John Kerry has spent all his life getting things wrong. He came home from the war in Vietnam to trash as war criminals the men with whom he wore the colors.
He told a hearing of the U.S. Senate a wicked tale of calumny, how the Americans in Vietnam had “personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam.”
It was all a lie, and he knew it was a lie, dramatic, convenient and self-serving. The Democrats forgave the lie, elected him to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, and finally nominated him to be the president of the United States, where his campaign providentially crashed and burned.
Barack Obama, eager for someone to assist in draping the United States in sackcloth and ashes in abject apology to the Islamic nations of the Middle East that had sent suicide squads to wound, maim and kill Americans on September 11, appointed him secretary of State to be the diplomatic face of America to the world.
When he rode his bicycle off the world stage to what everyone thought would be well-earned oblivion, America breathed a sigh of grateful relief, willing to let bygones be bygones — the United States being the most generous nation anywhere — and moved on into the uncertain age of Donald Trump.
But Mr. Kerry set out to sabotage as much of the new president’s agenda as he could, eager to avenge Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the elites who had taken such a shellacking from the “deplorables” and the “irredeemables.” He threw in with the mullahs of Iran to sabotage President Trump’s attempt to fix or trash the infamous Iran nuclear deal that was “the signature accomplishment” of the Obama-Kerry (as he imagined it) administration.
Mr. Kerry, as reported last week by the Boston Globe, has been colluding secretly, as colluders do, with Javad Sarif, the foreign minister of Iran, to “strategize” on how to preserve the Iran Nuclear Deal the two of them earlier drew up for President Obama to sign. If it was not against the law, as per the Logan Act of 1799 (and it probably was not), it’s against custom, common sense and diplomatic propriety, as any other secretary of State could have told him.
The great bicycler of our time has made no secret of his butting in to matters that are no longer official concern of his, and boasted of it to Democratic buttinskies in Congress who are ever on the scout to make as much mischief for the president as they can. This by anybody’s definition crosses the line between legitimate advocacy and attempted sabotage of a duly constituted U.S. Government.
“It is unusual for a former secretary of State to engage in foreign policy like this, as an actual diplomat and quasi-negotiator,” Michael O’Hanlon, a foreign-policy scholar at the Brookings Institution tells the Boston Globe. “Of course, former secretaries of State often remain quite engaged with foreign leaders, as they should, but it’s rarely so issue-specific, especially when they have just left office.”
Mr. Kerry and his friends are calling this “shadow diplomacy,” thinking the use of a familiar European term lends mischief a good name. But shadow diplomacy is formally established in European countries and in Britain, where a party on the outs names a “shadow minister” who is expected to become the real thing when the opposition becomes the government. Mr. Kerry is no such animal. He’s merely a mischief-maker, an interloper, a buttinsky with too much time on his hands and a rich wife willing to finance his bikes and sailboats and pranks.
The Europeans, particularly the French, and the British, too, are eager to keep the status quo, though they concede that the deal forged by Mr. Kerry on behalf of Barack Obama is “imperfect,” as if drawn up by a negotiator out of his depth and desperate to reach any deal. But abandoning the deal, French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron tells the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, “would mean opening Pandora’s box, and it could mean war.”
Yes it could. And so could a lot of other foolish things, including submission to the work of Mr. Kerry’s carefully crafted collusion with the mullahs in Tehran. Leaving Mr. Kerry’s handiwork alone would leave the inevitable confrontation with Iran to a later generation, enabling us here to sing a happy tune and ride our bicycles in peace. History has not been kind to nations that do that.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.