On his first international trip to Europe and the Middle East, John Kerry has been making headlines with his comments, which only reaffirm that his nomination was a questionable choice by President Obama.
In Paris yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced that Iran has a government we have to respect. “Iran is a country with a government that was elected and that sits in the United Nations,” Kerry said. “And it is important for us to deal with nation-states in a way that acts in the best interests of all of us in the world.”
This is a classic Obama Administration position, but really, Kerry’s statement even runs counter to the State Department’s own human rights report on Iran, which in 2010 stated, “Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a member of the Alliance of Builders political party, was reelected president in June 2009 in a multiparty election that was generally considered neither free nor fair. There were numerous instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control.”
Or consider the plight of Iranian journalists who are currently being jailed and harassed by their own government in anticipation of this summer’s election. Or consider the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Green Movement protesters, who took to the streets in Tehran following the June 2009 corrupt presidential election. Imprisoned, exiled, or murdered, Green Movement activists have paid a dear price for their demand to have a government actually elected by the people of Iran.
It is not the first Kerry comment to raise eyebrows on his virgin trip as the top U.S. diplomat. On Tuesday in Berlin, speaking to an audience of students, Kerry served up a back-handed compliment to the U.S. Founding Fathers, apparently unable to express support for the First Amendment without insulting his fellow Americans. For the nation’s top public diplomacy official, in charge of explaining the United States and its values to the world, his words were particularly inappropriate.
“People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it’s the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another,” Kerry said. “The reason is that’s freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid, if you want to be.” That line got a laugh from his German audience, but calling his fellow Americans “stupid” will do little to advance respect for Americans abroad.
And in London on Monday, Kerry told a U.S. embassy audience, that he feels like a “citizen of the world,” having grown up in a diplomatic family that moved from international post to post. Indeed, Kerry touted his upbringing as giving him unique insights, and encouraged his embassy to feel the same way.
Expertise in foreign affairs is essential for the U.S. Secretary of State, but so is a passion for American values, the U.S. Constitution, and loyalty to fellow Americans. Regrettably, John Kerry’s comments leave doubts on both scores.