William Saletan had an incisive piece recently at Slate entitled “Please Stop Talking, John Kerry.” His thesis: “Kerry has never been capable of staying on message. The more he talks, the more he reveals, and much of what he reveals isn’t helpful.”
As if any further confirmation were needed, check out Kerry’s interview with Jeff Goldberg, who has become the administration’s go-to interlocutor for getting their message out. A couple of points are worth highlighting.
First, Kerry was quoted as follows:
“The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them,” Kerry said. “This”—a congressional rejection—“will be the ultimate screwing.” He went on to argue that “the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.”
Really? We have to ratify the agreement so as not to “screw” with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of a state dedicated to “Death to America” and “Death to Israel?” I thought the whole point of American foreign policy is to “screw” with regimes that are attempting to do us and our allies harm. But apparently Kerry doesn’t think that Iran fits into that category. He told Goldberg:
“I think they have a fundamental ideological confrontation with Israel at this particular moment. Whether or not that translates into active steps to, quote, ‘Wipe it,’ you know …” Here I interjected: “Wipe it off the map.” Kerry continued: “I don’t know the answer to that. I haven’t seen anything that says to me—they’ve got 80,000 rockets in Hezbollah pointed at Israel, and any number of choices could have been made. They didn’t make the bomb when they had enough material for 10 to 12. They’ve signed on to an agreement where they say they’ll never try and make one and we have a mechanism in place where we can prove that. So I don’t want to get locked into that debate. I think it’s a waste of time here.”
Apparently those 80,000 rockets Hezbollah has deployed in southern Lebanon are there for some other purpose than to “wipe Israel off the map.” Perhaps as a tourist attraction?
Kerry seems to be suggesting that because Iran hasn’t seriously attempted to destroy Israel yet, its rhetoric is, well, just rhetoric. Or perhaps Iran is waiting until it has the means — nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles — to accomplish what it views as its divinely inspired mission. Who knows? But if history has taught anything, it is that we should take seriously declarations of intent from homicidal extremists — whether Adolf Hitler, or Osama bin Laden or, in the present instance, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In his eagerness to sell the deal, Kerry is undermining his own credibility by coming across like a spokesman for the Iranian regime.