News Column

GOP Wants Kerry Off Boat, on Plane

July 5, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry -- who spent the Fourth of July on sun-splashed Nantucket even as the chaos from a military takeover rocked Egypt -- drew fire from Republican critics who said it's a bad time for the nation's top diplomat to be seen cavorting on an island getaway.

"It doesn't look good, and I think it sends the wrong message" said Republican strategist Brad Marston. "If I were advising him, I'd already have him on a plane."

As first reported on bostonherald.com, Kerry, who owns a house and a yacht on the ritzy retreat, was seen yesterday strolling down Federal Street away from July Fourth festivities on Main Street in jeans and a light-colored polo shirt.

Later in the afternoon, Kerry was seen offloading bags from a single-person kayak to a boat in Nantucket Sound after launching from the beach behind his home at 5 Hulbert Ave.

Republicans pounced on the image of the vacationing secretary of state and sought to use it as a symbol of what they deem a big Obama administration failing -- the inability to convey a clear message on foreign policy on hotspots like Syria, Turkey and Egypt.

"I would think the secretary of state would interrupt his vacation and at least send a very clear signal -- even by flying back to Washington for a day or two -- that on our Independence Day we are very concerned about the freedom and democracy that we hope is instilled for some period of time in the Arab World," said Patrick Griffin, a New Hampshire-based GOP strategist.

Added Republican operative Ford O'Connell: "Egypt's in a very fragile place, and the U.S. needs to be out front doing what it can to return Egypt to civilian rule. Having the nation's top diplomat vacationing on Nantucket doesn't send the right message to the international community."

Kerry's staff yesterday insisted he's fully engaged and has been logging long hours and high miles, including a recent 12-day, 25,000-mile trip to the Middle East and Asia.

Yesterday he dialed into a meeting with President Obama and members of his national security team in the Situation Room, according to the State Department. Kerry also called foreign dignitaries from Egypt, Israel, Norway, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

"Secretary Kerry has been working tirelessly around the clock since he returned from his 10-day trip and there has not been a moment where he has not been focused on doing everything possible to communicate with his team in Washington and in Egypt, within the administration and with his counterparts around the world," Kerry spokeswoman Jen Psaki told the Herald last night.

Former state Democratic Party chairman Phil Johnston said these days the secretary of state can effectively work out of anywhere in the world.

"The man's been working 24/7 for weeks to create peace in the Middle East -- I think he's entitled to a day on Nantucket," said Johnston. "If there's anything we know about John Kerry, it's that he's a very hard worker. The American people don't need to worry about that."

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Source: Copyright Boston Herald (MA) 2013