The Washington Post

Should John Kerry stay off the water?

Isabel, the 76-foot yacht owned by Secretary of State John Kerry, at the Hinckley shipyard in Portsmouth, R.I., in 2010. (Stew Milne/AP)

Should Secretary of State John Kerry stay off the water? Avoid his home in Nantucket altogether? Or maybe just hide inside when he’s there?

One of the most popular political stories on The Post’s Web site on the Saturday after the Fourth of July is headlined, “Kerry criticized for kayaking.” Another is a different version of the same story, titled, “Kerry was in Nantucket during Egypt coup.”

The scandalette, such as it is, is that Kerry set foot on his boat on the same day Egypt’s military ousted President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday.

We know this because a “CBS News” producer took a photo of a yacht and reported that Kerry was on it as the coup (or non-coup, if you prefer) went down. Then the Boston Herald started following the former Massachusetts senator around and took pictures of him getting into a kayak that same day.

Did he paddle his canoe while Egypt erupted? Not exactly: “While he was briefly on his boat on Wednesday,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said, “Secretary Kerry worked around the clock all day, including participating in the president’s meeting with his National Security Council and calls with Norwegian Foreign Minister Eade, Qatari Foreign Minister al-Attiyah, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Egyptian Constitution Party President ElBaradei and five calls to [U.S.] Ambassador Patterson on that day alone.”

Did he have reason to think he could take part of a day off? You’d think so: He was just back from a 22,500-mile trip to Asia and the Middle East, where he was trying, among other things, to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. For the fifth time since February.

One could argue that Kerry should know better than to be caught relaxing: Footage of him windsurfing while running for president in 2004 was turned into one of the most scathing and successful anti-Kerry ads of the cycle. (It showed him tacking this way and that, twisting in the wind, get it?)

Or, we could stop making a big deal out of officials at rest, counting the days George W. Bush spent on his ranch during his presidency and going crazy every time Obama hits a golf ball. You’d almost think we didn’t believe in taking time off — though if anything, it should be required.

Melinda Henneberger
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors She the People. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.


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