Kerry: Clean Up At Home First

Incoming Secretary of State, Kerry called making democracy work at home the “antidote” to the hypothesis that the U.S. is in decline. Note that he did not dispute this hypothesis, which would have been the normal hot-air response of a politician but offered a strategy for fixing the problem…and it was a strategy of self-renewal, not one of conquest. More, it was a strategy that fits well with Hagel’s warnings about the dangers of war and Warren’s advocacy of combating domestic elite financial corruption.

With words that certainly sound like a critique of the Neo-Con “imperial America policy,” Kerry told home-state supporters:

The antidote to the current narrative, which is very much out there being pushed by our competitors …that America is in decline is to make our democracy work effectively here in the United States because we can be no stronger abroad than we are here at home [Masslive 1/31/13].

Just one little quote, perhaps, but it sounds far more promising than a delusional Rambo-esque call to battle stations. Americans can breathe a sigh of relief that no one, not Warren, Hagel, Kerry, nor Obama himself is landing any jets on aircraft carriers.  Just possibly, a country that has been deserted for more than a decade by an elite on a binge will finally be able to start cleaning up the trash covering the kitchen floor.

The new self-reflective tone will be tested quickly. Warren will need Obama’s support to get very far with reversing Washington’s protective attitude toward mortgage fraud. Hagel will need to tackle Pentagon budgetary obesity head-on and fast to make any real dent in the new “endless war” habit of both parties in Washington. And neither Tel Aviv nor Tehran is likely to give Kerry any slack. One gets the impression, if one is prone to see the glass as half full, that the groundwork for “change” is being carefully laid.

However, that would require Obama to fulfill a promise he has meticulously avoided for four years, and the public’s hopes for cleaning up financial corruption rest in the hands of a very lonely Elizabeth Warren, whom Obama appears to be marginalizing by appointing another representative of the super-rich as secretary of the treasury. Perhaps the man is a hero in disguise, but N.Y Attorney General Eric Schneiderman or S&L crisis clean-up man William Black would have been much more encouraging nominees. Along with weak confirmation performances by both Kerry and Hagel, Obama’s choice for Treasury makes it far from obvious that Obama has either the courage or the desire to pick the fight with the military-industrial-financial elite that will be required to “make our democracy work effectively.”


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