Kerry Yachted While Egypt Burned. So What?

But does it matter?

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a YouTube video over the weekend criticizing Secretary of State Kerry for being on his yacht off the Massachusetts island of Nantucket during the coup in Egypt.

Actually, it’s a two-pronged criticism. One part, so far as can be discerned from the video, is that Kerry was on his pleasure craft rather than hunkered down in some secure office at Foggy Bottom or the White House basement. The second part of the criticism is that Kerry’s staff initially denied that he was on the boat, but later, after photographs appeared, conceded it. 

The Kerry yacht kerfuffle got additional traction after the secretary’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry (who may, in fact, be the controlling owner of the yacht), took ill, generating renewed press coverage such as a New York Times dispatch reporting that Kerry “came under criticism when he went boating on the day that President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt was ousted by the military. The State Department flatly denied that he had been on a boat that day, only to retract that two days later.” 

To say I’m not a big fan of Secretary Kerry, as a general matter, would be understating it.  And the complaints about the confusion or lack of candor in describing his activities and whereabouts seem to be at least somewhat justified. The famous definition of a diplomat, after all, is someone sent abroad to lie for his country, not someone who lies to his own country about what the Secretary of State is up to.

But that said, on the basic question of faulting an administration official for spending the day before July 4 at a vacation home rather than in Washington, D.C., it takes a major dose of chutzpah for the Republicans to go after Kerry. President George W. Bush, after all, spent all or part of 490 days of his presidency at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and all or part of 487 days of his presidency at the presidential retreat at Camp David. Young America’s Foundation, which now owns the Reagan Ranch in California’s Santa Barbara County, reports that Ronald Reagan spent “a full year’s time there” during his two terms as president.

There are some takeaway points to remember for summer vacation season beyond the partisan hypocrisy, which is bipartisan in Washington (the same Democrats who were critical of Reagan and Bush for their vacations are now defending Captain Kerry).

No matter how powerful and important you are or think you are, it’s still a good idea to get away from the office sometimes.  The change of pace and scenery might prove refreshing and beneficial, inspirational even. The paradox is that all the smartphones, laptop computers, wireless Internet access, and other technology that make it easier to “get away from the office” also make it harder to “get away from the office,” because even if you are physically distant you can still be in touch. 

Finally, even if Kerry had been in Washington, what power would he have had? American policy toward Egypt is a matter in which the State Department has a voice, but the final say, within the constitutional constraints of the Congressional appropriation power, belongs to President Obama. Even Obama’s own influence, while substantial, has limits, as it should: in the end control in Cairo is up to the citizens of Egypt, not Obama or Kerry.

Some may interpret Kerry’s appearance on the yacht during the crisis as a sign of callous American disregard for the fate of an important Middle Eastern country. But it can just as easily be seen the way Reagan’s brush-clearing or horseback riding was — a kind of confidence that the job can be managed in a way that doesn’t interfere with fun. How it is seen around the world depends less on the leisure activity than on what gets done during work time, and on pre-established notions about the character of the politicians doing the working or playing.

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  • Warrren||

    Blah blah blah?

  • Brett L||

    Nobody would have given a shit, except that the Administration:
    1) Told a blatant lie
    2) And then doubled down on it

    Having some aparatichick tell us "who are you going to believe me or the cameras?" is insulting.

  • Almanian!||

    This. Why the need to lie about stupid shit like this?

    So - no, I don't give a fuck he was on his yacht or not.

    But I DO give a fuck that these assholes think they need to lie about it. FUCK YOU, ADMINISTRATION!

  • Juice||

    Everything is politics.

  • John Galt||

    Yes, but lies only matter to honest people. No honest people in politics. No honest people in the traditional news media.

    It'd be great if they'd all spend more time on their yachts partying and less time at their offices screwing us.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yeah, WTF? I don't give a shit that Kerry happened to be on vacation. Heck, I'd not be all that riled up if he let his deputy manage things until he got back. Like he'd be all that directly involved, anyway.

    But the lies, well, why aren't people getting fired already?

  • Enough About Palin||

    Where are the P.M. links?

  • Almanian!||

    It's here. To see it, you just have to WANT it bad enough.

  • John||

    it takes a major dose of chutzpah for the Republicans to go after Kerry. President George W. Bush, after all, spent all or part of 490 days of his presidency at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and all or part of 487 days of his presidency at the presidential retreat at Camp David. Young America’s Foundation, which now owns the Reagan Ranch in California’s Santa Barbara County, reports that Ronald Reagan spent “a full year’s time there” during his two terms as president.

    So the fact that Bush spent time at his ranch means it is okay for Kerry to spend time on his yacht during an insurrection in Egypt? Show me where Bush was hanging out at the ranch when something of the magnitude that happened in Egypt this weekend and then you will have an argument. But just listing total days spent there is not argument for anything.

    Stoll is either retarded or knows how inapt that comparison is and just doesn't care. I suspect it is the latter. There seems to be an ethos at Reason that every article much contain a pox on both houses no matter how idiotic an argument has to be deployed to do it. It gets a little more pathetic every week.

  • InlineSkate||

    I don't like Kerry anymore than the next guy, but what is the false outrage from the GOP meant to achieve? Political points?

    I really don't see what makes Egypt so damn important that everyone should drop what they're doing to make strongly worded statements.

  • ||

    The thing that pisses me off (and should piss everyone else off too) is that they lied about it, not that he was out there yachting it up.

  • Overt||

    Not to mention that Camp David is essentially White House North. A president can run a war from there.

    Even Crawford was used by Bush as a site for retreats for his staff to do work more often than just a place for vacationing.

    I'm not trying to defend Bush, but comparing those two "alternate work" sites to Kerry's pleasure cruise is daft.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's appalling how nonchalant people are about lies, abuses of power, and other moral and ethical failings. We've been lied to, yet again. What are we going to do about it? If they lie about trivia, what aren't they lying about?

  • ||

    I just assume everything they say is a lie and go from there.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't see any other rational way to operate.

  • Enough About Palin||

    They just lie because they love us so much.

  • John Galt||

    Kerry's sugar mommy has cancer, so likely will be dying soon. Unless, Teresa pulled some shenanigans on him, Kerry will soon have all the gold and won't have to work in that damp, dank ole mine shaft anymore. Effe the stupid Secretary gig, grab the poodles and head out on the yacht. It's party time!

  • Not an Economist||

    A lot of democrats complained very often and extremely loudly about Bush's vacations. So while a little ridiculous, in politics, turn-about is fair play.

    Not only that but I bet Kerry left D.C. during the crisis.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    This has to be the most dishonest administration I have ever seen, and that is really saying something. I think they would lie when the truth was better, just for the hell of it.

  • Len Bias||

    Many Republicans likely oppose ObamaCare because they of political opportunism. So, who care how shitty the bill is? Some of its opponents are hypocrites!

  • Paul.||

    This is standard fare for the two parties. Nothing to see here, move along.

    It's about scoring points and nothing else.

  • Mike M.||

    I'll give him this much, when Kerry goes on vacation he's at least paying for it out of his wife's pocket.

    Unlike this lowlife piece of garbage Block Yomomma who sticks the taxpayers with a $100,000,000 bill.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    "Block Yomomma" has to be the fall-down dumbest fucking thing I've ever read in my life. What the fuck does that even mean?

  • Brandon||

    It pretty much means Mike M. is the fall-down dumbest fucking thing you've ever seen in your life. And unoriginal to boot.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Alright, I'm good with that.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I would hope Kerry goes on more vacations, not fewer. He can afford it.

    And give instructions not to make any major policy changes while he's on his yacht.

    And turn off his cell while he's chilling on said yacht.

    The country and the world would be better off.

    The more these people engage in Sorkinesque "OMG we have to solve this problem NOW" wanking, the worse off the entire planet becomes.

    More yacht-vacations, more African holidays, more naps, please.

  • R C Dean||

    (1) Kerry being on vacation is a plus during any crisis.

    (2) Wouldn't it be nice to have a SecState who you actually wanted to help out in a crisis?

    (3) Out here in the real world, vacations get cut short or postponed when crises erupt.

  • sgs||

    "And the complaints about the confusion or lack of candor in describing his activities and whereabouts seem to be at least somewhat justified"

    Then what the fuck is the point of this stupid article?

  • SIV||

    Stoll establishing his progtard cred?

  • Henry the Twooth||

    "The famous definition of a diplomat, after all, is someone sent abroad to lie for his country, not someone who lies to his own country about what the Secretary of State is up to."

    I would be interested to know how it would be possible to tell the truth to 300,000,000+ Americans, but lie to the rest of the world.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Why am I supposed to give a shit about where Kerry spends his vacation time, even if it is while some shithole country that we shouldn't give a shit about is going through their second regime change in 2 years?

  • Russell||

    OK boat.

  • ||

    I just have no idea how these people have the time for activities like wind surfing. After all, they're the master central planners keeping our society going. I thought that would be an 80 hour a week job or something.

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