When ultra-conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and super-liberal Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) are both blasting you, you know you’ve blown it. Reacting to Kerry’s comments that Israel could become an apartheid state, Cruz declared on the Senate floor, “The fact that Secretary Kerry sees nothing wrong with making such a statement on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day demonstrates a shocking lack of sensitivity to the incendiary and damaging nature of his rhetoric. It is my belief that Secretary Kerry has thus proven himself unsuitable for his position and that before any further harm is done to our alliance with Israel, he should offer President Obama his resignation and the President should accept it.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) likewise called Kerry’s comments “outrageous and disappointing,” but stopped short of calling for his resignation. Boxer, a staunch liberal Democrat, wouldn’t mention Kerry by name, but nevertheless blasted his remarks: “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and any linkage between Israel and apartheid is nonsensical and ridiculous.”
Monday night, after a day of bipartisan fury, Kerry was forced to cough up a statement that was simultaneously defiant and skittish. He accused his critics of questioning his pro-Israel credentials for “partisan, political purposes” and insisted “I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.” (He merely said it could become one.) He nevertheless offered a half-baked apology: “If I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution.” Yet apartheid was the word that came to him when he thought he was speaking privately.
Once again we see Kerry’s massive ego and lack of self-editing at work. (Is he in some weird competition with the vice president for the senior official requiring the most damage control?) A less self-satisfied diplomat would have recognized his error and immediately apologized. And someone less enamored of his own vision and more circumspect with his tongue wouldn’t constantly be describing the doom that awaits Israel (whether on a potential boycott or intifada) if it fails to follow his lead. His original statement was recorded surreptitiously, capturing his candid and behind-closed doors remarks. Which represents his true feelings then — the original statement (which echoed similar predictions that sounded threatening) or a prepared statement after a day of furor over his remarks? Moreover, why does he never predict the future Palestinians will suffer if they don’t give up their dream of a one-state solution?
It is unlikely Obama will fire Kerry and thereby give his critics both satisfaction and the opportunity to pounce on a replacement in confirmation hearings. In a sense, Kerry’s latest debacle can’t really undermine his standing any further. His buffoon-like gaffes and naïve insistence that negotiations on Syria, Iran and the Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” aren’t dead already have made him the subject of derision.
However, in a real sense he has now handicapped the administration. When it calls for more time, as it almost surely will, to negotiate a final deal with Iran who is going to take him seriously? And those Democrats and few Republicans (including Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul) who wanted to give “diplomacy” a chance should acknowledge their trust was misplaced. Kerry over and over again has proven himself to be, if not the worst secretary of State, then certainly the most error-prone.