October 10, 2004
The Ambassador President
Here, for your convenience, is the most interesting part of Matt Bai’s epic Kerry foreign policy piece in the NYT Mag:
If forced democracy is ultimately Bush’s panacea for the ills that haunt the world, as Kerry suggests it is, then Kerry’s is diplomacy. Kerry mentions the importance of cooperating with the world community so often that some of his strongest supporters wish he would ease up a bit. (”When people hear multilateral, they think multi-mush,” Biden despaired.) But multilateralism is not an abstraction to Kerry, whose father served as a career diplomat during the years after World War II. The only time I saw Kerry truly animated during two hours of conversation was when he talked about the ability of a president to build relationships with other leaders.
Okay, it’s not so interesting yet, but it gets better, I think, after the break…
”We need to engage more directly and more respectfully with Islam, with the state of Islam, with religious leaders, mullahs, imams, clerics, in a way that proves this is not a clash with the British and the Americans and the old forces they remember from the colonial days,” Kerry told me during a rare break from campaigning, in Seattle at the end of August. ”And that’s all about your diplomacy.”
When I suggested that effecting such changes could take many years, Kerry shook his head vehemently and waved me off.
”Yeah, it is long-term, but it can be dramatically effective in the short term. It really can be. I promise you.” He leaned his head back and slapped his thighs. ”A new presidency with the right moves, the right language, the right outreach, the right initiatives, can dramatically alter the world’s perception of us very, very quickly.
”I know Mubarak well enough to know what I think I could achieve in the messaging and in the press in Egypt,” Kerry went on. ”And, similarly, with Jordan and with King Abdullah, and what we can do in terms of transformation in the economics of the region by getting American businesspeople involved, getting some stability and really beginning to proactively move in those ways. We just haven’t been doing any of this stuff. We’ve been stunningly disengaged, with the exception of Iraq.
In the same way, John Kerry sees himself as a kind of ambassador-president, shuttling to world capitals and reintegrating America, by force of personality, into the world community.