John Kerry’s torrid travel pace

August 6, 2013
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Secretary of  State John Kerry. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

John Kerry has been setting a record-breaking travel pace in his first six months as secretary of state. If he keeps this up, he’ll best former secretary Condoleezza Rice’s record miles traveled and days on the ground abroad in her four years.

Kerry could, if he wants to dip his toe briefly in a lot of little countries, also best Hillary Clinton’s record of 112 countries visited.

So far, the State Department historian reports, Kerry has visited 26 different countries (not counting refueling stops) and spent 64 days on the ground abroad (not counting time in flight) doing U.S. diplomacy.

At that rate, Kerry would  log more than 500 days abroad — far more than Rice record total 326 days or Clinton’s 306 days. (For more data, go to the wonderful Washington Post “ultimate  guide” to secretary of state travel.)

Rice, in her first year on the job, logged 241,000 miles abroad and Clinton traveled 207,000 miles. Kerry, however, in his first six months in the job already has recorded 161,000 miles. If he maintains that pace for four years, he will rack up 1.3 milllion miles, besting Rice by nearly 300,000 miles and Clinton by close to 400,000.

Kerry is following in the tradition of most of his predecessors, spending a lot of time in the Middle East in pursuit of peace between and within most every country in the region. Rice, for example, traveled 25 times to Jerusalem as secretary, Warren Christopher 34 times and Henry Kissinger 36 times.

Clinton on the other hand, was in the Holy Land only five times during her tenure — the least of any secretary since William Rogers in the Nixon administration. Kerry has been there four times so far, which puts him pretty much on par with Christopher and Kissinger. Of course, when the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapse — as they unfortunately tend to do — Jerusalem may drop off a bit as a Kerry frequent-flyer destination.

This is not to say there won’t be reason to spend more time in far-away South Asia. After all, Kerry just back from a quick jaunt to Pakistan  — a 15,000-mile round trip — where he asked them to please keep taking our money and, as the administration has done for the zillionth time, to please clamp down on the militants who live in Pakistan and attack U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan.)

He probably needs to go back a couple more times.

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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