Oops: John Kerry Gaffes, Washington Backpedals

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Jason Reed / Reuters

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting with staff at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad August 1, 2013.

John Kerry’s week began on a high note, with the resumption of Middle East peace talks after months of dogged effort on the Secretary of State’s part. But it’s closing on a more awkward one, as officials in Washington clean up after two apparent gaffes Kerry made in Pakistan yesterday.

The gaffes came in different flavors. One amounted to wishful thinking about American policy on drones. Another articulated U.S. policy towards Egypt with a bit too much candor.

First was Kerry’s answer to a question from a Pakistani reporter about America’s ongoing, and extremely unpopular, drone campaign in Pakistan, in which he suggested the drone strikes might be about to stop:

“I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it,” Kerry said. “I think the President has a very real timeline, and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.” Was Kerry announcing a dramatic policy shift? Nope. Within hours a State Department spokesperson had walked back his comments, saying: “This was in no way indicating a change in policy…. I have no exact timeline to provide.”

(This, by the way, wasn’t the first time Kerry has spoken in somewhat wishful tones about drone program, says the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko. In late May, Kerry declared that “the only people that we fire on [with drones] are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest levels after a great deal of vetting.” To which Zenko replies: “That’s not true.”)

More consequential was Kerry’s explanation of why the U.S. has tolerated the Egyptian military’s ouster and arrest of president Mohamed Morsi in an event the Obama administration has artfully declined to call a coup.

“In effect, they were restoring democracy,” Kerry said. “The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people.” Noting that that Egypt’s generals have installed civilian rulers to manage a political transition, Kerry added: “The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment — so far.”

Other Obama officials have cited the street protests to justify their refusal to declare that a coup occurred last month. Kerry’s line about “restoring democracy” broke new ground, however, and provided a surprisingly strong signal of support yet for Egyptian General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and his military colleagues — notably on a day when the Senate had debated whether to cancel U.S. aid to Cairo. (An amendment to do so failed yesterday.)

But it appears that Kerry was freelancing. “He did not stick to the script,” a source identified only as a U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal. (A State Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) The comment has further antagonized a seething Muslim Brotherhood–a group for whom U.S. officials have no love, but whom Washington is trying to dissuade from violence and urging to re-engage with the political process.

“Does Secretary Kerry accept Defence Secretary [Chuck] Hagel to step in and remove [US President Barack] Obama if large protests take place in America?,” a Brotherhood spokesman asked in a statement. “Will the US army freeze the constitution and dismantle Congress and [the] Senate? Can they appoint a president that they solely choose?”

It’s essential that a Secretary of State speak with extreme discipline about U.S. policy abroad. Hillary Clinton was virtually flawless on this score. It’s possible that the Obama White House will remind John Kerry of that upon his return to Washington.

55 comments
ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

Dennis Rodman as Sec of State would have better results than Hillary and John Kerry. 

zitmyster
zitmyster

John Kerry is just one more poc on America's image.  He is another example of a fraud with a (D) after his name who has been able to fool enough people into thinking he's smarter than he really is.  No wonder he's Obama's (D) choice for Secretary of State.

manlyman
manlyman

Hillary clinton and flawless inthe same sentence?!!! Shewww.......somebody open a window please!!......let the stank out!!

justplncate
justplncate

I love the wonderment that the media express when John Kerry commits some careless, or dumb act.  

They are gobsmacked when this happens.  After all, he's old money, a liberal, and one of the East Coast Ivy League Mafia.  How could he be anything but brilliant.  It never occurs to them that he may not be such-a-much as a diplomat.   After all, he was almost President (Until those pesky voters went to the polls.  Damn them!)

Guess what!  Your readers aren't as dumbfounded when you commit the same journalistic errors over, and over again.  But then, they use that specious judgement process based on past performances.  They don't know that insular arrogance is a much better way of predicting future performance (badly).

happyhappyjoyjoy777
happyhappyjoyjoy777

Posting a right on comment by 

chinaskee

So by john Kerry's logic if millions of Americans asked the military to oust the Obama administration it wouldn't be a coup. That's good to know.

ThomasGrinley
ThomasGrinley

Perhaps he could claim he was on his yacht and it wasn't him that misspoke?

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

What do John Horsey Faced Kerry, Joe the Clown Biden, Hillary Benghazi Clinton have in common with their nincompoop boss ? Incompetence. 

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

Well, he did say "we hope to end it very, very soon," that's kind of political way of saying it while leaving wiggle room. Kerry, is after all, used to having more latitude to speak as a Senator, than a White House representative. Slow news day? Hillary Clinton, on the other hand was accustomed to being savagely attacked for her every utterance in the White House years, and during her Presidential campaign, she's had a lot more practice. 

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

None of these seem to rise to the level of "gaffe" to me. Had it been a Republican saying these things, the media would have ignored them. Yawn.

jrobinson
jrobinson

Kerry, make a gaffe? Oh please, Kerry IS a gaffe.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I am always wary of supposed "gaffes". Did Biden commit a "gaffe" when he came out for marriage equality or was he softening the ground?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ReneDemonteverde Dennis Rodman would also have been a much better president that the man child we had in office from 2000-2008. At least Dennis would have paid attention to the CIA warnings of impending attacks on the US in the summer pre 9/11 and would not have invaded a country that never attacked us so that his VP's former company could rip the government of for billions.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@justplncate I luv the wonderment of repukes who have nothing to offer.  They pray for rain every day but don't believe in climate change.  Toooo funnnny!!!!!!

roknsteve
roknsteve

@ReneDemonteverde It's raining, it's pouring. the repukes are snoring.  Sarah P bumped her head and went to bed and woke up with Al Gore. 

Sol_
Sol_

@ReneDemonteverde I actually laughed that you still bring up Benghazi. That was certainly a lot of bally hoo over nothing. Same thing here. But you can say what you want. No one cares but Rush listeners and Fox news viewers, both of which are the reason for the destruction of the GOP. So keep it up...you are dong the Dems a great service.

alpha444
alpha444

@PerryWhite1 Seriously? the media would ignore Republican gaffes? Since when? Maybe you should do some serious analysis of what the mwdia ignores when it is a Dem aking a gaffe versus a Republican...this is especially true when the pres, Pelosi, and Reid lie about Obamacare etc. Get serious. you must be a leming .

Newtechone.net
Newtechone.net

@PerryWhite1 Totally agree. There is nothing what the foreign Minister said that rise to the level of gaffe.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@PerryWhite1 

yeah, that's just wrong. had a republican said them he'd be getting crucified in the media for his blatant lies

jrobinson
jrobinson

@Paul,nnto Was it a gaffe when Biden insulted 7-11 employees? All Biden does is commit gaffes, not only in words and function but that creepy photo of him with the bikers at the Diner in NH. This whole administration is full of bozos.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@alpha444 @PerryWhite1 "Maybe you should do some serious analysis ... " Funny you should mention that. I have.

 I've been in newspapers for three decades, teach journalism, and have a Master's in the field. I do "serious analysis" of media as part of my job description. And I've watched as my chosen profession has marched right and down for thirty years, becoming both more right-wing and more clownish at the same time.

In an attempt to be generous, perhaps I should guess that you simply don't know what left wing looks like, and simply gin up the outrage whenever the media isn't sufficiently fawning to right wingers. I suggest you look at something before 1980, when there still was a left wing in this country. Or any country in Europe. Currently all we have in the U.S. is center and center right (Democrats) and far right (Republicans).

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@jrobinson @Paul,nnto So true. All bozos. From the President on down through his cabinet.

Curious why he is the first President since DDE to garner more than 50% of the voters twice. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ReneDemonteverde @mantisdragon91 @j@use1.net @Sol_ Would you like to face the families of all the people killed in Iraq? People die in combat and covert operations. I don't remember the GOP outrage when thousands of contractors were dying in Iraq. Like the 4 that were hung and burned on the bridge in Fallujah.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@manlyman There were two dozen ex special forces operatives in Benghazi overseeing the acquisition and destruction of surface to air missiles. Unfortunately thing went sour and then to add insult to injury, Grand Theft Issa outed their informants to the world.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@manlyman You are such a piece of trash.  I'd like to take your skinny azz a mile down in my gold mine and lose you forever.  Did I forget something?  Oh yeah, loser! 

haggrr
haggrr

@mantisdragon91 @j@use1.net @Sol_ @ReneDemonteverde We were told is was a protest over a video on you tube.  They knew that was untrue, but keep repeating a lie until after the election.  If you don't mind public officials  lying to the electorate then how can you opinion matter.  You must lie too prove your point.

manlyman
manlyman

Ex special force operatives on the ground in benghazi, manindrag? Um, did they just happen to be there on vacation maybe? Think about that statement for a sec. Are you that confident, or is it just your absolute goal in life to cover this disgustingly corrupt administration's ass at all cost, no matter how ridiculous you have to sound. It's clear that there is no line a liberal will not cross, no lie too big to tell, to defend the indefensible. The loss of human life, no biggie, move along, nothing to see here. Wow!

justplncate
justplncate

@mantisdragon91@j@use1.net@Sol_@ReneDemonteverdeWow!  

You know for sure all those CIA folks were ex-special forces.  Not just file clerks, or translators.  ALL former Navy SEALs etc.  The Congressional Oversight committee can't even get the CIA to tell them how many CIA operatives were there.  But, you know this to a certainty.

But, YOU know they all were ex-special forces.  You must be pretty important!  

Does Tom Clancy come to you for help writing the technical parts of his spy novels?

Sol_
Sol_

@j@use1.net @Sol_ @ReneDemonteverde Yea nothing. People die all the time in Dangerous Countries. Libya was a war zone, and any and all Diplomats know exactly what the risks are be for they VOLUNTEER for such missions. It was a sad day for America, but it was a chaotic situation, and the split seconds news cominj out of there was sketchy at best. The pundits tried to turn this into a grand conspiracy, however most Americans ( other than the Anti- All things Obama Crowd) didn't agree, or didn't care

j@use1.net
j@use1.net

@mantisdragon91 @j@use1.net @Sol_ @ReneDemonteverde Pre-election, they decided to let people die quietly rather than act to defend our people on the ground to push a concept of no terror problems...then lied to all America about what happened...then waited as long as they could for the story to go away

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@shepherdwong @manlyman Thanks for the back-up, Shep, but I'm content to let the close-minded, brainwashed trolls rant away. Bringing up "journolist," something that was only a scandal in the right-wing blogosphere? Putting academic credentials in quote marks? Not only is it amusing, but he's making my points for me, to any fair-minded observer.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@manlyman "...we know the liberal definition of "journolist"."

And we know the "conservative" definition of journalist: the right-wing propagandists on FOX and no one else. Brainwashed moron.

manlyman
manlyman

Perry your "creds" do not impress, and we know the liberal definition of "journolist". Or journo list. You didn't need two paragraphs to explain that you were just another lying liberal nutsack.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

@Paul,nnto @jrobinson The real bozos the arm chair critics in threads like these, angry, resentful, and/or delusional. Another option is you're in the employee of right-wing groups and think tanks that dispatch people for psy ops. Just as bad, either way.