Tag Archives: John Kerry

‘You can’t unhonk the horn’

Former Secretary of State John Kerry spoke a fundamental truth about how difficult it is to take back public statements.

Donald J. Trump said the patently wrong thing about the violence that erupted over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., calling an end to violence “on many sides.”

Rather than single out the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen who initiated the violence, Trump chose instead to equivocate shamefully.

Well, he took a baby step toward redemption today by singling out the racists and bigots who gathered in Charlottesville to protest the taking down of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Many observers have noted that the president seemed a bit uncomfortable today as he delivered his prepared remarks.

Kerry, though, said you can’t “take back” the “many sides” comment. Kerry called the president’s first response “revealing” and said they had empowered “the worst of the worst.”

Trump tried to take it back but failed, according to Kerry.

I’m reminded of what my late friend and former colleague Claude Duncan was fond of saying: “You can’t unhonk the horn.”

Indeed, people in high places aren’t usually allowed to take mulligans. There aren’t any do-overs — especially for the president of the United States, whose words resonate and keep resonating long after he utters them.

What about our allies, Mr. Secretary?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has put Iran “on notice” yet again.

He also put several of our nation’s key allies on notice, too, by suggesting that the United States’ commitment to negotiated agreements isn’t as rock-solid as it must be.

Tillerson put the world on notice this week that the United States no longer thinks much of a deal meant to deny Iran the ability to develop a nuclear weapon. It’s part of Donald John Trump’s vow to renegotiate agreements that he says are worst in the history of humankind.

The Iran nuke deal falls into that category, according to the president.

The deal was brokered by former Secretary of State John Kerry in conjunction with foreign ministers from Great Britain, China, France, Germany and, oh yes, Russia. What would a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement mean to our partners?

This is just me, but perhaps it would mean that the United States isn’t a trustworthy partner. It well could fracture our international alliances, particularly as it regards the Brits, French and the Germans, who are critical players in our nation’s ongoing geopolitical struggle with forces that seek to undermine us at every turn.

I’m not going to assert that the Iran nuke deal is perfect in every single way. But it does allow for careful monitoring of the Islamic Republic’s intentions and it gives the United States plenty of room to re-impose economic sanctions if it’s determined that Iran isn’t complying with the terms of the agreement.

Tillerson’s comments centered on Iran’s continued support of international terrorism. OK, then. Deal with that separately, Mr. Secretary.

Although the secretary didn’t say directly that the Trump administration would back out of the nuke deal, he did sound a dire warning. According to Politico: “Apparently referencing a failed 1994 nuclear deal with North Korea, which now has nuclear weapons, Tillerson said Wednesday that the Iran agreement is ‘another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions. We just don’t see that that’s a prudent way to be dealing with Iran.’”

Our partners are watching with great interest. I believe it would foolish to renege on a deal that took a long time to craft. After all, the United States isn’t the only actor in this drama.

‘Baby daddy’ quits post on Trump team?

Leave it to Twitter to knock someone flat on his face.

Jason Miller quit suddenly this past week as communications director in Donald J. Trump’s new presidential administration. He offered the usual “spend more time with my family” reason for quitting a key job in a new administration.

Then comes this from another Trump transition aide: “Congratulations to the baby-daddy on being named WH ­Comms Director!” That’s what A.J. Delgado wrote on Twitter, adding that Miller is the “2016 version of John Edwards,” referring to the former Democratic U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Edwards, who had an extramarital affair that produced a daughter.


The Washington Post reports that Delgado deactivated his Twitter account, which leads me to believe that what he wrote has more than a grain of truth to it.

Is this important? I suppose it is if you want your presidential administration to be free of the kind of scandal that brings down other presidential contenders. Consider, too, that Edwards — who ran as the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee in 2004 on a ticket led by John Kerry — came within just a few thousand votes in Ohio of actually becoming vice president of the United States.

So, you don’t want your chief spokesman — in this case Miller — speaking for a president when he is lugging around some potentially explosive baggage.

Trump insists that he uses Twitter to communicate policy issues in real time. Others within the president-elect’s circle of advisers apparently use it as a not-so-secret weapon.

Pollsters need a careful revamping of their methods


If it sounds a bit familiar that public opinion pollsters are going back to the drawing boards after missing the call of the 2016 presidential election …

It’s because you’ve heard it before.


Virtually ever “reputable” poll had Hillary Rodham Clinton winning the presidency on Nov. 8. Some had her winning by a fairly comfortable margin. She, of course, didn’t. Donald J. Trump is now preparing to become the next president.

Why is this familiar?

I recall the 2004 election in which President Bush won a second term over Sen. John F. Kerry. The sticking point that year was in Ohio, where exit pollsters had Kerry carrying the Buckeye State. Then the votes started pouring in. Bush won Ohio. He was re-elected. Kerry and his team were stunned. They thought they had Ohio in the bag. Had they won, they would have had just enough electoral votes to defeat the president.

Those dismal exit poll results, along with other misfires around the nation, signaled the end of Voter News Service, the outfit that coordinated all the polling and vote tabulation around the country.

The screw-ups this time were much more severe. Even the once-highly regarded FiveThirtyEight.com poll done by Nate Silver missed by a mile. Silver’s analysis had Clinton with a 71 percent chance of winning on he eve of the election.

Of course, many of the pollsters are trying to cover their backsides. They say they predicted Clinton’s national popular vote percentage, more or less. They missed, though, in several key battleground states where Trump won: Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida — all states won by Barack Obama in 2008, who won all of them again except for North Carolina in 2012.

Polling has come a long way since the infamous “Dewey beats Truman” headline of 1948. However, as we witnessed during this election season, it still has some distance yet to travel.

Here’s another spin on the fidelity issue


I feel the need to put another brief twist to this business about marital infidelity and its emergence as an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

For starters, Donald J. Trump’s assertion that Hillary Clinton’s husband’s transgressions disqualify her for high office is ludicrous on its face. Bill Clinton made a mistake in the late 1990s. He got impeached for it; the Senate thought better about tossing him out of office and acquitted him of the charges brought against him.

Hillary’s role? She became the aggrieved wife of the nation’s foremost politician.

OK, but that entire episode spurred another kind of politician.

This was the guy who would boast on the campaign stump, in TV ads, on printed material about how he is faithful to his wife.

“Elect me!” he would say. “I’m a loving husband and devoted father. I believe in the traditional concept of marriage.”

I never could stop wondering: Since when does staying faithful to your sacred marital vows become a bragging point?

Oh, and yes, this kind of phony fealty to marriage does get politicians into some serious trouble. Do you remember former Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate who ran with Sen. John Kerry in 2004? I recall Edwards boasting of his love for his late wife, Elizabeth, while he was cavorting with Rielle Hunter … and with whom he brought a daughter into the world.

It’s all so much crap.

9/11 to bring relief from campaign


Now, for a little good news regarding the dismal campaign for the presidency of the United States.

Both major-party nominees — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Donald J. Trump — have agreed to suspend campaigning for a day.

That day will be Sept. 11, which happens to be the 15th year since the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and crashed a third jetliner into a Pennsylvania field.

An aside: I hesitate to use the word “anniversary” to define this event … if you get my drift.


We all remember how we heard the terrible news. We all remember the horror, the shock, the grief, the sickening feeling we felt as we watched the events unfold on that terrible day.

That day ought to be a day of reflection over what happened and a day of solemn prayer for the nation that continues to fight on against the evil forces that seek to destroy us.

It has become something of a tradition since 9/11. President Bush and Sen. John Kerry suspended their campaigns in 2004, as did Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008; indeed, Obama and McCain appeared together at an event at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. In 2012, President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney held events, but those events memorialized the victims of the attack.

We need not hear the candidates’ yammering on this solemn date.

Trump must be taking a dive


It’s fair to wonder out loud — as some have done already — whether Donald J. Trump is deliberately trying to lose this election.

Is he throwing the election? Is he deliberately setting himself up to lose the 2016 presidential election?

I’m not ready to swallow that bait. However, some things he said today at his foreign policy speech have me wondering.

For example, and I’ll offer just this one for now …

What in the world is he thinking when he criticizes the most recent Republican president and his administration for going to war in Iraq in 2003?

Trump didn’t mention President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney by name, but he ventured into a scathing condemnation of their decision to start the Iraq War.

I can recall when Democrats did that in 2004. When Democratic presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John Kerry criticized the administration’s decision to go to war, he was vilified by Republicans. He was condemned by those who proceeded to fabricate phony criticism of Sen. Kerry’s gallant service during the Vietnam War.

Now, a dozen years later, the Republican presidential nominee says the very same thing that Democrats said about the Bush administration and the silence from the GOP base has been, well, deafening.

Still, it has me wondering whether those Republicans are going to sit this election out, denying Trump of the base of voters he’ll need to make this election competitive.

I don’t believe Trump is a stupid man. He’s smart enough — maybe, perhaps — to understand that he isn’t up to the job he is seeking. Or, just maybe he’s campaigning for president as some sort of unprecedented publicity stunt.

I can’t figure this out.

Yes, I’ve been wrong all along about the shelf life of a Trump presidential candidacy. In a normal election year, he would have been laughed off the stage and booted out of the race over any one of the many things he’s said along the way. Not this year.

I don’t feel too badly, though. Others have been just as wrong.

As long as many of us are speculating about what in the world is guiding the Trump campaign into the ditch, it’s fair to ask: Is this guy taking a dive?

Trump now pitches ‘extreme vetting’ of Muslims


Donald J. Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States has morphed into something he calls “extreme vetting.”

Is that any more acceptable?

That depends, I suppose.

If you’re frightened beyond all reason over allowing any Muslims into the country, then the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s apparent change in policy is a “weakening” of his get-tough stance.

On the other hand, if you wonder just how U.S. immigration and customs officials are going to conduct this so-called “extreme vetting” — as I do — then this plan is just another goofy notion that well might change in the next day or two.

Oh, and there’s also that constitutional issue. The First Amendment lists three basic liberties, the first one of which just happens to be the freedom to worship whichever faith you choose.

Trump is going to accept the GOP presidential nomination this week in Cleveland. He’s selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate. Pence, interestingly, has declared Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric to be antithetical to American values.

Aw, but what the heck? What’s wrong with a few disagreements among political allies? That sounded like Trump’s rationale for selecting someone with whom he has some serious policy disagreements.

Does the “extreme vetting” bring the two GOP candidates closer on this particular difference of opinion? Time will tell, I suppose.

Whether it’s an outright ban or a regimen of “extreme vetting” of people based on their religious faith, the GOP nominee’s precept is built out of fear and panic. It also ignores the reality that federal security forces are intercepting and detaining suspected bad guys every single day.

Trump keeps insisting that we need to be more vigilant, more alert, more resolute in defending ourselves against terrorists.

The 9/11 attacks nearly 15 years ago — Can you believe that? — exposed the nation to the harshest reality imaginable, which is that we were vulnerable to that kind of horror. We were vulnerable to such evil for a long time before it actually happened.

I believe we are a lot less vulnerable to it today, based on the terrible lessons learned from that horrifying event.

What’s more, defending ourselves against a lone-wolf attacker is difficult in the extreme, as Secretary of State John Kerry noted over the weekend.

He made a fascinating point Sunday morning, which is that U.S. national security forces have to be on guard and totally alert every minute of every single day of the year. Meanwhile, a terrorist has to be sharp for just a few minutes in order to conduct a successful strike against us.

“Extreme vetting” or an outright ban of Muslims will not protect us totally and fully against the evil that lurks out there.

Such language, though, does create a catchy political sound bite.

‘Deep reservations’ about all-volunteer military


Secretary of State John Kerry has broached a subject that is sure to get many Americans riled up.

He said during a symposium about the Vietnam War that he has “deep reservations” about our nation’s reliance on an all-volunteer fighting force.

Is he calling for a return of the draft? No. He’s not going that far. Indeed, show me a politician who does so and I’ll show you a politician who’s likely on his or her way out of office.

But this man does know a few things about combat, about sacrifice and about shared responsibility.

He was a Navy officer during the Vietnam War. Kerry came from that war and became a leader in the effort end that conflict.


What was Kerry’s major point about his appearance at the LBJ School of Public Administration at the University of Texas-Austin? “Don’t confuse the war with the warrior.”

That, sadly, is what many Americans did as they lashed out at the policies that caused so much dissension here at home. The blamed the young Americans who were following lawful orders.

That terrible time helped contribute to the end of military conscription.

More than 40 years later, the nation has been fighting wars on multiple fronts with young men and women who have served multiple tours of duty. They serve, return home and then go back into the combat theater. Again and again they go.

Some of them pay the ultimate price during those redeployments.

Kerry has asked a pertinent question: Are enough Americans buying into our nation’s commitment to fighting this war against international terrorism?

Indeed, the all-volunteer force — while still the deadliest fighting force in the world — has put tremendous strain on the young Americans who keep answering the call to thrust themselves back into harm’s way.

Is it time to force more Americans to share in this fight?

Let’s have this discussion.


Who’s done most to earn presidency?


Now that the debate over which presidential candidates are “qualified” to assume the office if they get elected is more or less over, let’s turn to actual accomplishment.

Part of the qualification argument ought to include who among the five individuals running for the office have done something worthy of consideration. Do they have sufficient executive experience? Have they accomplished anything of substance legislatively? Does business experience matter?

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first.

The business experience is helpful in a limited way. Yep, that notion zeroes in on Donald J. Trump. However, as I’ve noted before — although not recently — government is not intended to be run “like a business.” Trump seems to equate everything to “cutting deals.” Treaty negotiation? “I’ll make the best deals imaginable,” he says. Working with Congress? Same thing. Trade agreements? “We’re losing everywhere; we won’t when I’m president,” he boasts.

Knock it off, Trump! You cannot do these things in a vacuum.

He’s got zero government experience. To borrow a phrase: Trump is a loser.

Government executive experience matters much more. Of the remaining candidates, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton qualify. I’d rate Kasich’s years as governor over Clinton’s as secretary of state. Kasich has had to manage a budget, deal with legislators, fight with constituents — sometimes all at once.

Clinton has managed a huge federal agency. She flew more miles to more countries than any previous secretary of state; I’m unsure where here successor, John Kerry, stands in that regard. She has sought to negotiate disputes between nations and, yes, has been caught up in controversy. But her time at State matters … a lot!

Legislative accomplishment?

Here’s where it’s kind of a runaway.

Clinton, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Bernie Sanders of Vermont all have congressional experience. None of them can boast of an accomplishment that measures up to Kasich’s time in the U.S. House of Reps.

I’m trying to figure out which major piece of legislation has any the names of Clinton, Cruz or Sanders. Cruz’s major “accomplishment” was to mount that idiotic filibuster in an effort to wipe out the Affordable Care Act. Sanders and Clinton can’t even “brag” about something so ridiculous.

Kasich, though, served as chairman of the House Budget Committee that played a major role in achieving a balanced federal budget in the 1990s. That is no small feat, given the toxic political climate at the time. The House was run by Republicans; the president, Bill Clinton, is a Democrat. The White House and Capitol Hill had different notions on how to achieve a balanced budget. They found common ground.

There, my friends, is where one candidate’s record shines.

Is it enough for Republicans to nominate him? Probably not. They’re going to haggle at their convention over whether to nominate two patently frightening “outsiders,” one of whom is the real thing (Trump), the other of whom (Cruz) keeps trashing the legislative body where he’s served since January 2013.

Sure, each of these people is technically “qualified” constitutionally to run for the office. And yes, that includes the Canadian-born-to-an-American-mother Cruz.

I still rate Clinton’s combined government experience — and I include her policy-making influence during her eight years as the nation’s first lady — as giving her a slight edge in the overall presidential qualification contest.

If only the Republican delegates this summer would come to their senses and deliver their party’s nomination to the remaining candidate, Gov. Kasich, who actually has something to show for his lengthy public service record. Then we could have a serious debate this fall on who to select as the nation’s next president.

If only …