The Cable

Kerry auditioning for Secretary of State at DNC Charlotte?

TAMPA - In a move that is sure to ignite a firestorm of speculation about who would be Secretary of State in a second Obama administration, President Barack Obama has chosen Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to deliver a key national security themed speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention.

An Obama campaign official told The Cable Tuesday that Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a highly rumored candidate to replace Hillary Clinton in Foggy Bottom when she steps down next year, will headline a special segment of the program on Thursday, Sept. 6, focusing on national security. The Sept. 6 program will take place at Bank of America stadium and will conclude with Obama's speech accepting his party's nomination for a second term.

The move is a reflection of the Obama campaign's growing confidence in the area of national security versus a candidate in Mitt Romney who is seen as being light on national security and foreign policy experience and whose campaign has deprioritized discussing national security in an effort to keep the focus on Obama's economic record.

"President Obama's strong record on national security and veterans issues is clear - from ending the war in Iraq responsibly, to refocusing on al-Qaeda and decimating its leadership, to taking care of our men and women in uniform when they return home. These issues will play a significant role throughout the week of the Democratic Convention," the Obama campaign official said.

Kerry has always denied he is lobbying for Clinton's job, but insiders say he is on a short list along with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. Rice is rumored to be the front runner, due in part to her longtime personal relationship with Obama, which dates back to his time as a senator.

Donilon's chances are said to have diminished since he became the focus of accusations that the Obama White House has been leaking classified national security information for political purposes. Those accusations could make Donilon's Senate confirmation difficult.

Rice and Donilon are not speaking at the convention, but that's not an indication of their stature or chances for promotion. Sitting national security officials aren't permitted to engage directly in election-related political activities.

The Kerry speech in Charlotte is also a chance for the Obama campaign to push back against the groups of special operations veterans that are mobilizing a campaign to attack Obama's national security record by pointing to the leaks and accusing Obama of spiking the football after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

When Kerry ran for president unsuccessfully in 2004, his service in Vietnam, during which he was awarded three purple hearts, was attacked by a series of well-funded groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Some of those same veterans are the ones organizing the anti-Obama veterans groups this year.

The Obama campaign official described Kerry as "a decorated combat veteran, and a tribute to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces."

Overall, the message Kerry will deliver will be that Obama has made progress in correcting what Democrats see as the foreign policy failures of the George W. Bush administration and that Romney would return America to those policies.

"The American people understand that President Obama has been a strong commander-in-chief, and we're looking forward to highlighting these important issues at the convention," the Obama campaign official said. "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. 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."

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The Cable

Romney camp doubles down on Russia as “geopolitical foe”

TAMPA - Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was right when he called Russia America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe" and a Romney administration would confront Moscow on its poor record on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, two top foreign-policy advisors  to the GOP candidate said Tuesday.

"Russia is a significant geopolitical foe. Governor Romney recognizes that," Romney advisor Rich Williamson said at a Tuesday afternoon event hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative. "That's not to say they are the same sort of direct military threat as they were."

Williamson, joined on the panel by top advisor Pierre-Richard Prosper, said that the Russian government under Vladimir Putin has made strategic opposition to the West and the United States in particular a premier plank of its agenda. A Romney administration would end the Russian "reset" and confront Russia on Syria, Georgia, Iran, and several other issues, he said.

"They are our foe. They have chosen a path of confrontation, not cooperation, and I think the governor was correct in that even though there are some voices in Washington that find that uncomfortable," he said. "So those who say, ‘Oh gosh, oh golly, Romney said they're our geopolitical foe' don't understand human history. And those who think liberal ideas of engagement will bend actions also don't understand history. We're better to be frank and honest."

Ronald Reagan called Russia an "evil empire" but was still able to negotiate nuclear reductions with the Soviet Union, Williamson said.

"They weren't so precious and sensitive not to work with us when we have mutual interests," he said. "The reset has failed. They are crowding out civil society, they are trampling human rights, and they are opposed to us in a number of interests... We have to reset the failed reset policy."

Prosper focused on the controversial elections that returned Putin to the presidency last December and the ongoing clampdown on opposition and activist groups.

"Russia is calling itself a democracy but it is not behaving like a democracy," he said. "When is the last time we have seen Russia on the side of peace? When is the last time we have seen Russia on the side of humanity?"

Also on the panel were Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of jailed Russian tycoon Mikhail Khordokovsky, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian journalist blacklisted for his support of the Magnitsky bill, legislation to sanction Russian human rights violators that is being linked in Congress to a bill to grant Russia Permanent Normal Trade Relations status.

The GOP draft platform makes it the official policy of the Republican Party to support passage of the Magnitsky bill.

"Russia should be granted Permanent Normal Trade Relations, but not without sanctions on Russia officials who have used the government to violate human rights," the platform states. "We support enactment of the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act as a condition of expanded trade relations with Russia."