Kerry Rejects 'Premature Judgment About the Failure of Everything' in Obama's Foreign Policy

"But what was the plan to not have that happen, Senator? I didn't notice Congress racing to the barriers saying, 'We're going to, you know, we're going to do something,'" Kerry sniped. "…And guess what, Senator? We came up with a better solution -- to get all of [the chemical weapons] out by working through the diplomatic channel with Russia."

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), noting that 10,000 children have already died in Syria, stressed, "I still don't see a game plan to bring to justice those who have targeted innocent civilians for horrible outcomes, including the use of chemical weapons."

"Couldn't agree with you more, Senator, and all of those incidents are being chronicled and completely packaged, in a sense ready for that prosecution," Kerry responded.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told Kerry he was "about to hit the trifecta."

"Geneva II was a total collapse as I predicted to you that it would be. The only tangible result is that people who went to Geneva for the Free Syrian National Council, their relatives were kidnapped," he said of the administration's attempts to hold talks between Bashar Assad's regime and the opposition. "The Israeli-Palestinian talks, even though you may drag them out for a while, are finished. And I predict to you, even though we gave the Iranians the right to enrich, which is unbelievable, that those talks will collapse too."

"…On the issue of Ukraine, my hero, Teddy Roosevelt, used to say talk softly, but carry a big stick. What you're doing is talking strongly and carrying a very small stick -- in fact, a twig."

Kerry took issue with McCain's "premature judgment about the failure of everything."

"I guess it's pretty easy to lob those judgments around, but particularly well before the verdict is in on any of them," the secretary of State added. "…You know, the talks on Vietnam -- you know this better than anybody -- went on for how many years? Years. It took them a year to design the table to sit around."

McCain reminded Kerry that "facts are stubborn things, as Ronald Reagan used to say: Geneva 1, there are 50,000 dead. Geneva II, there was 100 and some thousand dead in Syria. Now there's 150,000 dead."

"And your view of what the Ukrainians need is vastly different from what the Ukrainians think they need, which is a sovereign right to try to defend themselves, which is something that we have done historically, helping people who are struggling against overwhelming odds," McCain added.

Kerry lit up with enthusiasm when his successor in the upper chamber, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), asked about progress on combatting climate change.

"We're moving beyond them at a pace that shows us bringing more coal-fired power plants online, more methane being released, which is 20 times more potent than carbon, which is the consequence of the warming that's already taking place," he said."…If the other guys are wrong, the people saying 'don't listen to it, what's the worst that can happen?' The worst that can happen is life as you know it on Earth is over."

But even when the dais was mostly empty at the end of the hearing, Menendez and Corker weren't letting Kerry go without parting words on the critical foreign policy issues being juggled by the White House.

"We have created an era of permissiveness; there's no question. And I don't think -- I don't see how you can debate that. I mean that scholars on both sides of the aisle understand that to be the fact, and facts are hard to overcome," Corker said. "…The steps that we took in Syria have affected us in Iran. They've affected us in the peninsula. They've affected us in Ukraine. China is watching us. It's affected us there."

Kerry argued that the administration is getting a bad rap over the red line.

"On Syria, where we hear this notion that somehow there was a red line and then it wasn't enforced, and somehow, you know, it's a sign of weakness. I beg to differ. You know, facts are stubborn things," Kerry said. "…The president made his decision and he was ready to use force, and we actually came up with a better solution, which is get all of the weapons out, all of them out, and that still leaves us with other options, folks."