WASHINGTON — Democrat John Kerry, delivering a long and emotional farewell speech in the Senate Wednesday, warned that political gridlock in Washington threatens America’s reputation abroad.
Kerry’s colleagues overwhelmingly confirmed him Tuesday as the next secretary of state, bringing his 28-year Senate career to a close.
“As I prepare to represent our nation in capitals around the world, I’m conscious that my credibility as a diplomat — and ours as a country — is determined to a great degree by what happens in our own capital city,’’ Kerry said in prepared remarks. “We can be no stronger abroad than we are at home.
“While we are here, remember: If we posture politically in Washington, we weaken our position across the world. If democracy deadlocks here, we raise doubts about democracy everywhere. If we do not in our deeds prove our own ideals, we undermine our security and our sacred mission as the best hope of earth.’’
Without naming individual culprits or political parties, he suggested some lawmakers have put their own interest ahead of the national interest, which he says erodes the traditions of relationship-building and bipartisan cooperation in the Senate.
“Frankly, the problems we live through today come from individual choices made by Senators themselves—not the rules. When an individual Senator – or a colluding caucus — determines the comity essential to an institution like the Senate is a barrier to individual ambition or party ambition, the country loses. Those are the moments in which the Senate fulfills, not its responsibility to the people, but its reputation as a sanctuary of gridlock.’’
Kerry also identified what he said are the causes of a “dangerous but reversible’’ erosion in the quality of US democracy: “the decline of comity, the deluge of money, and the disregard for facts.’’
But the Senate veteran, who assumed his seat in 1985, also paid tribute to the many colleagues he has worked with on both sides of the aisle. And he expressed his respect for the Senate, its rule, and its traditions. He choked up as he paid tribute to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who died in 2009.
“This place remains one of the most extraordinary institutions of any kind on the face of the earth,’’ he said. “I believe it is the honor of a lifetime, an extraordinary privilege to have represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States Senate for more than 28 years.’’
He also touched on his own bid for the presidency in 2004 and his decision not to seek the Democratic nomination a second time in 2007.
“Eight years ago, I admit I had a slightly different plan to leave the Senate, but 61 million Americans voted that they wanted me to stay here with you.’’
Kerry’s resignation takes effect at 4 p.m. on Friday. Governor Deval Patrick Wednesday named former gubernatorial aide William “Mo’’ Cowan as a temporary replacement for Kerry in the Senate, pending the outcome of a special election.