

This administration, working with Congress, and an unprecedented international coalition, has put into place crippling sanctions on Iran. Mr. Chairman, you have been a leader in that effort. And I know will continue to be. President Obama has stated again and again, and I want to emphasize this. He and I prefer a diplomatic resolution to this challenge, and I will work to give diplomacy every effort to succeed, but no one should mistake our resolve to reduce the nuclear threat.

Nearly 42 years ago Chairman Fulbright first gave me the opportunity to testify before this committee during a difficult and divided time for our country . Today I can't help but recognize that the world itself then was in many ways simpler divided as it was along bipolar Cold War antagonisms.

Today's world is more complicated than anything we have experienced. From the emergence of China, to the Arab Awakening, inextricably linked, economic, health, environmental, and demographic issues, proliferation, poverty, pandemic disease, refugees, conflict ongoing in Afghanistan, entire populations and faiths struggling with the demands of modernity, and the accelerating pace of technological innovation invading all of that, shifting power from nation-states to individuals.

With the end of the Cold War, Henry Kissinger pointed out in his superb book on diplomacy, he said, "None of the most important countries, which must build a new world order, have had any experience with the multistate system that is emerging. Never before has a new world order had to be assembled from so many different perceptions or on so global a scale. Nor has any previous order had to combine the attributes of the historic balance of power system with global Democratic opinion and the exploding technology of the contemporary period." That was written in 1994, and it may be even more relevant today.

So this really is a time for American leadership, a time for fresh thinking, a time to cross party lines and divide and come together in the interests of our nation, a time to find ways to work together to maximize the impact of all of America's resources, including the great resource of this committee and of the United States Senate.

If I am confirmed, one of the first things that I intend to do is sit down with Senator Menendez and Senator Corker and invite all the members of this committee to come together, hopefully at a time where there is no interruption, and we can actually really dig in and talk, and talk about how we can have a constructive dialogue and a collegial relationship. Because even as we pride ourselves on the separation of powers and the unique oversight role that the committee plays, the challenges in the world are so enormous that we will do our country a disservice if we didn't identify the ways that we can help each other to confront a unique set of questions globally.

If you confirm me, I would take office as secretary proud that the Senate is in my blood, but equally proud that so too is the Foreign Service. My father's work under presidents, both Democrat and Republican, took me and my siblings around the world for personal journey that brought home the sacrifices and the commitment the men and women of the Foreign Service make every day on behalf of America.

I wish everyone in the country could see and understand firsthand the devotion, loyalty, amazingly hard and often dangerous work that the diplomats on the front lines do for our nation. Theirs is a service which earns our country an enormous return on investment.

I will be proud and honored to represent them, and I will work hard to augment our public diplomacy so that the story is told at home and abroad.

Everyone on this committee knows well that the road ahead is tough, but I believe just as deeply that global leadership is a strategic imperative for America; it is not a favor that we do for other countries.

It amplifies our voice. It extends our reach. It is the key to jobs, the fulcrum of our influence. And it matters. It really matters to the daily lives of Americans.

It matters that we get this moment right for America, and it matters that we get it right for the world.

One discussion that I particularly look forward to beginning with you, my colleagues, and with our country is about the commitment that we make in our foreign affairs budget, less than 1 percent of the entire budget of government at a time that the world is getting smaller, that our economy depends on its relationship with every other country in the world, that we face a more global market than any time in our history.

So not just in my briefings at the State Department but in my conversations with business leaders, in my trips to crisis areas, to war zones, to refugee camps, and in some of the poorest countries on Earth, I have been reminded of the importance of the work that our State Department does to protect and advance America's interests and do the job of diplomacy in a dangerous world. And particularly I think there is more that can be done to advance our economic capacity and interests.

In this debate and in every endeavor, I pledge to work very closely with this committee, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, not just because it will be my responsibility but because I will not be able to do this job effectively nor will our country get what it needs to out of these initiatives without your involvement and your ideas going forward.

So thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

PROTESTER: (INAUDIBLE).

KERRY: I know there's a lot of ground to cover.

PROTESTER: (INAUDIBLE).

MENENDEZ: The committee will be in order. The committee will be in order.

PROTESTER: When is it going to be enough? When (INAUDIBLE).

I'm tired of my country (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY: Well, you know, I'll you, Mr. Chairman , I -- I -- when I first came to Washington and testified, I obviously was testifying as part of a group of people who came here to have their voices heard. And that is above all what this place is about.

So I respect -- I think the woman who was voicing her concerns about that part of the world -- and everyone of you have traveled there. Some of you there were recently.

Senator McCain, you were just there. You were in a refugee camp, but I know you heard this kind of thing.

People measure what we do. And, in a way, that's a good exclamation point to my testimony.

So, Mr. Chairman, I know there's a lot of ground to cover, and as a veteran of the committee, I know we do better when we're having a good dialogue, so I look forward to having that dialogue. Thank you.

(END LIVE FEED)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to break away at the Senate confirmation hearings by the Foreign Relations Committee which John Kerry once chaired. He's now in the hot seat awaiting what many say will be an easy confirmation but I must say it was a masterful handling of a protester yelling in the halls of the Senate.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Before I say goodbye let's check our top stories.

The New York Police Department is being sued by a woman who was wounded by officers during a shooting outside the Empire State Building back in August. Police fired several shots to kill a man outside the skyscrapers. Some of those bullets ricocheted hitting several innocent bystanders. The woman's attorney says officers were not properly trained for that type of situation.

Beyonce did not sing live. That's what an inauguration official tells CNN. The pop star has come under criticism for her rendition of the national anthem during the inauguration. The official says it was Beyonce's decision because she arrived late Sunday night and did not have time to rehearse with the U.S. Marine band. Beyonce has yet to talk about her performance.

The NAACP and Hispanic Federation are fighting New York City's ban on large sugary sodas saying it's unfair to small minority-owned business. The groups claim larger competitors like 7-Eleven and grocery stores will get a pass because they're regulated by New York - State and not New York City which means they're exempted from the law. The ban is due to go in effect in March.

The big story for most of us today is the extreme cold and it's not going to get any warmer until this weekend. So far three deaths have been reported in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. And in North Dakota, tropical storm-force winds and snow created whiteout conditions.

In Washington, federal officers are open today but with an inch of snow expected and federal workers have the an option of staying home to avoid all the mess. All anyone wants to know is when will this cold snap end. I know I said the weekend but I'm I'm hoping sooner, Jennifer Delgado.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi there Carol. It looks like not until next week. We're going to think I want to see those temperatures warm back up but a lot of people have been asking what is causing this recent cold spell.

Well, we've been looking at things and what we really follow whether in the seasons, it's called the arctic oscillation and this right here, gives you an idea what we're talking about. Here is the cold hair and keep in mind the cold air and keep in mind now when we're in a negative phase, the cold air basically spills down towards the southern parts and even spreads towards the northeast.

When you're in a positive space, what you're going to imagine is sort of a belt around the polar region and it locks in all that cold air. Well, right now, of course, that cold air has been spilling down towards the south. That's why we're negative and it looks like we could continue to see these arctic outbreaks as we go through the next few couple weeks ahead.

Right now at current windchills -- You can still see below freezing in many parts, including Minneapolis and Green Bay. But they have gotten better since yesterday but the problem is temperatures are still going to be 10 to 20 degrees below average and, of course, still some wind chill advisories out there. Very cold. We need to make sure we're cautious and well-protected.

COSTELLO: All right. Thank you, Jennifer. I'm Carol Costello, thank you so much for joining me today. The next hour of NEWSROOM starts right now with Ashleigh Banfield.