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Kerry's Shoes to Fill at State

By Albert R. Hunt
December 23, 2012 5:11 PM EST

Of the last 10 secretaries of state, Senator John Kerry will be only the second politician; the other is the incumbent, former Senator Hillary Clinton.

It didn't used to be that way. In America's first 40 years, five future presidents held the post: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren. From 1825 to 1850, three of the legendary members of the Senate, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun, all served a stint as top diplomat.

Kerry won't be the first defeated presidential candidate in the job. James Blaine in the 1880s, William Jennings Bryan 30 years later and Ed Muskie in 1980, all lost races for the presidency and later were tapped as secretary of state.

Most politicians served relatively short stints at the State Department. The longest-serving was Cordell Hull under Franklin D. Roosevelt: 11 years and nine months before and during World War II.

Kerry will be the eighth secretary from Massachusetts, the first since Christian Herter in the last years of the Eisenhower administration. Another Bay State predecessor was Edward Everett in 1852-53. A decade later, he was the featured speaker at the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg. His two-hour oration was overshadowed by a two-minute address by a fellow named Abraham Lincoln.

(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

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