Kerry on Diaspora Vetoes

Matthew Yglesias reports a disturbing development:

I’m not 100% sure I got this right, since it was a bit confusing, but watching yesterday’s Meet The Press I’m pretty sure John Kerry explicitly endorsed the idea that the Jewish-American community should have a veto power over Israel policy while the Cuban-American community has a veto power over Cuba policy.

I TiVo’d MTP along with all the other Sunday shows, but never got around to watching it. (I saw the others.)

Using my intrepid research skills, I’ve located the program’s transcript and the relevant passages:

MR. RUSSERT: You also said in December that you would consider as presidential ambassadors to the Middle East President Clinton, but also former President Carter and Secretary of State Baker. You then met with Jewish leaders and said, “I will not send Carter or Baker.” Why?

SEN. KERRY: I think that what I was trying to talk about, Tim, was a kind of potential for bipartisanship as to how you might be able to approach putting a special envoy in place. The names obviously need to be acceptable to everybody within the community. You’ve got to do that as a matter of diplomacy. Subsequent to those names being floated, obviously, some people have different views about it.

[skip large segments of interview unrelated to research question]

MR. RUSSERT: We’re here in Florida and relations with Cuba are a very important issue. This is what John Kerry said in 2000 about that situation. And John Kerry, “who’s a member of the foreign relations committee said in an interview that a reevaluation of relations with Cuba was way overdue. We have a frozen, stalemated counterproductive policy that is not in humanitarian interests nor in our larger credibility interest in the region. There’s just a complete and total contradiction between the way we deal with China, the way we deal with Russia, the way we have been dealing with Cuba over the last several years. It speaks volumes about the problems in the current American electoral process. …The only reason we don’t reevaluate the policy is the politics of Florida.”

We don’t have an embargo on China. We don’t have an embargo on Russia. We have one on Cuba and what you’re suggesting is because of the power of the Cuban-American lobby, that’s why our policy’s in place.

[evasion and re-statement of question by Russert]

SEN. KERRY: Well, Tim, as you know, I led the effort with John McCain to try to open up Vietnam and we moved against many of those kinds of arguments. I think I know how to do this. But in the case of Cuba, there are a lot of different crosscurrents that are important to be sensitive to. What I have done is sat down with members of the community and listened, and I find that there is a willingness within the community to begin to think about other alternatives and options. I wouldn’t want to just announce a policy without sitting with people in the community, listening carefully, trying to build a consensus and see what we can do. But I…


It reads as iif Kerry is merely saying that, as a political matter, the domestic Jewish and Cuban lobbies are going to have a major impact on public policy. For reasons Matt addresses and others, I think that’s a bad idea. But it’s been the case for decades.

It’s also interesting that Kerry backed the Bush policy on Israel “Absolutely.” Whether out of honest agreement or political calculation, Kerry clearly thinks the hard line stance is the right way to go and wants no light between himself and Bush. That’s quite unusual. Usually, a candidate will try to find some nuanced difference.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark J says:

    Usually, a candidate will try to find some nuanced difference.

    Usually, yes. But when it comes to an issue where he risks angering Jews and the claims of antisemitism that come with that, it’s probably best to play it safe.

  2. Colorado Conservative says:

    I thought I had heard that as well and then I nodded off to sleep. Damn, but this guy is boring. His monotone never-ending replies should be taped and sold to insomniacs.