02/07/2013 04:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

John Kerry, Male Secretary

Any vote of 94 to 3 in our polarized U.S. Senate makes me tilt my head to thump the water out of my ears.

It couldn't be that simple -- an obviously vastly-qualified nominee for the most senior and powerful Cabinet post, that of the global stage, being given the equivalent of a balloon drop and hoisted aloft in the chamber but for the unsurprising token protest votes of Republican dweebs from Tornado Alley.

He showed Kissingerian finesse in keeping a knowing silence when Republicans John "Game Change" McCain and Lindsey "Mason-Dixon" Graham bullied President Obama's first nominee, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, into withdrawing her name for consideration. Kerry surely knew the ultimate outcome, being infinitely more experienced in the long-time nuances of Senate idiosyncrasies than Obama, with commensurate relationships and a favor bank more loaded than wife Teresa's.

He would not, I believe, have particularly respected the insulting treatment of Rice; but his open ambition for the office of Secretary of State, the esprit de corps of Democrats, and the Republican lust for an open Senate seat guaranteed that his confirmation process was merely academic -- even outweighing any pique over financial industry nemesis Elizabeth Warren becoming the senior senator from Massachusetts in her first election.

Against all of that, Susan Rice never stood a chance regardless of Obama's elegant defense of her qualities and service. I was about to add, 'and the shaming of McCain and Graham,' but you can't shame people who are beyond shame. The succession to Hillary Clinton was a triangulated fait accompli of satisfied honor, open Senate desks and the ambassador who, once her name was withdrawn from consideration, is genuinely still needed as the keeper of the U.N. crystal ball and, not insignificantly, Obama whisperer.

Certainly, in this last wretched election cycle -- what with the Todd Akins, Richard Mourdocks and sundry other precambrians -- we know that millions of Americans can only seem to take the idea of "secretaries" as, say, women answering phones for men to bring in a little extra family money. And for whom sixteen years of chick Secretaries of State is sixteen years too many.

This causes me to flinch at the memory of an incident at my dining table in the summer of 2008, when a now former friend of mine leaned into the face of another now former friend on the day's question of Obama versus Hillary, and hollered with glorious Steinem-style, bra-burning brio that she votes with her, to put it politely, genitals. I think of this not because that was the moment where zero manners trumped my famous tolerance and two women never returned to my table, but because whether it's Secretary of State or secretaries who type, I'm a meritocrat. Who cares if it's a woman, white or wears fins and feathers? Susan Rice is an extraordinary intellect and underrecognized as a diplomat, but Kerry is simply more qualified for State; being conversant in five languages doesn't hurt either.

The 94-3 Senate vote confirming John Kerry as our new Secretary of State is, in that regard, a remarkably unifying, indeed affirming, action as I see it. Not a thing to do with gender, race, God, age or political party: simply the most qualified American for the job.


Susan Rice illustration ©Marie Woolf