John Kerry, a “recovering politician”


Secretary of State John Kerry in Charlottesville on Feb. 20. (Steve Helber/AP)

“We should not be opening firehouses in Baghdad,” he told a crowd in a Roanoke fire station Feb. 9 2004, “and shutting them in the United States of America.”

But at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Wednesday — about a two-hour drive from Roanoke — Kerry made a pitch for not cutting funds for foreign policy and overseas aid, noting that it’s only a bit more than 1 percent of the overall budget.

And “every embassy, every program that saves a child from dirty drinking water, or from AIDS, or reaches out to build a village, and bring America’s values, every person” comes out of that “one penny plus a bit, on a single dollar.”

So why do people criticize foreign aid spending and think it’s a quarter of the budget?

“Well, I’ll tell you,” he said, according to a State Department transcript, “It’s pretty simple. As a recovering politician (laughter) ... I can tell you that nothing gets a crowd clapping faster in a lot of places than saying, “I’m going to Washington to get them to stop spending all that money over there.”

Sounds like he’s recovered pretty well.

Back when he was running for president in 2003 and 2004, then- Sen. John Kerry was giving speeches ripping into President George W. Bush for spending money overseas and allowing “a preparedness gap” in terms of the fight against terrorism.

“We should not be opening firehouses in Baghdad,” he told a crowd in a Roanoke fire station Feb. 9 2004, “and shutting them in the United States of America.”

But at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Wednesday — about a two-hour drive from Roanoke — Kerry made a pitch for not cutting funds for foreign policy and overseas aid, noting that it’s only a bit more than 1 percent of the overall budget.

And “every embassy, every program that saves a child from dirty drinking water, or from AIDS, or reaches out to build a village, and bring America’s values, every person” comes out of that “one penny plus a bit, on a single dollar.”

So why do people criticize foreign aid spending and think it’s a quarter of the budget?

“Well, I’ll tell you,” he said, according to a State Department transcript, “It’s pretty simple. As a recovering politician (laughter) ... I can tell you that nothing gets a crowd clapping faster in a lot of places than saying, “I’m going to Washington to get them to stop spending all that money over there.”

Sounds like he’s recovered pretty well.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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