President Barack Obama's nomination of Sen. John F. Kerry as secretary of state will help the United States maintain its first-class diplomatic representation and leadership for the next four years.
Mr. Kerry will have a hard act to follow in succeeding Secretary Hillary R. Clinton, who brought experience, energy and class to what is an exhausting job.
The Democratic senator from Massachusetts has what is virtually a perfect background for the assignment. He is a Vietnam War veteran, who was intellectually and politically supple enough to come to oppose the war when it lost its support among Americans and dragged on past the time when the nation's losses and costs exceeded their value.
In terms of prestige and weight in his interactions with foreign leaders, the fact that Mr. Kerry was his party's nominee for president in 2004 will be an indication to them of the esteem in which many Americans hold him.
In professional terms, Mr. Kerry's nearly four years of service as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the special missions he has carried out as Mr. Obama's representative, including to touchy Afghanistan and Pakistan, are evidence both of his skills and of the confidence the president has in him.
For Pittsburghers there is another angle, and that is the generosity that his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, has consistently showed this region across the years, in philanthropy, social service and environmental stewardship.
In announcing his choice of Mr. Kerry in timely fashion Mr. Obama thwarted the kind of pre-nomination sabotage that undercut U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice as a potential appointee to the post. She was Mr. Obama's principal foreign affairs adviser during his successful White House run in 2008. Americans will never know whether Mr. Kerry or Ms. Rice was the president's first choice for the foreign affairs post in his second term, thanks to the sliming tactics of the likes of Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
During the confirmation process Mr. Kerry will undoubtedly be subjected to some of the same attacks made against him in the 2004 campaign, but there is every reason to believe that his fellow senators will approve him as secretary of state and that he will serve the nation well in that role.opinion_commentary