Has Sen. John Kerry ever had as good a press cycle?
He's Politico's "Man Of The Hour".
David Ignatius, the well-regarded spokes-columnist for the hard-bitten CIA case officer set**, called it Kerry's "Star Turn," noting how his outsider credentials and insider trust helped him with over Karzai and smooth tensions between Karzai and Richard Holbrooke, the Af-Pak emissary.
Indeed, most of the stories devoted to Kerry have the exact same analysis: Kerry was reluctantly thrust into the role of negotiator. Kerry developed Karzai's trust. Kerry had the diplomatic skills that current ambassador Karl Eikenberry lacked. Kerry's importuning proved to be the turning point. Oh, and it compares favorably to Kerry's brokering of a dialog between the U.S. and Syria earlier in the year.
The Boston Globe called it a "triumph" for Kerry -- his biggest accomplishment since the presidential race. The Wall Street Journal, along with many other publications, noted that Kerry used his own experience in 2004 to establish a better bond with Karzai. The New York Times editorial page wondered what happened to Holbrooke. In the Guardian, Kerry muscularly "strong-armed" Karzai. Spencer Ackerman tweeted that Kerry had just become the frontrunner for Secretary of State should Hillary Clinton decide to step down.
And so on.
I tried, in vain, to stir up trouble by asking a White House official if the administration intended for Kerry to get all of the credit. The official wouldn't go there. The White House, the official said, is very happy with the results. And, indeed, they should be: no doubt that Kerry deserves the plaudits -- and that he was in a much better position to be seen as an honest broker than Richard Holbrooke, who plays bad cop, or Joe Biden, who dislikes the Afghan president. At least one article notes that Clinton tried to persuade Karzai, too, to no apparent effect. Bloomberg, though, relates how the trip was "closely coordinated" with Clinton.
Still, the similarity of the accounts, and Kerry's willingness to talk about them in various interviews, suggests a concerted press strategy -- a strategy that aims to give Kerry a leading role in the major diplomatic and foreign policy crises of the day.
** = intended as a compliment, as those who know me will attest.
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