The editorial staff of the Washington Post surely meant well. They wanted readers to think that Sen. John Kerry's vast experience in foreign policy over four decades equips him to serve as Secretary of State in the second Obama administration.
The editorial, titled "John Kerry: Well-suited to be Secretary of State," gets that part right. The natty Mr. Kerry certainly looks the part of a globe-trotting senior U.S. diplomat.
As to his qualifications for that role, we're reminded of Frederick the Great's response when he was urged to make a less than stellar general a field marshal. Reminded the only-occasionally victorious general had been in every battle for years, Frederick pointed to his mount: "So has my mule. Must I make him a field marshal, too?"
The Post editorialists offer a tour d'horizon of world hot spots and suggest Kerry has already been helpful in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Sudan.
Can anyone point to improvements in U.S. policy toward any of those benighted lands under this administration? Do we really need Kerry's help to persuade Hamid Karzai to take more U.S. gold to hold more dubious elections?
The millions of Christian refugees who have fled Sudan will find cold comfort in the thought that John Kerry has helped smooth their flight.
Pakistan? Only two percent of Pakistani citizens pay taxes, NPR tells us, but now Americans will face tax hikes in part so we can continue lavishing money on a country that hates us.
The Post editorial helpfully reminds us that Kerry was "convinced by" Syria's cynical Bashir al-Assad that the Damascus butcher was actually a reformer.
And, this is evidence of Kerry's fitness for office?
Perhaps, the most curious part of the Post endorsement of Kerry is the notion that defeated presidential candidates have something special to offer as Secretary of State. Nice thought, until it collides with the test of history.
Consider William Seward, Lincoln's defeated rival and hand-picked Sec. of State. Seward gave Lincoln shrewd advice on the Emancipation Proclamation, to be sure, and on shepherding the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery through a lame-duck
Congress (as the movie Lincoln memorably records).
But Seward's foreign policy ideas were positively dangerous. In the midst of Civil War, he welcomed a war with Great Britain. That could have proven fatal for the embattled Union. Lincoln wisely leashed the wily New Yorker, saying: "One war at a time, Seward."
Another presidential loser, William Jennings Bryan, was Democrat Woodrow Wilson's disastrous choice for Sec. of State. Pacifist Bryan busied himself concluding binding arbitration treaties with scores of foreign states-like Uruguay and Switzerland.
When Germany sank the Lusitania in 1915, killing thousands of civilians, Bryan quit in a huff. Despite the deaths of hundreds of Americans, including infants, Bryan thought Wilson's stiff note-typed on his own typewriter--was too "one-sided" against the Germans. It seems Bryan thought the doomed Lusitania had put herself right in the path of those German torpedoes.
Republican Charles Evans Hughes lost to President Wilson by a whisker in 1916. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, frustrated with Hughes (who hailed from T.R.'s native New York) dismissed the wishy-washy Hughes as "Wilson with whiskers."
A poor campaigner, Hughes was even worse as Warren Harding's Sec. of State. Hughes pursued naval disarmament after World War I. That antagonized Japan. And stripped U.S. defenses in the Pacific. Thousands of the nearly 80,000 U.S. and Filipino troops taken prisoner died on the infamous Bataan Death March of 1942. The crosses over their makeshift graves bear mute testimony to unwise foreign policies heedlessly pursued.
Speaking of New Yorkers who failed to catch the presidential gold ring, we come to former senator, now Sec. of State, Hillary Clinton. We sincerely hope Madame Secretary recovers from her concussion soon. But, while her widely anticipated congressional testimony on the Benghazi debacle will grab headlines, the totality of her tenure should not be passed over.
She badgered Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, most undiplomatically in public, in Ottawa for not pushing abortion in pro-life East African nations. She helped Vice President Biden force abortion into the new Kenya constitution, threatening these African Christians with a cutoff of U.S. aid. This, from a Secretary of State who once admitted abortion is "wrong." [Newsweek, Oct. 31, 1994]
While claiming to champion women worldwide, Hillary Clinton has been mum about the global war on unborn baby girls. Estimates range in the hundreds of millions of unborn children killed because they were female.
But, we digress!
Given the record of defeated presidential candidates trying to make a comeback as Secretary of State, the Post's endorsement becomes curious and curiouser.
Senators should press Sen. Kerry hard before taking the Post's advice on this nomination.
Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Bob Morrison.