Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why John Kerry Was Born To Be Secretary of State

John Kerry, doing the job he was born to do

Even with all the shuttle diplomacy, the lack of time with his wife and family, the state of the world and the declining international reputation of the United States ... John Kerry looks ten years younger. He positively looks like he is having the time of his life.

John Kerry was an inept Presidential candidate, but he is fabulous Secretary of State. His energetic style -- especially when contrasted with Hillary, who took the job after a grueling campaign -- is astonishing. There is an energy -- quiet and sometimes ebullient -- that animates him in his new role as he strides the globe like a well-coiffed colossus. The fact that President Obama, who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with him, is hanging back only adds to the impressiveness of the way in which Secretary Kerry has conducted himself in his tenure thus far. It almost looks as if he is handling the US foreign policy -- Arab Spring, Iranian nuclear ambitions, Middle East peace talks, Snowden and Putin -- all on his lonesome while the President battles with an intractable, tea-party infused Congress on the domestic front.

Let me re-state: Kerry was a terrible Presidential candidate. Really and truly, Kerry sucked ass on the campaign trail. His answers were convoluted and twisty, his air testy, aristocratic and haughty and he looked more at home sipping a Montrachet while listening to Grieg than drinking beer and watching the game. His hair may have been perfect for the role, but he was incapable of connecting with people in places like Iowa, like Colorado, in Ohio, in West Virginia and in Florida (places, we cannot fail to note, where he should have been more competitive). Windsurfing is par for the course for Ambassadors, but if you want to run for President, you have to learn to clear brush and watch football while munching pork rinds. John Kerry doesn't even like spicy food. What kind of an American does he think he is?!

Kerry's nuanced flip-flops are far better suited to the world of diplomacy -- of Richlieu, or Morganthau, and of, absolutely, Kissinger -- than to the retail democratic politics of kissing babies and not wind surfing.

His fellow Massachusetts pol Tip O'Neill once said, "all politics is local," but for John Kerry, all politics is international. On the campaign trail in 2004 he seemed more interested in a foreign policy agenda than in anything else. Even as he Chaired the Foreign Relations Committee from 2009-2013 he was campaigning, effectively, to become SecState. And when he was to be confirmed SecState, Kerry sailed through the Foreign Relations Committee, his old club. John Kerry's Machiavellian campaign against Susan Rice to succeed Hillary was masterful. Kerry almost certainly did not cry foul when his old Senate pal John McCain -- a swell guy, to be sure -- all but torpedoed her nomination. After that, Kerry was a lock!

Kerry was the son of an Ambassador, a "diplobrat." I know whereof I speak. I, too, was the son of an Ambassador. Diplobrats -- like Army brats -- are raised in many countries young and tend to be held to high standards by their parents. This does something. It has taken me years to figure it out. In many ways it makes such a person unable to be a good democratic politician. At an early age all diplobrats as well as all army brats learn that the world is a big and dangerous place. There is no such thing as "the neighborhood." The world is the neighborhood. There is no black and white -- only shades of gray. Fundamentalist views of the world are provincial and laughable.

John Kerry was fooling himself if he thought he could win certain states with that inborn attitude. He is a fine and energetic Secretary of State. this is the job he was born to do.

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