Kerry: The Failed Diplomat

John Kerry has made George Bush’s supposedly failed diplomacy his major campaign theme this election cycle. Kerry’s has trumpeted his long involvement in foreign relations as his main qualification for the Presidency. Now comes word that Kerry’s personal diplomacy couldn’t resolve a simple contract dispute between two of his own supporters, forcing him to cancel a campaign appearance:

Caught in a labor dispute between his hometown mayor and the city’s police and firefighters’ unions, Senator John Kerry sided Sunday with the unions. Mr. Kerry had planned to give a speech here on Monday morning to the United States Conference of Mayors.
But members of the city’s largest police union, who have been working without a contract for two years, along with the firefighters, who are also in contract talks, have been picketing Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the host of the conference, wherever he goes, and were set to do so Monday at the hotel where Mr. Kerry was scheduled to speak.
With each side hoping to press Mr. Kerry to embarrass the other, his schedule remained up in the air for more than 24 hours as he debated whether to antagonize a crucial Democratic supporter or a union local and its – not to mention his – allies in organized labor, a core Democratic constituency.
By 8 p.m. Sunday, despite what one participant described as “tedious” efforts to broker a solution, Mr. Kerry’s aides gave up hope that a deal could be reached to get the unions to suspend their picketing long enough for Mr. Kerry to attend the conference without having to cross the line.

This is but a preview, of course, of what will happen at the convention if the union action isn’t stopped by then, but that’s not really the story here. For one thing, the union has indicated that it will probably refrain from picketing the convention, as the union’s legislative agent, James Barry, said in response to the question: “If John Kerry respects our picket line tomorrow, I think we respect John Kerry.” The temptation may be too much to resist, though, as the police have been working for two years without a contract and will never have such leverage over the mayor again.
Speaking of the mayor, Thomas Menino serves as John Kerry’s co-chair for his Massachussetts re-election campaign, and he did not sound very happy about his leader’s decision yesterday. Earlier, he told reporters that leadership was about making decisions, and it looks like Menino may have hinted that Republican descriptions of Kerry as weak and vacillating may not be far off the mark:

For an ally, though, Mr. Menino also had some pointed words for Mr. Kerry, whose Republican opponents portray him as vacillating and indecisive, when he seemed to dare Mr. Kerry to rebuff a labor union.
“As a candidate, it’s about making decisions,” Mr. Menino said of Mr. Kerry, repeating a line he used often this weekend. “He has to make that decision. I’m not going to make that decision for him. There’s 250 mayors who walked through the lines. Mayors make those decisions every day of the year.”

Kerry’s inability to negotiate a temporary truce between two of his own supporters, as I said earlier, belies his self-promoted reputation for diplomacy. If Kerry can’t find common ground between a Democratic mayor serving on his campaign and a police union which endorsed him for President, how can anyone expect him to negotiate agreements between, say, France and the US on security matters? Pakistan and India? Hell, what about Nancy Pelosi and Denny Hastert?
It appears that Kerry’s talent for negotiation has been greatly exaggerated, which makes sense when you look at his legislative record. As has been noted before, Kerry has initiated a relatively paltry number of bills during his nineteen-year tenure in the Senate. This poor track record either shows a lack of interest in the actual work of legislation, or it demonstrates an inability to contruct the necessary coalitions across party lines to push legislation through.
Kerry may continue to vaunt his diplomacy, but for the moment, he’s not even fooling Thomas Menino. Why should he be able to fool anyone else?
UPDATE: Welcome to BOTW readers — hope you take a look around and come back often!
UPDATE II: The association of mayors didn’t go without trenchant political commentary — Governor Mitt Romney subbed for John Kerry, in a last-minute upgrade replacement:

An ally of President Bush, Romney has campaigned in recent weeks for the president’s re-election but has stayed out of the dispute between the police union and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a Democrat. The governor said he would speak to the group as a show of support for Menino.
“A mayor, a governor and a president have a responsibility for making tough decisions and balancing budgets. Senators don’t,” Romney said. “You always want to support labor and the efforts of labor … but our first responsibility is to the people.” …
Menino said the unions are undermining Kerry and that he was disappointed with Kerry’s decision. “I would think that he would come and talk to the mayors who are making a difference in America every day, who are on the front lines of the issues that face working people,” Menino said.

John Kerry — he even disappoints his campaign co-chairs.