Five years after his failed presidential bid, Sen. John Kerry returns to the spotlight as a leading representative of American interests abroad. He is credited with securing Afghan President Hamid Karzai's acquiescence to a runoff election, a move that could drastically improve U.S. options in the country. But the uniformly high praise lavished on Kerry makes some wonder if there isn't a larger game being played. Is Kerry being positioned to supersede Richard Holbrooke, the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan?  Others speculate that Kerry could be gunning to become Secretary of State after Hillary Clinton's time is up.

  • 'Man Of The Hour'  ABC News: "Over the last five days in Afghanistan, John Kerry acted more like a Secretary of State than a Senator." Boston Globe: "For Kerry, a diplomatic triumph" The Wall Street Journal: "U.S. and Western officials said the Obama administration latched on to Sen. Kerry as a key broker." New York Times: "Mr, Kerry, the powerful chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, just returned from Afghanistan, where he used anecdotes from his failed 2004 presidential bid to help persuade Mr. Karzai to concede." The Guardian's Simon Tisdall: "'We know it will be difficult and require sacrifice. But we are committed to this effort,' said Senator John Kerry in Kabul, after strong-arming a reluctant President Hamid Karzai, who liked the result the way it was." Politico: "Man of the hour."
  • After 2004, Kerry Finds His Mojo  NBC News' Domenico Montanaro surveys Kerry's successes. "Take a look at some of John Kerry recent accomplishments: saves climate bill, becomes the administration’s go-to guy on Karzai in Afghanistan. It took him nearly four years to find his rhythm following his 2004 loss, but Kerry is a player again. On two different fronts, he has stepped up and become a game-saver for his party. On climate/energy, he took a bill that was languishing in the Senate and recruited Lindsey Graham to breathe new life into it. The bill still has a long way to go, but there's a path to passage and that's in no small part thanks to Kerry."
  • Secretary of State Kerry?  That's what Spencer Ackerman, liberal foreign policy blogger, predicts. "Kerry may have just clinched a gig as Secretary of State when Hillary Rodham Clinton decides to move on. Kerry lobbied hard for the job last year after vigorously supporting Obama on the campaign trail, and was just barely passed over for Obama’s former presidential rival."
  • Already a Powerful 'Roving Ambassador'  Washington Post national security columnist David Ignatius praises Kerry's "star turn" in Kabul. "He has found a role as a kind of roving ambassador -- negotiating with foreign leaders who are otherwise at odds with Washington," he writes. "Kerry’s diplomatic leverage stems from the fact that he’s at once an insider and an outsider -- close to President Obama but not formally a member of his team"
  • White House Pushes Kerry Center Stage?  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder asks, "Has Sen. John Kerry ever had as good a press cycle?" Ambinder notes, with some suspicion, the uniformity of news reports on Kerry. "Still, the similarity of the accounts, and Kerry's willingness to talk about them in various interviews, suggests a concerted press strategy -- a strategy that aims to give Kerry a leading role in the major diplomatic and foreign policy crises of the day." Speaking to a White House official, Ambinder reports, "The White House, the official said, is very happy with the results."
  • Kerry Good Cop to Holbrooke's Bad Cop  Foreign Policy's Daniel Drezner suggests that Kerry and Richard Holbrooke, the White House's top representative in Afghanistan and Pakistan, could be playing good cop / bad cop with Karzai. "I'm beginning to wonder if Holbrooke is simply the exemplar of the bad cop in foreign affairs. For his sake, I hope so." Drezner speculates that Kerry's among Afghan officials could be why he was put on point to engage Karzai.