John Kerry, travelin’ man

Al Kamen
Columnist August 6, 2013

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 Condoleezza Rice’s record for miles traveled and days on the ground abroad during her four years on the job.

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

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

So far, the State Department historian reports, Kerry has visited 26 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’s record total of 326 days or Clinton’s 306 days.

Rice logged 241,000 miles abroad in her first year on the job, and Clinton traveled 207,000 miles. In just six months, Kerry has recorded 161,000 miles. If he maintains that pace for four years, he will rack up 1.3 million miles, topping 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-flier destination.

This is not to say there won’t be reason to spend more time in faraway South Asia. After all, Kerry is 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 few more times.

Kid stuff on the Hill

Congress is gone, but at least Capitol Hill is getting an influx of goats to fill the void the departing lawmakers left behind.

A herd of more than 100 goats will be grazing this week at Congressional Cemetery, where luminaries including J. Edgar Hoover and John Philip Sousa repose. The heard is part of a demonstration project meant to show off the animals’ ecologically friendly landscaping skills.

Spectators are invited to watch as the animals chew through invasive species, “eliminating vines, poison ivy, ground cover and even fallen debris all the while fertilizing the ground,” promise the event organizers, the nonprofit Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery and Annapolis-based Eco-Goats.

That might just mean that the goats will be more productive than Congress was this year.

It’s only data

As members of Congress try to keep their public interactions with constituents on the down-low this summer (for fear, perhaps, of a YouTube-able confrontation over some of the hot-button topics roiling the activist class this August), they’re finding yet another obstacle in their quest for quiescence.

Congress-focused research company LegiStorm is combing through Facebook posts, constituent newsletters, Twitter feeds and e-mails to compile a list of town halls, constituent coffees and the like.

We noted that groups on both sides of the political spectrum were making similar efforts to put the “public” in the public events that lawmakers are hosting in their districts — but often keeping quiet by announcing on short notice or offline and with little fanfare.

This wouldn’t be the first time that LegiStorm revealed some information about the doings of the Capitol’s denizens that they’d rather keep under wraps. The company made waves this year with a portal aggregating Hill staffers’ Twitter feeds (which included some decidedly NSFW material), and, of course, aides are constantly grousing about how easy the service makes it to find out their salaries (a good way to screen potential dates).

LegiStorm founder Jock Friedly tells the Loop that the data collection “was certainly not intended to” irritate lawmakers.

It’s just something his clients, including grass-roots lobbying organizations and unions, are interested in knowing, he says. “A lot of groups around town are trying to find this information and having a very, very hard time,” Friedly said. “We’re a data company — this is what we do.”

Irritating lawmakers is just a side effect, apparently.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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