Kerry: An Outsider Finally Gets In

From stone-throwing protester to law-making senator; from an awkward loner to the darling of his colleagues; and now from critic to champion of Obama foreign policy, Kerry has always moved outside-in.

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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry testifies during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to confirm him as Secretary of State on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 24, 2013.

Secretary of State hopeful John Kerry was wrapping up his opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when a protester interrupted him. “We need peace with Iran!” yelled the woman in pink as police dragged her out of the room. “We are killing thousands of people! When is it going to be enough? I’m tired of my friends dying!”

Kerry turned in his chair, listened and nodded. “When I first came to Washington and testified, I obviously was testifying as part of a group of people who came here to have their voices heard,” he said, recalling the last time he came before this committee, as a Vietnam War protester 42 years ago. “In a way that’s a good exclamation point to my testimony.”

Kerry’s journey from outsider to insider has been repeated throughout his career: from stone-throwing demonstrator to law-making Senator; from an awkward loner to the darling of his colleagues; and now from an external critic of the Administration to a champion of its policies. Kerry is well suited for the challenge, if the confidence of his colleagues is any indication. Most of the Senators from both sides of the aisle spent the majority of the four-hour hearing praising their soon-to-be-former chairman. “I look at you in being nominated for this as someone who’s almost lived their entire life, if you will, for this moment of being able to serve in this capacity,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the committee’s top Republican. “There’s no one in the United States Senate that has spent more time than you have on issues of importance to our country.”

(MORE: John Kerry, Bounty Hunter?)

Kerry joked that getting him “out of the Senate” seemed to be about the only thing that unites Republicans and Democrats these days. He then got serious, emphasizing that the economy remained of paramount importance to all U.S. policy, both domestic and foreign. “The greatest challenge to America’s foreign policy will be in your hands, not mine, because while it’s often said that we can’t be strong at home if we’re not strong in the world, in these days of fiscal crisis — and as a recovering member of the supercommittee — I am especially cognizant of the fact that we can’t be strong in the world unless we’re strong at home,” Kerry said.

Most Senators asked Kerry how he’d handle Iran. With what Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu calls his red line — the point at which Iran cannot be prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon — approaching in late spring or early summer, time is running short for a diplomatic solution. Kerry said he supports President Obama’s position of “prevention, not containment.”

Kerry was also pressed on his position on Syria. Although Kerry in past hearings seemed sympathetic to a hawkish position of arming the Syrian opposition, on Thursday he carefully toed the Administration line that while Syrian President Bashar Assad must go, adding weapons to the mix at this point could potentially backfire and escalate the violence that has already claimed 65,000 lives in two years of civil war.

(MORE: John Kerry’s Moral Outrage – Top 10 Hot Mic Moments)

The one exchange that became a bit testy was with Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican freshman and Tea Party darling. Johnson, who on Wednesday pressed Hillary Clinton for answers on Benghazi, pushed Kerry to pledge the answers he felt Clinton denied him. “Senator,” Kerry said, “in all fairness, I think we do know what happened. There was a briefing and tapes, which we all saw — those of us who went to the briefing.”

“Yes, we know what happened in Benghazi,” Johnson pressed, “but not why we were misled.” In response, Kerry simply pledged that the State Department under his guidance would “continue to cooperate as it has — as it has — with every request.”

Kerry was also asked about Obama’s nomination of former Republican Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, a pick Kerry defended. Corker voiced concerns about Hagel’s membership in a group called Global Zero, which strives to eliminate all nuclear weapons from the earth. “I know Chuck Hagel. Chuck Hagel is a strong, patriotic former Senator, and he’ll make a strong, patriotic Secretary of Defense,” Kerry said.

(MORE: Goodbye John Kerry, Hello Bob Menendez)

Kerry grew passionate talking about Egypt. While he strongly condemned reports of anti-Semitic remarks by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, he said America has an opportunity with this country that is at a crucial crossroads. “Egypt is a quarter of the Arab world,” Kerry said. “It is critical to everything that we aspire to see happen in the Middle East — peace with Israel, protection of the Sinai, security, the development of that part of the world with respect to an economy that is open and competitive and based on rule of law and rules of the road.”

When asked if he’d continue Hillary Clinton’s initiatives on women and girls, Kerry said he would keep the deputy-secretary-level position she created and would further her work. On China, Kerry said he, like Obama, was keen to pivot away from the Middle East to focus on Asia.

Some of the issues Kerry will be grappling with at State remain the same as those he struggled with in the 1970s. “After Vietnam, you were quite critical of the bombing in Cambodia because, I think, you felt that it wasn’t authorized by Congress,” noted Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican. “Has your opinion changed about the bombing in Cambodia? How is Cambodia different than Libya?” Kerry responded that there is no absolutist standard for when to use the War Powers resolution and when the President has the right to unilaterally act.

In his opening statement, Kerry choked up remembering when he first learned foreign policy from his father, a foreign service officer, at the dinner table. “If you confirm me, I would take office as Secretary proud that the Senate is in my blood but equally proud that so too is the foreign service,” Kerry said, his voice breaking. “My father’s work under Presidents both Democrat and Republican took me and my siblings around the world for a personal journey that brought home the sacrifices and the commitment the men and women of the foreign service make every day on behalf of America.”

VIDEO: Ron v. John: The Benghazi Battle Continues

Correction: This article previously misstated that Sen. Hagel was in a group called Ground Zero instead of Global Zero.

52 comments
funonline
funonline

John Kerry is on the phone Sir. 

Mr. Kerry, the ambassador asked me if he can call you back? Thank you Sir, I'll tell him you said hello.

And theres yer sign...

democratnomore
democratnomore

So another self serving mindless empty suite is the soviet's choice to replace the con woman currently disgracing the country. I will say despite all of hilary's faults she at least wasn't a declared war hero by a country we were at war with like kerry.  So glad I didn't take the job in mass whole state should be walled up and declared an insane asylum, lets look at their track record, ted Kennedy drunken bum who should have been arrest for manslaughter if not worse, kerry basically a nothing a man of no character, intelligence  or honor a total disgrace of an american and as a man, what he did to the americans fighting in vietnam makes him a traitor. Finally despite the fact that brown betrayed the americans who put him in office by siding with the communist trash they replace him with elisabeth warren who is complete communist loon a psychopath who should be locked up like pelosi. Stalin laughed at us during the cold war because he knew not one soviet soldier would have to set foot on america  to defeat us we would do it ourselves. The communist ideology is not restricted to borders or race, it can infect and corrupt from within and through our own greed, ignorance, and laziness government fascism is taken over the land of the free and we the people are to blame for it. 

DrinkerOfTheRye
DrinkerOfTheRye

I only hope that Kerry remains brave enough to ask Hagel how he will ask the last man to die in Afghanistan, a mistake.

bobzimway
bobzimway

To his credit he did admit that when he saw the WTC Building Seven videos he publicly opined that WTC7 was brought down by a controlled demolition on 9/11.

vageorge
vageorge

Kerry has always been a suck up. Even when he left Nam he was an ass and is now continuing by being up obama's backside. Will he come out of the closet with obama?

datawag
datawag

Ridiculous and naive. The author wasn't even born, when according to her, he was "an outsider". In fact she wasn't even been born when he began a three decade long turn as an "insider". Hello?

sacredh
sacredh

"The one exchange that became a bit testy was with Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican freshman and Tea Party darling."

.

Johnson is a trip. He's going to mug for the cameras every chance he gets. 

DailyComments
DailyComments

But, isn't it still true that he lied to the Fulbright Hearings? Doesn't that make him a bona fide disgrace to our government?

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

An outsider you don't say. veteran senator, presidential candidate married into the Heinz fortune. Sounds pretty outside to me. Whats an insider?

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

Only the Washington press could possibly label John Kerry an "outsider." Ludicrous on the face of it.

outsider
outsider

Thanks for the post, JNS. 


Does anyone think that Paul's and Johnson's questions were anything but self-serving? 


At least McCain was supportive, this time, of Kerry. 

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Jay, thanks again for your blog posts (and tweets) on Kerry and Clinton, detailed reporting on testimonies. One thing I hope for during Kerry's term is that he squeezes water from the Senate rocks, aka secures more funding for the State Dept. The CIA and military are well funded, so let's avoid another Benghazi. Can Kerry successfully use his long-time *inside* Senate ties? With the R's obstruction on that issue (and all other issues, literally, but I digress), it seems impossible but Biden's backstage work on the recent cliffs might offer hope. Hmm, does this mean McConnell is coming to his senses? I doubt it, so I'm still rooting for Ashley Judd to run against McConnell next year and kick his a$$. Jay, when she runs, let's hope YOU get assigned to cover her (and secure autographs). Who on the right says a D can't win in solid-red Kentucky? Ask their governor.

PersoNasplit
PersoNasplit

how the heck is he an "outsider"?   he is a rich white guy that has been in politics for decades.

"On China, Kerry said he – like Obama – was keen to pivot away from the Middle East to focus on Asia." ---how bout we PIVOT back to the USA before we start more wars overseas??

cottoncandybot
cottoncandybot

@airstrip_one_prole I think what the author meant by "outsider" is NOT that Kerry was an outsider in Washington D.C. or in politics. Of course he's not! It's meant to say he's not part of the tight-knit inner circle that has surrounded Obama, including people like David Axelrod,Susan Rice,and Valerie Jarrett.Basically the people who have been with Team Obama prior to or around 2007.That's not to say he hasn't been trying to get in with that crowd, but it's also true that he was NOT Obama's first pick for S.O.S., which means to some extent, he was still an outsider to that circle.

Now will he remain "on the outs" in everything but title once he joins the cabinet? It's still very likely, at least in the beginning. 

rpearlston
rpearlston

@DrinkerOfTheRye WHen Kerry asked that question as part of his testimony before Congress 42 years ago, it was meant to emphasize the need to get out of Vietnam.  Asking the same question of Hagel would be redundant, as the decision to get out of Afghanistan has already been made.

Try again, and this time, please try to make a relevant point.

DrinkerOfTheRye
DrinkerOfTheRye

@vageorge Come out of the closet, it's like you think he married Teresa only for her money.

aztecian
aztecian

@vageorge you don't what uR talking about.  just because he's not an obstructionist you think you can make those accusations.  uR lame!

vageorge
vageorge

@DailyComments  Kerry is a liar just like obama that is one reason obama loves him. Kerry will lie for him among other things

PhilippeCrusoe
PhilippeCrusoe

only a corporate PR "reporter" would label Senator Kerry an outsider!  This is just another example of the DC / Corp Media / Wall Street triumverate. Wow!

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

It's probably poor form to reply to one's own post, but I realized that snark without substance is just rude to Ms. Newton-Small (for which I apologize). No doubt she was just looking for a clever frame or different take on a story everyone's writing, and came up with the "outsider" angle to distinguish her story from others.


But I have to point out that just down the page is a story headlined "Kerry testifies before committee he chairs." I'm sorry, but you just don't get any more insider than that. Even as a narrative about how Kerry has achieved insider-ness from a former outsider position is just eye-rollingly preposterous, because anybody with his wealth, who went to the schools he did, who has the Rolodex he's had since his twenties, who has the friends he has, who has the access he's always had, cannot possibly be considered an outsider by the 99.9% of Americans who didn't have any of those advantages -- and, by definition, are all FAR more "outsider" than John Kerry ever dreamed of.


Only in Washington, which has the nation's highest concentration in the nation of people with wealth, privilege, history and advantages similar to Kerry's is there any need to distinguish Kerry from those around him by building a narrative to exaggerate minor differences. You pluck Kerry out of Washington, plop him down anywhere else in the country, and he sticks out like a sore thumb. He's not an "outsider" in Washington in the slightest. But he would be an outsider everywhere else. Because WE are the outsiders from our own government, which is largely made up of millionaires. 

More's the pity.

PhilippeCrusoe
PhilippeCrusoe

that confirmation hearing was incestuous at best. Just the day before McCain blasted Hillary then the very next day sits next to her at their other friends sham of of hearing.

JNSmall
JNSmall moderator

@outsider2011 I thought Rubio's was hilariously self-promoting. It was a 10-minute lay out of his own foreign policy with one question: so, what do you think?

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@outsider2011 

I don't think anything of Paul or Johnson.  "Self Serving" though is something we could apply to the entirety of the GOP these days.

bobell
bobell

@PersoNasplit Jay's point, about which she is quite correct, is that he started his political career by challenging bedrock U.S. foreign policy -- continuation of the Vietnam war.  You're probably way too young to have lived through it, but there's plenty of information on the Web about Kerry's protest activities back then -- which the Republicals tried to use against him in 2004, only to hit on the even more effective, and reprehensible, Swift Boat attacks.

I think what Kerry is looking for in Eastern Asia is engagement, not war. For which he'll no doubt be accused by the Republicals of being a naive pacifist, like Hagel.  Can't win for losing ...

vageorge
vageorge

What do you know about kerry?  Probably very little just what you have been told. It appears you are merely another obama puppet. I would hope you are simply ignorant as it can be cured with education but stupidity doesn't have a cure

vageorge
vageorge

@aztecian @vageorge Actually I believe you are lame brained! Kerry betrayed his comrades in Nam. He isn't trustworthy in any way. He has been sucking up with obama for a long time. Both are traitors to America

rpearlston
rpearlston

@PerryWhite1 John Kerry's first appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations cmte came 42 years ago, as a Vietnam vet and protester.  That made him, at the time, the ultimate OUTSIDER.  The title of the article is a reference to the difference between his status the first time he testified in front of this cmte to the present day.  Further, that was r in the second para of the article.

sacredh
sacredh

" I thought Rubio's was hilariously self-promoting"

.

Maybe Rubio thought he was nominating Romney again.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@JNSmall @outsider2011 

I don't know what I laughed more at - the entire post with the punch line or the part where you wrote 'lay out his own foreign policy'

ironic stuff like that always tickles me.

outsider
outsider

@JNSmall @outsider2011 


Well, for Rubio i can see that he may be auditioning for 2016 (Paul as well), but i'm wondering what Johnson is doing. Brushing up his TP credentials? As Kerry pointed out, the answers have been given, to those who showed up to the meeting. 


Johnson didn't - but, call me cynical, i don't think he's actually interested in the answers. So while i believe he is grandstanding, i am unsure of what he hopes to accomplish. 


Do you think it might just be a case of his keeping an eye out for his own re-election? It wouldn't be unprecedented  but it is pretty early to start worrying about that already. 

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@JNSmall @outsider2011 

Just once I would like to see Republicans on a hearing like this actually stick to issues that matter instead of getting side tracked on Intel they already have and answers they already know.  The politicizing and grandstanding they've been taking against the State Department over the past few months - due entirely to the election and its aftermath of course - has been particularly nauseating.  All they seem to give us anymore are horrifically unrealistic expectations that they pin on the administration and it's cabinet offices while offering no solutions themselves.  All we hear from them anymore is "why isn't everything perfect, why aren't you doing everything all at once, and how is it the Obama Administration's fault?"

Anyways, thanks for contributing JNS.

bobell
bobell

@JNSmall  Thanks for participating, Jay. You've greatly enhanced the Swamp over the past few days.

Is that a picture of the next generation of Newton-Smallses?  Adorable.

aztecian
aztecian

@vageorge what you know is what fits your racist and obstructionist beliefs. 

aztecian
aztecian

@vageorge @aztecian really?  go back to your hatred...look into yourself.  you just want to bostruct progress.  you can't move forward because you are racist.

rpearlston
rpearlston

 @vageorge  Right.  Three purple hearts meant nothing?  Advocating getting out of a devastating war that saw more US trops KIA in any given year than have died in Iraq and Afganistan combined since 2001 meant nothing?  I highly doubt it.

He was an educated white man who could have found a way to not serve, or at least to not serve in "Nam, but went anyway.  He came home and then spoke truth to power, a right that he had fought to retain.    

The real traitors were the vets who dissed and still diss the man who made the administration sit up and take note, the man who saved unknown thousands of lives by doing so.

The headline is accurate.  Those vets are not, and the same is true of your version of this history..

vageorge
vageorge

@rpearlston @PerryWhite1  Ask many Nam veterans about Kerry and they will tell you quickly that he is a traitor to the Nam vets and our country. He is a piece of S _ _ _

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@outsider2011

Well if we want to go down that path of logic, we should also discuss how he might want to focus less on how to score political points against Obama and instead on how to ensure the attack isn't repeated.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@outsider2011 @forgottenlord 


Pfft, doing his job...I'm sure saying no all day is exhausting. Mental masturbation and self-promotion in front of cameras allows him to switch it up a lil'.

outsider
outsider

Or reading fundamentalists...

@sacredh

sacredh
sacredh

Not reading is fundamentalist.