Let’s start with the second question, first.
Mostly it doesn’t. Kerry proved he was the world’s biggest sucker by giving up his senate seat for the Secretary of State job. Hillary Clinton, in true Clinton style, purveyed her miserable tenure into the top spot in the 2016 election primaries. But it’s doubtful that Kerry has the same plans. If he does, then his timing is spectacularly poor. Term 2 cabinet members are rarely known to shine and more likely to get the blame.
But none of that matters.
What does matter is that the Secretary of State has amazingly little power under Obama. If Susan Rice had gotten the gig, that might have changed, but since she didn’t, it didn’t.
Hillary Clinton was kept out of the loop and had very little influence while the foreign policy machine ran out of the White House. Kerry is likely to have just as little influence, if not less. Even his own party stopped taking Kerry seriously after his 2004 loss. When he made his quip about American soldiers in Iraq, there were strong suggestions that he needed to shut up and stop sabotaging the Democratic Party.
Kerry probably does have some sympathy for Assad, but he’s not really calling the shots and everyone knows it. What matters is what Obama tells Cameron, not what Kerry says at a press conference. The latter makes headlines, the former moves things forward.
Kerry told reporters Tuesday, “The world wants to stop the killing (in Syria). And we want to be able to see Assad and the Syrian opposition come to the table for the creation of a transitional government
Syria’s state-run media senses an American volte-face in Assad’s favor. Champress, for instance, declares ecstatically, “American body blow to the Turkish-Gulfite alliance: Kerry wants President Assad and the opposition to sit at the negotiation table.”
On the other side of the political divide, the Saudi newspaper of records Asharq Alawsat sounds downbeat, with its front-page banner announcing, “American position veers towards a ‘dialogue’ between the opposition and Assad.”
Kerry’s statement that Assad should participate in transitional negotiations is not as radical as it sounds. The United States has been pushing all along for Assad to agree to exit negotiations. This is however different than Kerry’s implication that Assad would have a role in shaping the new government, but that’s only an implication
And that doesn’t matter either.
Obama Inc. has its hands tied on Syria. On the one hand, the UK is predictably pushing for more aggressive measures. On the other, even Obama Inc. appears to have realized that deeper intervention in Syria will be a disaster and that the rebels are generally untrustworthy. Its preferred mode of action is inaction.
And that leaves Kerry free to make all kinds of meaningless noises at international events.