Secretary of State John Kerry was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program today, and he was asked about the current presidential election. I’m paraphrasing (video’s not up yet, as far as I can tell), but he responded that it’s embarrassing, that this is what he hears from abroad.
I think we can all agree that a lot of what comes out of candidate Donald Trump’s mouth is embarrassing. For him.
But the hurly-burly of American democracy, of the election of a a president, is not embarrassing. It’s something our top ambassador to the world — the Secretary of State — should defend passionately, vigorously. The response to any sniffing condescension by a foreign leader about our candidates’ rhetoric should be: Darn straight it’s raucous. Darn straight it’s wild. Darn straight it’s sometimes not elegant. But we’ve been at this for more than 200 years, and we’ve managed to do a lot of good in the world due to the ultimate wisdom of the American people when they go into the voting booth.
What’s mind boggling is that Secretary Kerry is embarrassed by our campaign season, but not by this:
I mean, c’mon, man. You can be a James Taylor fan (I’m not) and still recognize this was not his best performance. His voice wavered, he was stuck looking at his guitar fingering the whole time as if desperately trying to remember the chords, and, frankly, the selection itself presented an awkward contrast to how unfriendly the US was in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, not sending a high-ranking leader to the solidarity march in which 40 other world leaders joined.
Besides, if you’re trying to make up for shunning the big unity moment on the world stage, is James Taylor the best the US has to offer (again, apologies to his fans)? We have classical artists galore, as well as rock, country, and pop stars with followings around the globe. And Secretary Kerry chose James Taylor as our musical ambassador, delivering a message as weak and tepid as the one the president delivered after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
So, yes, Secretary Kerry should be embarrassed. But not about our elections.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.