Hardball with Chris Matthews, 11/21/12, 7:00 PM ET

Matthews: Sen. John Kerry would be the best pick for Secretary of State

Chris Matthews shares his thoughts on why Sen. John Kerry would be the best pick for Secretary of State

Sen. John Kerry would be the best pick for Secretary of State

Updated

Let me finish with this tonight.

I’ve long believed that the best decision of Barack Obama’s presidency came before his taking the office. It was naming Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

It did something magical, healing any bad feeling between the two presidential rivals, uniting the Democratic party, setting a hopeful course for political maturity, giving not just the president but the country a top-drawer top diplomat to face the world.

Now, it’s up to President Obama to do it again. He’s won a second-term. Now he needs to make it great. Naming John Kerry to replace secretary Clinton fits that bill. Picking Susan Rice would be good, but picking Kerry would be better.

Since Thomas Jefferson, the post of Secretary of State stands alone in history. It’s by its nature a role holding the most stature but for the presidency itself.

Kerry won 252 electoral votes in 2004 against a sitting chief executive, a wartime president at that. A combat veteran in Vietnam, a leading critic of that war later, a five-time elected Senator, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee has contacts around the world. He’s just the sort of heavyweight Obama picked the first time.

I say this even as I detest the lynch mob that’s thrown itself together this week for UN ambassador Susan Rice. The president is right about their bad purposes and bad arguments. They are precisely the same as those used in the swiftboating used to keep John Kerry from the presidency. They attack her for her early explanation of the horror at Benghazi when their real complaint is about something she had nothing to do with: the death of our Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Republicans attacked Kerry for his decorated combat record when their real complaint was with his opposition to the Vietnam war on his return. Swiftboating is now, sadly, a practiced art. It’s character assassination with a head fake.

For President Obama, the challenge for the weekend is to make the right pick for the country, not react one way or the other to the jackals out there. He had the clear head to do it before in picking Hillary Clinton for State—and it made all the difference. I really hope he does it again.

Sen. John Kerry would be the best pick for Secretary of State

Updated