Secretary of State John Kerry told the Center for American Progress on Thursday that dignitaries from other countries teased him about not being able to pick up the check during the partial government shutdown.
“And what we do in Washington matters deeply to them. And that’s why a self-inflicted wound, like the shutdown that we just endured, can never happen again,” Kerry said to applause at the liberal think tank’s 10th anniversary conference.
“I will tell you, apart from the jokes that some of the summits that I went to about whether because we weren’t being paid, one country or another could buy our meals, there were real consequences to our not being there,” he said. “…Now let me underscore that none of what occurred is irreparable or irreversible and the strength of our principles and the strength of our people are still the envy of the world. But being a responsible democracy requires that we don’t walk ourselves to the brink every opportunity we get – that we don’t play games with our credit rating or our credibility.”
Hellbent on forging a Middle East peace agreement, Kerry suggested that the shutdown and close proximity to the debt limit affected the Obama administration’s credibility in the region.
“And it has entered into the calculation of leaders. As we negotiate with Iran, as we negotiate with the Middle East peace process in Israel, can we be counted on? Will the Congress come through? Can the President make an agreement which will be held?” he said. “Believe me: The shutdown, and the dysfunction, and the simplistic dialogue that came with it, didn’t impress anyone about the power of America’s example.”
“…The simple fact is that the shutdown created temporary but real consequences in our ability to work with our partners and pursue our interests abroad. The shutdown didn’t just shutter the World War II Memorial, as unfortunate as that was – it stunted our ability to promote the principles and values that our veterans sacrificed for. The shutdown didn’t just shutter the Statue of Liberty – it temporarily closed the doors to refugees and students who were seeking visas to learn here and to contribute to our economy. The shutdown delayed security aid to Israel, one of our closest allies, obviously, and a critical democracy in a region that’s undergoing tremendous upheaval. Why would in common sense, why would you want to do that? The shutdown sent hardworking public servants home, including officials whose job is to enforce the sanctions against Iran – sanctions that actually helped to create the pressure that have brought us to this moment of cautious possibility in the region.”
Kerry argued that this coupled with the next looming budget and debt ceiling deadline “should force us to consider in the weeks and months ahead what the world will look like if America is less present and less credible.”
“Make no mistake, the greatest danger to America doesn’t come from a rising rival. It comes from the damage that we’re capable of doing by our own dysfunction and the risks that will arise in a world that may see restrained or limited American leadership as a result,” he said.
“…The world watches us, but I’m telling you, I can feel it. I hear it. The world will not wait for us. The shutdown is now behind us, but the answers to many of the same questions still stare us in the face and await us. In the weeks and months to come, we need our conversation to be worthy of the confidence and trust of the American people, and recognize it is part and parcel of the power of America’s example in the world.”