Why John Kerry?

FiveThirtyEight.com has an article about the decline in Obama’s foreign policy approval rating since his election in 2008. It shows that, even as Obama’s general approval rating has fallen, foreign policy approval rating has plummeted much faster. I only attribute this partially to Obama: as Kevin has pointed out, the Presidency is far too big a job for one man, and he needs capable advisers. So, again I ask, why John Kerry for Secretary of State?

Hillary Clinton was even more incomprehensible, but she does (or perhaps did) have foreign cachet thanks to her husband and her own work. She was also seen as a possible front runner for the nomination in 2016, and it’s a post with a lot of visibility, so even from a purely cronyist perspective it made sense.

But John Kerry is not going to be the Democratic nominee for President in 2016. I’m pretty confident about that one. He was beaten fairly soundly by George W. Bush in 2004, and I don’t anticipate his name coming up in nomination talks again. His foreign policy record is basically Iran-Contra. That’s a bit unfair — prior to his nomination, he was quite active as an envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq — but he’s not a foreign policy expert. More importantly, he doesn’t have the respect of foreign leaders.

In my opinion, Obama either needed to back Kerry or fire him after that incident. Maybe at a bare minimum, find somebody else to front negotiations with Russia. None of those things have happened.

I am not well versed in modern American politics, and I can’t really offer a compelling choice for Secretary of State, but I know that Kerry needs to be replaced. If Obama himself had lots of knowledge on foreign affairs, okay, then maybe you just need a solid administrator to mind the store. But he doesn’t.

One thought on “Why John Kerry?

  1. My honest opinion is that, to the extent that Barack Obama has anything approaching a foreign policy, it aligns with John Kerry: alienate allies and try to woo enemies. Compare the Obama administration’s treatment of, say, the UK and India to Syria, Iran, and Russia.

    An Obama serious about foreign policy probably would have gone with Leon Panetta as secretary of state. He did surprisingly well (for an Obama appointee, way better than you could ever have expected) as DCI and Secretary of Defense. At State, he probably would have been significantly better about promoting American interests than Hillary Clinton or John Kerry…but then again, I believe that Barack Obama doesn’t care about the actual world outside the US as anything other than a cudgel with which he can assail his true enemies: Republicans.

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