In fact, Kerry saw the world very much the way Obama did. As a candidate, Obama distinguished himself not only from George W. Bush but also from Clinton by advocating a new foreign policy of “engagement.” He vowed that as president he would meet the leaders of Iran and Syria and other enemies without preconditions, which Clinton deemed “naïve.” Kerry was already practicing engagement: as a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a man who had come within a whisker of being elected president, Kerry had been meeting with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and forming close relationships with autocratic as well as democratic leaders around the world.
When Obama won, Kerry dearly hoped to be named secretary of state, a job for which he felt supremely qualified. But Obama, to almost everyone’s surprise, picked Clinton instead. Kerry is enough of a creature of Washington to understand that no one has a lock on jobs like that, but the setback still stung. Baring your wounds, however, is against Kerry’s nature. “It’s a great job,” he says stoically. “But I already have a great job.”