Horowitz: John Kerry - A Consequential Secretary of State

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

 

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We treat Presidential candidates who lose the general election much the same way we treat football teams that lose the Super Bowl, forgetting all the public service, primary wins and hard work that enable them to be one of two people left standing and competing for the highest office in the land. Just as football fans and commentators heap scorn upon Super Bowl losers who all of sudden ‘can’t win the big one’, even though to get to play in the game, they have by definition won a number of important games against tough opponents, we too easily become mini-Donald Trumps, labeling unsuccessful Presidential candidates, whether they are Republicans, such as Mitt Romney or John McCain, or Democrats, such as Walter Mondale or Mike Dukakis, as "losers" as if that one defeat defines their entire careers.

John Kerry, who lost the 2004 Presidential election to President George W. Bush, has not escaped this all too pervasive and unfair labeling—which must make all the success he is having as our Secretary of State even sweeter. Kerry is building an impressive record of accomplishments—one that makes him the most consequential Secretary of State at least since Jim Baker helped skillfully manage the end of the Cold War 25 years ago.

Working closely with President Obama, Kerry’s energetic, creative and persistent diplomacy is largely responsible for the historic Iranian Nuclear Deal, which moved into its implementation phase this past weekend, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certified that Iran was complying with the terms of the agreement, shipping enriched uranium out of the country, turning off centrifuges, and disabling a plutonium reactor, among other required actions and the United States and other participating nations released Iranian assets and lifted some sanctions. "Today marks the moment that the Iran nuclear agreement transitions from an ambitious set of promises on paper to measurable action in progress,” said Kerry.

These welcome developments were buoyed by the simultaneous release of 5 Americans imprisoned unfairly by Iran, including a Washington Post reporter, as part of a prisoner swap in which the United States released 7 Iranians convicted or accused of violating our sanctions.

Kerry’s skillful diplomacy was also instrumental in forging bi-lateral climate change agreements with China and Brazil, marking the first time so-called developing nations agreed to reduce carbon emissions. These breakthrough agreements set the stage for the landmark international climate change agreement reached in Paris in December in which more than 190 nations have committed to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, putting the world on a path to avoid the worse consequences of global warming. This agreement, negotiated by Obama and Kerry, requires nations to up their goals for emissions reductions every five years and includes robust reporting requirements.

The Secretary of State is now hard at work on forging an agreement in Syria that would better position us to defeat ISIS for the long-term—an arrangement that would include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and Iran. This is no small task. But given Kerry’s impressive track record, I wouldn’t bet against him.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor at University of Rhode Island. 

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