The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Vienna (AFP) – Globe-trotting top U.S. diplomat John Kerry was left hoofing it back on a commercial flight from Vienna Thursday, after his ageing Air Force plane broke down for the fourth time this year.

After marathon talks on Iran’s nuclear program in the Austrian capital Wednesday, Kerry’s party of more than 40 State Department staff and journalists were checking out of their hotel rooms before dawn Thursday when the news came that his Boeing 757 needed unspecified repairs — again.

Since taking up his post in February 2013, Kerry has flown some 566,000 miles around the globe and visited 55 countries — many of them multiple times — spending some 249 days on the road.

He’s well on his way to overtaking his predecessor Hillary Clinton who flew just short of a million miles in her four years in office, visiting a record 112 countries.

But despite a normally well-planned, slick logistical operation to move Kerry and his posse of staff, security agents and the travelling press as he jumps from country to country, he has been beset this year by a frustrating number of glitches.

In August, the U.S. secretary of state was forced to take a commercial nine-hour flight back to Washington from Hawaii when the plane suffered electrical problems after a trip which had seen him literally fly around the globe.

Earlier this year, a new transponder had to be flown from the United States to Switzerland when in the middle of international talks on the Syrian conflict in January his aircraft was grounded.

And in London in March, a similar mechanical problem was hastily fixed — after a few nerve-wrecking hours which saw his party anxiously checking for flights home.

Kerry was Thursday flying back from a whirlwind six-day trip which saw him first travel to Cairo for an international donor’s conference for Gaza, and then head to Paris for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

He had arrived in Vienna early Wednesday and went straight into talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton on Iran’s nuclear program.

Zarif chuckled Thursday when he heard Kerry’s plane was grounded due to apparent mechanical issues. “So it is not just our planes,” he told the online news site al-Monitor.

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

Want more political news and analysis? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, and President Joe Biden during 2020 presidential debate

I look at September 2019 as a month where I missed something. We began with a trip to New York to do Seth Meyers’s and Dr. Oz’s shows. Why would we go on The Dr. Oz Show? For the same reason we had gone on Joe Rogan’s podcast in August: We could reach a vast audience that wasn’t paying attention to the standard political media. On Dr. Oz, Bernie could talk about Medicare for All and his own physical fitness. While at the time we believed Bernie was uncommonly healthy for his age, he was still 78. Questions would be raised related to his age, and we needed to begin building up the case that he was completely healthy and fit. It turned out to be a spectacular interview, ending with the two of them playing basketball on a makeshift court in the studio. Bernie appeared to be on top of the world.

Yet in retrospect, I should have seen Bernie growing more fatigued. After New York, with the school year starting, we did a series of rallies at colleges and universities in Iowa; this was the kickoff of our campus organizing program in the state. We would then fly to Colorado for a large rally in Denver before heading to Boulder to prep for the third debate, to take place in Houston on September 12. In Iowa, Bernie’s voice was a little hoarse. After the rally in Denver, he had completely blown it out. He sounded terrible.

Keep reading... Show less

Rep. James Clyburn

When I interviewed House Majority Whip James Clyburn in 2014 about his memoir Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black, the South Carolina Democrat was confident in America’s ability to find its way, no matter how extreme the political swings might appear at any given time.

“The country from its inception is like the pendulum on a clock,” the congressman told me. “It goes back and forward. It tops out to the right and starts back to the left — it tops out to the left and starts back to the right.” And remember, he said, it “spends twice as much time in the center.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}