Niagara Gazette

June 16, 2013

SINGER: Two who are right for the job

By B.B. Singer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — What a happy occurrence that on his second try to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, President Obama called on John Kerry for this demanding position in government. Sometimes you have to be lucky, and the U.S. certainly was in this choice.

During the brief time he has occupied the post, Mr. Kerry has radiated more authority with other powers, and done more to get off the dime via diplomacy, especially by opening out to the Russians concerning the quagmire of Syrian civil war, than Ms. Clinton did — or apparently, could do. Will authentic peace talks be possible for Syria? Everything conspires against them–Assad wanting badly to retain power, rebels (having lost so many family members and friends) wanting to keep the revolt going, certain Middle East powers throwing arms into the fray–and yet, Kerry seems to have created at least the possibility of a resolution to the conflict, however bad the odds.

Of course his predecessor, Ms. Clinton, is a very bright and accomplished person in her own right — no question. She globetrotted as extensively as any secretary of state ever did. But Kerry seems to be taken more seriously abroad, and seems emphatically less of a ditherer when it comes to foreign policy. (And by the way, I’m not referring obliquely to the Benghazi tragedy that occurred on Ms. Clinton’s watch. Nor am I referring to more trivial matters, such as her constantly changing hair styles, the taints she might still be daubed with stemming from her husband’s presidency, etc. I am simply referring to her record as secretary of state.)

Another John, Senator McCain, has also done some globetrotting of late, including into an ultra-dangerous Syria, in order to discuss with rebels there what might be done to alter a lethal, mudstuck dynamic. He seems more openly pro-rebel than Kerry, but both also seem aware of how interventions from abroad can induce a drop from frying pans into the proverbial fire, as has somewhat been the case in a now more Islamicized Egypt, where the Obama administration dived in perhaps too blithely. As they say: Don’t ask–besides Egypt, think of the Shah of Iran’s fall back in the ‘70s — you may get! I.e., something worse...

Whatever else one may say about Senator McCain (he’s too wishy-washy or moderate on this or that issue, he has a temper, etc.), the man is undeniably forthright, and has undeniable courage. Speaking of courage, his resume in Vietnam pulls rank on almost all of us, and he could easily have rested on laurels and not continued at his age to care as much as he does about sufferings that might be mitigated in this brutal world of ours. His latest questions about female recruitment into the army show yet again that he isn’t afraid to make waves, elude the weight of conventional wisdom and political correctness, and think outside the box.

These two public figures — Kerry and McCain — were of course marked as well by the insanely protracted exigencies of presidential campaigns. And both are authentic members of an old, and now vanishing American elite. They both look and act the part with earned plausibility.

Both are graying, mature warhorses, and on the surface, each has seen better days. However, both are still in the game, thankfully so, and still trying with intelligence, discipline, flair, and a certain bravery to make a positive difference by their service. Of course they are far from identical — McCain so much identified with the Arizona he represents, while Kerry seems much more Eastern and cosmopolitan. I know as well that certain veterans would distinguish them carefully simply concerning their war records.

But they are right for their current roles, and among the best now available in such demanding positions. In addition to Hillary, might I be making invidious comparisons here to such as New York Senator Charles Schumer? I don’t see why I should. As the Beatles once said, “we’re all doing what we can,” and in that regard both Secretary of State Kerry and Senator McCain are doing plenty.

B. B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.