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Obama’s Worst National Security Surrogate

To preview his speech at tonight’s final day of the Democratic National Convention, John Kerry has published a column in Foreign Policy defending the Obama administration’s record on foreign affairs. If, like most Americans, you view Kerry as a sad but somewhat amusing footnote in American presidential election history, then you will be glad to know he hasn’t changed. If, however, you are concerned by the possibility that in a second Obama administration Kerry’s ideas could be taken seriously, then you will be alarmed to know he hasn’t changed. Either way, he’s the same old John Kerry:

I grew up in a Senate and foreign-policy world where we treated as gospel the notion that — as Sen. Arthur Vandenberg famously said — “politics stops at the water’s edge.” How is it, then, not inconsistent that here on the pages of Foreign Policy, I’m offering a few thoughts now on a “Democratic foreign policy”? Very simply, because today, it is the Democratic Party that almost all alone occupies that once bipartisan space in national security policy, and it is the Democratic Party that today offers the clear-eyed vision of how to best honor our ideas in the world, while the Republican Party, too often in the grips of hard-edged ideology and a determination above all else to defeat President Barack Obama, is almost unrecognizable from its previous incarnation.

So politics does indeed stop at the water’s edge—if John Kerry approves of your politics. If Kerry disagrees with you, all bets are off. So what type of policy might Kerry agree with Republicans on? Well, there was a big issue, as Max mentioned earlier, on which there was a bipartisan consensus and of which Kerry was a principle advocate: the Iraq war. Have the Republicans abandoned Kerry on Iraq? Nope—he’s abandoned them. Here’s Kerry:

This was a war of ideology, even hubris. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no immediate need to invade, particularly when the real concern was with bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Whose ideology? Whose hubris? There was a time Kerry was beating the drums of war in Iraq so loudly it seemed as though he would invade all by himself if America chose not to. Kerry also laments that in Afghanistan, “our efforts were languishing due to lack of attention,” so he is working hard to re-elect the president who resolved to give it less attention so no one would notice when he eventually gave it no attention at all.

Later on in the column, Kerry engages with the question of how much credit Obama should get for ordering the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which is a rookie-level unforced error and a tremendous disservice to the president, who certainly doesn’t want his campaign surrogates entertaining the debate or signaling that perhaps he doesn’t deserve the credit after all. (There is virtually no chance the electorate would discount Obama’s role in the operation, and Kerry shouldn’t even suggest otherwise, lest he inspire voters to wonder whether they should reconsider their initial–and almost certainly positive–reaction.)

Elsewhere, Kerry commends the reporting of David Sanger, a ham-fisted reminder to readers that the Obama White House has been involved in selectively leaking sensitive American military and intelligence information to a newspaper that prioritizes the election of Democratic presidents over national security concerns.

In other words, from top to bottom, Kerry’s column is a self-contradictory mess of bungled bragging and churlish rambling. Like I said, it’s the same old John Kerry—but it remains a mystery as to why the Obama campaign would put its national security reputation in his hands.



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