Secretary of State John Kerry waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Ever since Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to stumble into a diplomatic way out of the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, the media have had trouble deciding which cliché best describes his persona.
Is he a droning bore or a Biden-league gaffe machine? A Mr. Magoo, safely bumbling through dire dangers, or a shrewd strategist secretly in full control of the situation, his foot-in-mouth moments actually clever feints in the world’s largest poker game?
And depending on how the Syrian situation is resolved, they’ll be asking, Is he (like his boss) a world-class chump or champ?
However the diplomacy works out—Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are talking in Geneva as Putin preens and Assad makes dead-end demands—you gotta give Kerry credit for getting the ball rolling. The Syrian crisis changed, literally overnight, when CBS reporter Margaret Brennan asked him at a London press conference on Monday if there was anything Assad “could do or offer that would stop [a US military] attack?” “Sure,” Kerry said, as we all now know. “He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over, all of it, without delay, and allow a full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.”
The State Department walked that back, saying Kerry was merely “making a rhetorical argument.” So most media decided that his suggestion was just another gaffe—after all, he had just given them a real flub to snark at, his idiotic promise that any US strike on Syria would be “unbelievably small.” (Obama had to walk that back, saying, “The US does not do pinpricks.”)
But then of course Putin and Assad took Kerry up on the offer, more or less. As difficult as it will be to reach, much less enforce, an international plan to secure and destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal, the whole world sighed in relief. And Kerry-to-the-rescue surprised everyone.
Including himself, according to Andy Borowitz, who “quotes” Kerry saying:
“Whether as a senator, a Presidential candidate, or Secretary of State, I’ve devoted countless hours to thunderous and droning speeches that people have consistently tuned out,” he said. “So naturally, to be listened to all of a sudden came as something of a shock.”