Prevailing wisdom when traveling abroad, if you happen to be an American, is to blend with the crowd. "Try not to wear conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money," advises Lonely Planet. Leave the Yankees ballcap at home and when in Europe, dress dark. John Kerry may have taken his Brooks Brothers tie and his New England accent to Switzerland, but not to worry: No one mistook him for an American.
The 2004 Democratic presidential candidate fielded questions at the Davos World Economic Forum from a platform Jan. 27 where he was seated next to former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. Asked if the United States could have done more to engage Iran, he said: "We have a crisis of confidence in the Middle East-in the world, really. I've never seen our country as isolated, as much a sort of international pariah for a number of reasons as it is today." To improve U.S. diplomacy, he said, "You have to do it in a context of the reality, not your lens but the reality of those other cultures and histories."
Kerry criticized what he called the "unfortunate habit" of Americans to see the world "exclusively through an American lens."
How did we get to this crisis? "When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don't advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy," Kerry said.
Kerry is nothing if not consistent in his inconsistencies. The same John Kerry who voted to authorize the Iraq war and now opposes it would have the international set believe he favors Kyoto even though he voted in 1997 for the Senate resolution declaring that the United States should not be a signatory to it.
But Kerry's inconsistencies are not news. Neither is his Bush-bashing. And the World Economic Forum is nothing if not a circus tent for global celebrities and geopoliticos to make grandiose statements. Where Kerry's comments are hardest to swallow is among the student demonstrators in Tehran, or the fresh-faced paratroopers going door-to-door in Sadr City, or the shopkeepers along Haifa Street in Baghdad. They're looking for hope and courage. And they thought the Democrats were the party of the little people.