‘‘Nothing brings two people closer together than two weeks of debate prep,’’ Obama joked on Friday. ‘‘John, I'm looking forward to working with you rather than debating you.’’
Kerry is Obama’s first Cabinet appointee following the November election. The president is also mulling replacements for retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former CIA director David Petraeus, who resigned last month after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is a front-runner for the Pentagon post, but has been dogged by questions about his support for Israel and where he stands on gay rights, with critics calling on him to repudiate a comment in 1998 that a former ambassadorial nominee was ‘‘openly, aggressively gay.’’
Hagel apologized for that comment Friday.
Former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy and current Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter are also under consideration to replace Panetta. Obama is also considering promoting acting CIA Director Michael Morell or naming White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan as the nation’s spy chief.
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata in Washington and Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.
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