Santa Kerry? Nominee's gift for State Department staff

Friday, December 28, 2012 - 10:01am

Washington (CNN) -- During the holidays, it's better to be Santa than Scrooge.

That's what Sen. John Kerry's staff realized, even as they scrambled to prepare their boss for his confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of state.

On Friday, after President Obama nominated Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton, the State Department delivered an initial set of briefing materials to Kerry's staff, including overview papers and background information department staff had compiled last month.

But on Saturday an e-mail went out to all senior managers at State, asking them-at the request of Kerry's staff-- to prepare potential questions and answers in their subject areas to aid the nominee.

The e-mail described the task as an "urgent, high-priority effort" due by Thursday morning, December 27. The assignment and pending deadline would undoubtedly require work over the holiday weekend and Christmas Eve, which President Obama declared a holiday for federal employees.

Apologetic in tone for adding work to the employees' already full plates as the holidays approached, the e-mail explained "we need to provide our secretary-designate with a full package of materials to help him prepare for the possibility of a confirmation hearing early in January."

But Kerry's better angels soon prevailed, realizing weekend work just before Christmas would not be the best way to introduce the new boss.

Two hours later, another e-mail was distributed saying the deadline had been extended until the next Monday, December 31, "after additional discussions with Sen. Kerry's staff." The e-mail instructed senior managers not to ask their teams to come in over the holidays to work on the assignment.

His first potential diplomatic crisis averted, Kerry is expected to work through the New Year holiday prepping for the hearing.

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