John Kerry Is Pretty Popular This Week

The Senator’s fight for a U.N. Treaty has folks like Jon Stewart singing his praises.

For a guy whose main presence in the press of late has been a (mostly caricatured) seething desire for the Secretary of State position, Senator John Kerry is receiving an awful lot of glowing praise this week for news unrelated to his cabinet ambitions. Kerry urged his colleagues to ratify a United Nations treaty that encouraged countries to pass measures that would protect the disabled, measures similar to those we have here in the United States. The treaty fell short of the two-thirds vote required to pass the Senate because a good number of Republicans ignored the urging of leaders like John McCain and Bob Dole, fearing it would infringe on the United States's sovereignty. So angered were people by this defeat, that they're elevating the status of the guy who fought hard for it to “cool kid.”  Here are some of Kerry's more notable admirers from just the past 24 hours:

1. The Boston Globe. In a Thursday editorial, the paper rails against the arguments of those opposed to the treaty and singles out our Senator for praise. “John Kerry, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made a heroic effort, in a flurry of opinion pieces, to separate fact from myth,” they write. “He should not give up.” Their praise isn't that surprising as they've recently written other nice things about Kerry, but mostly they've related to his potential for a cabinet position. This is just praise for the job he's already doing.

2. The Daily Show. Bestowing his ultimate cool kid seal of approval, Jon Stewart had kind words for Kerry last night. He plays footage of a press conference during which John McCain poked fun at Kerry by referring to him as “Mr. Secretary.” Stewart proved that he's usually pretty inclined to mock Kerry by imagining the Senator's stiff response to this fun-poking. To Stewart's surprise, Kerry actually replied to McCain with, “Thank you very much, Mr. President.” This smackdown prompts Stewart to make this face:

Says Stewart: “Two things: One. Solid, concise joke. Two. A little disproportionate. McCain teased you about the job you might get, and you hit him with the failure of his life.” Luckily, Kerry knows a little something about losing a presidential race, too.

3. John Kerry's Twitter followers (as curated by John Kerry.) Nowhere is praise for John Kerry higher than in John Kerry's own Twitter stream. Kerry is a surprisingly adept Twitter user for an elected official, but his stream had been pretty quiet lately … until the treaty's defeat, that is, at which point he went into overdrive. People have been tweeting their thanks to Kerry for his efforts to pass the disabilities treaty, and rather than reply, Kerry has been retweeting them and appending messages telling them to keep up their own efforts.  Here are some of several examples:



His Twitter feed has been one long humble brag, but it does have the insidious effect of giving the impression that he's receiving piles of thanks for his efforts.

Why is the fact that John Kerry is having such a good week important? It's not really, and he'd probably be having a better week if his issue had actually met with success. But compare his press lately with that of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, whom many suggest Obama will nominate for Secretary of State, and who others suggest will be met with resistance in the Senate. As another Globe editorial noted recently, “a knock-down, drag-out fight over Rice … would be an inauspicious way for Obama to begin his next term.” If Kerry keeps having weeks like this one, he might start to look great to a weary Obama.

  • Luftmensch

    This is one of the most fair-minded pieces about Senator Kerry I’ve seen in some time and yet it perpetuates some odd myths.

    Consider three possibilities that may shock you:

    1. Senator Kerry has actually been an impassioned, sincere fighter during his entire time in the Senate (see BCCI, campaign finance reform, POW-MIA investigation, lifelong, career-long dedication to issues involving environment, veterans, small business, advocation for fisheries, infrastructure bank, global human rights, a healthy working government — Alito filibuster AND advocation for filibuster reform.) Given this, I’d rework your “This is just praise” in item one, above, to change the meaning of “just.” Kerry really does deserve to be acknowledged as one of our best and most effective Senators. The GOP who are boosting him for SoS right now don’t only want an open MA seat, they actually hate having him as a dogged, indomitable opponent in Congress.

    2. Kerry has never once publicly said that he wants to be Secretary of State. I don’t know the man — he may have expressed this desire incessantly in private, but until I hear him express even the slightest interest in the job, I have to regard this notion as hearsay that is being treated as fact.

    3. Finally, regarding both Jon Stewart and the twitter feed, another relentlessly repeated press myth is that John Kerry is stiff, wooden and not funny. I’ve seen him speak on television and in person and he’s actually warm, self-deprecating, witty and prone to hugging. The image his daughters presented of him at his convention in 2004 is much closer to the man in real life than the image that was proliferated by his opponents in 2004 and which has been perpetuated by most of the press ever since. This leads to comical expressions of surprise every time he gives a great speech that receives public notice (DNC, 2008, 2012) or makes a good joke that gets heard (several involving McCain when he was the nominee and this recent quip.) The fact is, he’s always funny and wry — the media are simply usually repeating their meme that he isn’t to notice. Why do you characterize that twitter feed as a “humble brag” and insinuate that it might be a ploy to make him look good to Obama for SoS? Is it not remotely possible that he is actually sincerely dedicated to the fight for this treaty and to enlisting general support for it?

    It’s easy to sell the image that has been created of Senator Kerry, a cynical construct that sees no good in any person without ulterior motive. Harder to look closely and try to record what you actually see. You go some way towards this in this article and I thank you for that.

  • Eric Randall

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’ll just respond to #3 to say that I don’t mean to characterize his twitter feed as a calculated attempt to make himself look good to Obama. Looking good to Obama is just a consequence. It’s a humble brag because even though it serves a legitimate purpose – motivating others to stay committed to passing the UN treaty — it has the side-effect of reminding everyone how hard he works on the treaty. That’s why it’s a humble brag and not just a “brag.” Anyway, I’m just poking fun as Kerry actually has one of the better Twitter feeds of any elected official I’ve seen.

    • Luftmensch

      Thanks, Eric. I see your point, and clearly it has that effect, intended or not. It’s been a surprising twist that Twitter seems to be Kerry’s natural medium!