Fundamentally Freund: John Kerry, A bully in a china shop

Last February, barely three weeks after taking up his post as America’s secretary of state, John Kerry did something unprecedented: he invented a country.

US Secretary of State John Kerry en route to Davos (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry en route to Davos
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last February, barely three weeks after taking up his post as America’s secretary of state, John Kerry did something unprecedented: he invented a country.
Speaking to students at the University of Virginia, Kerry was hailing the courage and dedication of American diplomats who serve abroad in the “most dangerous places on Earth.”
“They fight corruption in Nigeria,” he said. “They support the rule of law in Burma. They support democratic institutions in Kyrzakhstan and Georgia,” he noted. There’s only one problem: there is no place called “Kyrzakhstan,” at least not in this solar system.
It seems that America’s top diplomat, the man charged with overseeing the last remaining superpower’s foreign policy, had apparently confused or conflated the Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Although the transcript of his remarks was later cleaned up and does not contain the error, it is clearly audible in the video of the event (Daily Mail, February 25, 2013).
The gaffe, though fairly harmless in itself, nonetheless says a lot about Kerry, and underlines just how much his arrogance is exceeded only by his ignorance.
This dreadful trait of his was most recently on display this past Saturday in Munich, where Kerry had the gall to threaten Israel with the specter of an economic boycott should it refuse to make wide-ranging concessions to the Palestinians.
Sounding like a substitute teacher berating a hapless child in the schoolyard, he said, “For Israel, the stakes are also enormously high. Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community?” “You see for Israel,” Kerry said, “there’s an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up.
People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?” The patronizing tone of the statements, combined with their menacing gist, recalled remarks that Kerry made three months ago, when he invoked the possibility of a renewed intifada.
“The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos,” Kerry told Israel’s Channel 2 television on November 7, adding pointedly, “Does Israel want a third intifada?” This is simply not how an American secretary of state is supposed to speak, and certainly not when discussing a close friend and ally in a public forum.
To fully appreciate just how offensive Kerry’s comments are, just imagine what the reaction would be if an Israeli foreign minister were to criticize America’s refusal to completely withdraw from Afghanistan by saying, “Does the US want another September 11?” Some observers have gone so far as to accuse Kerry of anti-Semitism, arguing that by referring to the possibility of a boycott should Israel refuse Palestinian demands, he was implicitly invoking the hateful canard that Jews will do anything for money.
Personally, I don’t think Kerry is an anti-Semite. He is simply a bully, in the china shop known as international diplomacy.
And while he may be a former presidential candidate and ex-senator who now serves as secretary of state, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t suffer from a bad case of foot-inmouth disease.
His career in public service is riddled with verbal blunders, many of which reeked of condescension and haughtiness.
Take for example, what he said to college students in California on October 31, 2006, just days before the midterm congressional elections: “You know, education – if you make the most of it – you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
This insult to America’s brave young men and women who were fighting the war on terror in Iraq, implying that they were dumb, was a colossal act of conceit and stupidity on Kerry’s part.
Though Kerry later said that it was a botched attempt to tell a joke about President George W. Bush, it revealed his unhealthy habit of making pompous pronouncements.
And it is a habit that has cost him dearly, particularly when he ran for president in 2004 and famously said, regarding funding for US troops in Iraq, that, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
Clearly, Kerry is simply a walking blooper reel, and a mean one at that; someone who prefers to browbeat and intimidate rather than coax and persuade.
In Days of Fire, his gripping new account of the Bush White House, Peter Baker of The New York Times describes how the president’s advisors were nervous when Kerry had won the Democratic nomination for president in 2004, viewing him as an imposing opponent.
“Bush,” writes Baker, “tried to settle down his jittery staff during a meeting at the White House residence.”
“Listen, I’ve been involved in a lot of campaigns,” Bush told his aides. “You’re totally revealed to the American people. You can’t hide who you are.” The bottom line, Bush told them, was this: “We’re going to win because John Kerry is an a--hole.”
Bush’s words proved remarkably prescient.
And with regard to Kerry’s treatment of Israel, it would seem they are as equally applicable today.