Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday for promoting “a diplomatic solution to the problem caused by the Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime.
Translation? Kerry thanked Putin for pulling his fat out of the fire for a problem caused by President Barack Obama’s indecision.
On Sept. 9, Kerry threw out an off-the-cuff remark about Syria turning over all its chemical weapon stockpiles. The administration immediately cleared up any question that it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. The State Department called Kerry’s comment “rhetorical,” and the White House referred to it as “hypothetical.” The media picked up on this back-pedaling right away, with The New York Times calling it “an offhand proposal,” CNS News reported.
In an exercise in damage control, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki fired off an email to the press making it clear Kerry had been ”making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Assad turning over chemical weapons he has denied using.”
Surprise! The Russians apparently took Kerry’s statement seriously. CNS reported:
Yet, within five days, in a remarkable turn of events, Kerry was thanking Russia’s president for taking the proposal up and making it a reality.
“I want to thank President Putin for his willingness to pick up on the possibility of negotiating an end to Syrian weapons of mass destruction,” Kerry said today in Geneva, where along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov he announced a deal to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapon’s stocks.
At the joint press conference Saturday, a reporter asked Kerry: “Sir, just five days ago in London, when you first floated this idea publicly, you seemed to dismiss it at the time by saying Assad would never do it and, quote, ‘It can’t be done, obviously.’ My question, sir, is how did the impossible suddenly become possible?”
Kerry’s answer made it clear that he now considered his remarks pre-planned and resolute. His gaffe had miraculously become a great moment in statesmanship.
“I purposefully made the statements that I made in London, and I did indeed say it was impossible and he won’t do it, even as I hoped it would be possible and wanted him to do it,” Kerry said. “And the language of diplomacy sometimes requires that you put things to the test, and we did.”
The White House has since picked up on this new theme. Washington Post White House correspondent Philip Rucker tweeted this remark Vice President Joe Biden made at an Iowa steak fry Sunday:
Biden in Iowa: “I think John Kerry has been one of the best secretaries of state so far in the history of the United States of America.”
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) September 15, 2013
Last week, the Russians transformed Kerry into an historical hero. At the same time, they solved the Syrian problem Obama created with his own Hamlet-like vacillation, exacerbated by his own offhand “red line” remark, made a year ago in the heat of a presidential campaign.
Is America great or what?