Secretary of State John Kerry soldiers on

As John Kerry embarks on his “Thank you, Massachusetts” tour, his move out of the shadow of Ted Kennedy is complete. While Kennedy’s heart was solidly in Massachusetts, the Vietnam veteran and son of a Foreign Service officer, focused on the world beyond the Bay State.

At his confirmation hearing, Kerry commented that in his nearly 30-year Senate career, foreign relations was the only key committee that he served on, one he went on to chair. His confirmation as secretary of state was never in doubt, with only two Texans and an Oklahoman casting “no” votes.

Kerry toiled on domestic issues like defense contracts, fisheries, child welfare, and, most recently, climate change, but he became more widely known for his foreign policy passions. During the Reagan administration, Kerry uncovered ties between the Reagan-backed Nicaraguan contras and drug traffickers. Another inquiry, this one into the activities of the Bank of Commerce and Credit International also revealed drug ties and embroiled Democratic notables like Jimmy Carter and Clark Clifford, Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense.

He has a tough act to follow. “Can John Kerry top Hillary Clinton as secretary of state?” is the question of the moment. Despite the best efforts of some Senate Republicans, Clinton finished her career at State with laurels and high praise.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that Kerry is a step of ahead of where Clinton was when she took the post, having the earned the trust of President Obama for his work as an envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. “He is seen as the embodiment of traditional foreign policy,” one foreign affairs observer told the Monitor

Pakistan was one of the first countries to congratulate Kerry on his confirmation. Even France is pleased with the elevation a true Francophile.  The French see the nominations of Kerry to the State Department and former senator Chuck Hagel as defense secretary as indications that US will be exiting a period of quasi-permanent war and will focus instead on peace initiatives.

It won’t be all chocolates and croissants for Kerry. Iran’s nuclear program remains problematic, the civil war in Syria shows no signs of abating, and an Egyptian military official warned that the US ally could be on the verge of collapse. China, meanwhile, a major “economic frenemy” which holds some $1.5 trillion in US debt, will require some serious stroking.

–GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick names his former chief of staff, William “Mo” Cowan to serve as the interim US senator until the June 25 special election to fill Kerry’s seat.

State Rep. Marty Walz will leave her Back Bay-based seat to become the new head of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, the Globe reports.

Gov. Deval Patrick’s spending plan needs a “place” component, MassINC research director Ben Forman writes in CommonWealth.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston Mayor Tom Menino delivered his State of the City speech to a supportive Faneuil Hall crowd that was more focused on the much-improved state of the mayor. NECN has video footage. Rev. Eugene Rivers puts it this way: “That dude didn’t just walk into this hall tonight, you understand.Tommy, man, he gangsta-walked in here, you hear what I’m sayin’?”

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, in a CommonWealth column, calls for removing the state cap on municipal liquor licenses.

An arbitrator upheld the firing of a Quincy police officer who has had an ongoing battle with his neighbors, including ticketing some for allowing their dogs to relieve themselves on public land.

A Lawrence police officer just back from a suspension was suspended again after getting into an altercation with another officer, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

CASINOS

A private casino developer challenging the state over the tribal set-aside in the gambling law is urging a judge to dismiss attempts by the Mashpee and Aquinnah Wampanoag tribes to intervene in the suit.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Meanwhile, the FBI raids the offices of a South Florida eye doctor who is accused of providing prostitutes to John Kerry’s replacement as chairman of the foreign relations committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

A publication called the Motor City Muckraker reports that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is planning a state takeover of Detroit.

The National Review says President Obama is using gun retailers such as Walmart, whose business could increase under his proposals, to help sell the legislation.

The New York Times holds up Chicago as a test case for ineffectual local gun laws in a national gun market. Republican lawmakers, who are going far out on a limb on immigration, find holding their ground on gun laws easier.

ELECTIONS

US Rep. Steve Lynch will toss his hat in the Democratic primary ring to succeed Kerry with a formal announcement tomorrow, the Globe reports. The Associated Press reports that former Sen. Scott Brown is “leaning strongly” toward entering the Senate scrum.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A new survey indicates Massachusetts residents have little in their rainy day funds, CommonWealth reports.

The US economy shrinks in the fourth quarter for the first time in more than three years, the Associated Press reports (via Time).

Quincy-based Stop & Shop has set up hiring centers to find replacement workers as the company prepares for a possible strike by union employees.

A leasing deal with a major tenant for the building slated to rise at the site of the former Filene’s property in downtown Boston could jump-start construction on the project, the Globe reports this morning.

A survey of nonprofits finds that 44 percent plan on increasing hiring in 2013 as donor dollars begin to flow again after years of drying up. The Globe explains that at least part of the donor surge came because givers were eager to get in under the new year’s wire in case tax law changes limiting deductions for charitable donations go through.

The housing market nationally — and in the Boston area — continues to show signs of strength.

The Atlantic writes that Wall Street banks remain quietly enfeebled.

EDUCATION

The American Federation of Teachers says it favors a “bar exam” for teachers, NPR reports (via WBUR).

The closing of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School leaves the landlord of its building out $1 million in rent, the Gloucester Times reports.

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy touts a new product that could cut down on “alarm fatigue” — cases where patient monitors go off so often that they begin to get ignored — in hospitals.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

PowerOptions CEO Cynthia Arcate, in a CommonWealth Voices piece, says the gas pipelines coming into the region need to be expanded.

Coal isn’t alone: Cheap gas-fired electricity is throwing the fate of scores of nuclear power plants, including Vermont Yankee, into doubt.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A high-ranking Department of Correction officer was one of 11 people swept up in a prostitution sting in Brockton.

The son of convicted former Lawrence public schools superintendent Wilfredo Laboy pleaded guilty to perjury and received probation rather than jail time, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Meet the Author

Ben Forman

Research Director, MassINC

About Ben Forman

Benjamin Forman is MassINC’s research director. He coordinates the development of the organization’s research agenda and oversees production of research reports. Ben has authored a number of MassINC publications and he speaks frequently to organizations and media across Massachusetts.

About Ben Forman

Benjamin Forman is MassINC’s research director. He coordinates the development of the organization’s research agenda and oversees production of research reports. Ben has authored a number of MassINC publications and he speaks frequently to organizations and media across Massachusetts.

MEDIA

YouTube is preparing to launch subscription-based pay channels, AdAge reports.