Kerry And Romney Return
Old bags have a way of re-upholstering themselves. Not only that, they’ll find a way to carry on the day’s conversation. They need a bit of dusting off from time to time, a cool washing and a hot drying in what’s become an infrequent limelight. Hugging America’s waist, like the well-worn purses or satchels that they are, we find Mitt Romney and John Kerry. Together, they’ve put behind them their shared obscurity, stepped out in to town, and are grabbing, if only for a moment, the country’s attention.
Over the rapid course of a day, the once and potentially future presidential candidate, John Kerry, has witnessed his popularity wax and wane, peak and then fall. Search his name, filter for the news, and you’ll quickly find two tales developing around him, that prognathous patrician of Obama fame.
The first, as I alluded to above, is that he’s toying with the idea of running for the presidency in 2020. His most recent attempt to do so came and went in 2004, when he lost, albeit just barely, to the incumbent George W. Bush. Before that ill-fated foray into a presidential election, he served for two decades as a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. And, after the foray, he served as President Obama’s second (less feminine and only slightly less controversial) Secretary of State.
The second story, more scandalous and noteworthy or cringeworthy than the first, is that he’s alleged to have held a meeting with a Palestinian emissary while traveling abroad in England last week. The story’s not yet been fully corroborated, and the details are in their infancy, but as it reads right now, Kerry went there to meet with a gentleman by the name of Hussein Agha, a representative of the Palestinian Authority and underling to current Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. As the still-developing story goes, the two discussed, at length, the predicament within which the Near East finds itself enmeshed.
To recount the situation in a brief telling, it all began a month ago, when President Trump announced he’d be swapping America’s old digs at Tel Aviv for a new home at Jerusalem. Expectedly, and perhaps not without reason, the Palestinians protested this blasphemous idea. They, and many other like-minded Middle and Near Easterners, consider the very idea unpalatable, subversive, and above all, sacrilegious. To them, the city of Jerusalem is inextricably Islamic and should remain exclusively so. It’s their holy city, although—one should clarify—not their only holy city (a divine distinction that must be made: Jerusalem humbly counts itself third behind Medina and Mecca in the blessed hierarchy of three), but even so, no one could be so bold as to give its providence to the hated Jews. In effect, by announcing that the American-Israeli embassy would indeed be breaking ground within that ancient city’s limits, President Trump did just that.
In, then, steps Kerry, whose aim was to seek out Agha and quell the controversy in his own furtive way. In the course of their conversation, Kerry advised that Agha hold out just a bit longer; he prescribed patience to his old Palestinian comrade, with the understanding that a more sympathetic administration would soon be on its way. And who might be leading this friendlier cabinet, carrying with it the anodyne ointment that will heal all wounds and put an end the Palestinian’s plight? Why, that person would be Mr. Kerry himself, of course.
The problem is, however, that that time hasn’t yet come (nor likely will it), and in his current station in life, there’s no reason for Kerry to be discussing international relations with a foreign government official.
Unlike years past, Kerry isn’t acting as an Obama plenipotentiary, doing his good work under the State Department’s seal and the Senate’s confirmation. Rather, he’s a private citizen (for the first time in a long time), a concept that seems to travel beyond his grasp. His ability to seek surreptitious alliances or dole out quiet assurances with foreign governments has long since passed. That said, it stands to follow that he has openly broken the Logan Act—the law proscribing the intercourse between private American citizens at home and established government personnel abroad. It was precisely this law that many Democrats alleged former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to have broken. Of course, as we now know quite well, Flynn didn’t—his fatal transgression was lying to the FBI, not conversing with Russians. Kerry, on the other hand, appears blatantly to have broken the act when he decided to try and assuage his Palestinian confidante.
While, rightly or wrongly, much was made of Flynn’s infringement, little has been made of Kerry’s impropriety. The media, reliably allergic to reporting on anything ugly happening on the left, hadn’t a thing to say about it. Not surprisingly then, by default, the story found fertile ground and strong roots on the political right. Fox News, the Washington Examiner, and the Daily Caller picked up on the incipient controversy and plastered it on their front pages. Unfortunately, though—which I say in light of the fact that hypocrisy again seems to rule the day—the story is destined to be overlooked by most reporters and under appreciated by most Americans.
It’s at this point we pivot from one Bostonian to another—both Kerry and Mitt Romney are adopted sons of that tough, revolutionary city by the sea. The latter made himself a headline or two when news broke that his political ambitions had been rekindled. As is being reported, perhaps prematurely, but probably not, Romney is readying himself to announce formally his campaign for Utah’s senate seat in 2018. His official announcement still awaits us, but most observers have expected it for some time. Ever since his failed presidential campaign in 2012, Romney has remained politically curious, personally hungry, and professionally ambitious to regain what he’d lost. There was a time, not so long ago, when he was even on President Trump’s short list of nominees to become Secretary of State. Before that, and before being a presidential candidate, he’d been a lawyer, a purveyor, a corporate raider, and a governor. The next natural step, having had his presidential hopes dashed, would be a senator.
While it’s unclear with whom he’ll contend, there’s little early doubt he’ll have a tough go at it; the field before him should be easily cleared. He’s a consummate conservative, the old-fashioned type that traditional Republicans like and need now more than ever. The paradigm in the Republican Party has shifted. It’s moved irretrievably or morphed unrecognizably away from the Classical Liberal foundation to which we all owe a debt. It’s become an unapologetic, objectionable, populist, nationalist Trumpian claque.
Think for a moment of the Republican Party and its most newsworthy men: Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Pat Meehan, and now, lamentably, Joe Arpaio. Notice I said, “newsworthy”, and not laudable or representative. But still, their faces are the ones many people see when they’re given a Republican Rorschach test. The centrist or undecided voter sees them and all their gross shortcomings and sins. All are morally dubious characters even on their best day. On their worst, they’re national embarrassments. It’s at this decadent point in the Party’s history that Mitt Romney rides in as if on a white steed. He and his squeaky-clean image could be the tried and true panacea that the Party so desperately needs.
In many ways, he’s the antithesis of President Trump. Romney’s religion teaches polygamy—it explicitly endorses extramarital affairs, thanks to Mr. Smith and his angel Moroni—yet he’s as abstemious as any one-woman monk. He’s been faithfully devoted to one Mormon dame all his adult life. Trump’s religion, on the other hand (assuming he professes one at all), teaches monogamy, yet he’s been anything but. The emergence of Ms. Stormy Daniels, the porn star turned tell-all demimonde, is another nauseating testament to that. Beyond their sexual indiscretions, as far as the make-up of their characters go, Romney is even-keeled, consistent and concise; Trump is bilious, evasive, and self-injuriously verbose. This speaks nothing to policy, but everything to personality and I think Republicans are beginning to realize that, at the end of the day, a candidate truly does need both.
That said, seeing this situation play itself out will be worth the price of admission. Trump and Romney have done little to disguise their mutual distaste. Romney, bravely, was one of only a few prominent Republicans to openly and ardently reprove Donald Trump (at the time a candidate, not a president). He’s not since let up on commenting and criticizing the president when comments and criticisms are required.
Trump, for his part, has publicly encouraged Orrin Hatch—the out-going Utah senator whose seat Romney will take—to rethink his retirement, not because he has a tender spot for the aging Hatch, but because he dislikes Romney to that extent. There was no subtlety in Trump’s endorsement of Hatch. He wants nothing less than to have Romney grand-standing and rebuffing him on the senate floor. It will be interesting to see how Trump reacts during the Republican primary in Utah. One wonders if he’ll swallow his enmity for Romney and lend him his support, or endorse his opponent if one is so bold as to arise.
At least one of these old bags will be made fashionable again. It would be a mistake, though, for it to be John Kerry, a success should it be Mitt Romney. The Democrats must move beyond the obsolete Obama era and choose, or forge, a new path ahead. Kerry, simply, isn’t the man for the job. He won’t carry them to the Oval Office, but he will hasten them to a defeat. As for the Republicans, they must retrace their steps and discover what once made them a noble party—a gallant party. They need an upstanding man like Romney to remind them what pride is and what public life is all about.