Secretary of state on the fly

Secretary of State John Kerry, off on a trip to Europe this week, has ramped up his record-setting travel schedule from 2013.

In his first year on the job, Kerry logged about 286,000 miles in the air, according to the State Department’s Web site, easily besting the first-year totals of predecessors Condoleezza Rice, who had 241,000 miles, and Hillary Clinton, who had 207,000.

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

(Rice ended her four-year term with a record 1,059,247 miles logged, edging out Clinton by about 100,000 miles.)

In the first four months of 2014, Kerry accelerated to a yearly rate of about 300,000 miles, putting him on track to pass Rice and set the new outdoor record for miles traveled by a secretary of state.

Of course, as we wrote last August, “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.”

Well, maybe things will heat up in regional disputes over some Pacific islands between China and Japan, and between China and Vietnam. Those would be really long trips.

And there’s always Cyprus.

Being there . . .

Once a possible candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court, Carlos Moreno gets the consolation prize of a few years spreading U.S. diplomacy in Belize.

Moreno is a retired justice of the California Supreme Court, where he cast the lone vote to overturn Proposition 8, the state’s ballot initiative that overturned same-sex marriage. His name was in the mix in 2009 to succeed Justice David Souter, but President Obama wanted to, and then did, appoint a woman.

Moreno is the son of Mexican immigrants. He’s headed to the only English-speaking country in Central America. The Senate unanimously confirmed his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Belize on Wednesday afternoon.

During his confirmation hearing in October (yes, that was seven months ago, because that’s how long noncontroversial nomination votes take these days), Moreno passed the “Have you even been to . . . ” test.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “Justice Moreno, have you been to Belize?”

Moreno: “Yes, about two years ago, and I’ve also visited the adjoining countries of Mexico and Guatemala, so I’m familiar in particular with the Yucatan and some of the Mayan archaeological sites that were referred to earlier.”

That alone puts him miles ahead of other recent Obama ambassador picks.

. . . or maybe not

Speaking of those ambassador picks, Loop fans may recall the cringe-inducing performances of two Obama mega-bundler nominees for ambassadorships to Norway and Hungary at their Senate hearings back in January.

Long Island hotel executive George Tsunis, grilled by Sen. John McCain, badly botched a question on anti-immigrant sentiment in Norway and also referred to Norway’s “president,” when, as a constitutional monarchy, that nation doesn’t have a president. (Note: Norway does have a 120-mile border with Russia.)

Soap-opera producer Colleen Bell (“The Bold and the Beautiful”) was flummoxed when McCain asked her about U.S. interests in Hungary. (Note: Hungary borders Ukraine.)

A third bundler, Noah Mamet, nominated as ambassador to Argentina, acknowledged that he’d never been there and spoke only a little Spanish. He called Argentina a U.S. ally, leading McCain to conclude that Mamet was clueless about the country.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, approved both Bell and Tsunis, though the latter was on a 12 to 6 vote. Mamet is awaiting a committee vote.

We’re hearing that the administration is still standing firm on all three and expects that Mamet will be voted out of committee next week. Meanwhile, word is that Mamet has been studying Spanish. Good luck with that Argentine accent.

Quote of the week

Karl Rove’s comment this week about Hillary Clinton’s health spurred a debate over what is and isn’t fair game in politics. Age? Sex? Health?

If those personal factors are in play, the next question is whether the Clintons dive into the muck or rise above it. When our colleague Phil Rucker broached that with Stuart Stevens, GOP consultant and Mitt Romney’s top strategist in 2012, the Loop got its Quote of the Week winner.

If Clinton runs for president in 2016, Stevens said, she risks a repeat of 2008: starting off above the fray and then getting into a bitter, personal battle.

“I think the parallels of 2008 are pretty apt here,” he said. “What started out as being a coronation ended up in an extraordinarily negative, tough race.”

And then this:

“She started out as Queen Elizabeth and ended up like Lurleen Wallace, George Wallace’s wife.”

Lurleen Wallace succeeded her husband as governor of Alabama (see where this comparison is going?). Her campaign slogan was “Two Governors, One Cause,” which sounds familiar to Bill Clinton’s 1992 promise of “two for the price of one.”

But Stevens’s larger point seems to be more a dig at Bill Clinton. George Wallace was a noted racist, and the former president, one might recall, made comments about Barack Obama in 2008 that some interpreted as being racially untoward.

So in case there’s any confusion, Stevens did not mean his comparison as a compliment.

— With Colby Itkowitz

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

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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