Dear Congress: You Are Not Allowed to Make Fun of Secretary Kerry’s Asia Pivot Shirts

— By Domani Spero

The cancellation of President Obama’s trip to Asia lent to hyperventilating descriptions about the president’s “Asia Pivot” — “falters,” “in shambles,” “goes pffft,” “in jeopardy” and such.

Well, frankly, not sure where that is going. But we could certainly imagine the political hay that would have been expended over POTUS trip to Asia during a government shutdown.

In any case, Secretary Kerry took the trip instead.

Dear Congress, this is what happened to America in Bali, Indonesia.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for a photo before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Official Dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on October 7, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for a photo before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Official Dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on October 7, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

So you’re not allowed to make fun of that shirt or any other shirts, kapish?

We actually think that purple batik suits him well.  Had they asked him to put on a gray one, he would have worn it too, even if he would have looked wash out in it.  Because he’s our top diplomat. Yes, diplomats are known to wear (and eat) things that their compatriots often find strange or weird. (See Round-Up: Headgears in the Foreign Service).

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dressed in a traditional batik shirt, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the two join other heads of delegation for a family photo before the APEC Leaders Dinner on October 7, 2013. in Bali, Indonesia. [State Department photo / Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dressed in a traditional batik shirt, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the two join other heads of delegation for a family photo before the APEC Leaders Dinner on October 7, 2013. in Bali, Indonesia. [State Department photo / Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow foreign ministers, all clad in batik shirts favored in Brunei, enter a gala dinner at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow foreign ministers, all clad in batik shirts favored in Brunei, enter a gala dinner at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with other regional heads of state and leaders of delegation before the start of a dinner and cultural program at the ASEAN Summit meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on October 9, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with other regional heads of state and leaders of delegation before the start of a dinner and cultural program at the ASEAN Summit meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on October 9, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

These are way tamer in comparison to what President Bush had to wear during his tenure.

Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Nari caused the cancellation of Secretary Kerry’s trip to the Philippines, so we are missing Secretary Kerry wearing the country’s famous Barong Tagalog.

Anyhow, we understand that Australia continues to host annual six-month training deployments of US Marines to its base in the Northern Territory. Australia’s Courier News reports today that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised the necessary infrastructure will be put in place to accommodate the expected presence of a 1000 U.S. Marines set to train there next year. The government is preparing to construct additional accommodations at two bases in Darwin.

So there’s that.

Then we heard that we are helping the Philippines develop Oyster Bay, a postcard-perfect cove on Palawan Island into a port for naval frigates and eventually for American warships?  All, of course, overlooking the disputed South China Sea.  But given all that’s happening in Washington, D.C….

No wonder Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the later’s 61st birthday “quaffing vodka and wolfing down cake”:

“It was 11:00 pm. I offered our Chinese friends to raise a shot of vodka,” Mr Putin said, according to Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS.

“They did not refuse, so we did just that.” As for the cake: “We wolfed it down successfully”. Needless to say, Mr Putin described his meeting with Mr Xi as “very warm” and “friendly”.

We can’t say if Secretary Kerry was in attendance for that “quaffing” and “wolfing” event.

Meanwhile, back in Foggy Bottom:  The East Asia Pacific bureau has six deputy assistant secretaries, twice as many as in 2004, and a deputy assistant secretary-level U.S. senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. State/OIG reports that “the bureau needs to streamline front office staffing” — top heavy structure for the second smallest regional bureau in the house needs fixing.  Why? Because as in other bureaus, “the proliferation of DASes has diminished the role of office directors and reduced responsibility at every level.” Also this:

The administration’s rebalance toward Asia has not been matched by additional financial or human resources. A Congressional Research Service memorandum notes that “[new] initiatives have not, however, been accompanied by a significant increase in the State Department or USAID’s programmatic resources devoted to East Asia.” Foreign assistance to the region in FY 2013 is 19 percent below the FY 2010 peak. U.S. military resources for the region have increased, but sequestration may impact future plans.

Folks, somewhere, some heads of state are laughing their heads off.

👀

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Ambassador Bleich’s Close Encounter with the Croc Kind in Australia’s Northern Territory

The last time we featured our man in Australia in this blog was in our election night round up last November. (see Election Night 2012 Roundup — What a Party!).  This week, Ambassador Bleich made quite a stir in cyberverse with an FB post on Stopping the Game of Clones timed for the 17th annual UN World Book and Copyright Day.

Wired.com wades in with “Tyrion Lannister would not give a shit” (of course!) in U.S. Ambassador Calls for End to Game of Thrones Torrenting: ‘Tyrion Will Thank You’.  Over in the ambo’s FB page, there is an ongoing vigorous discussion whether it should be called stealing or not. It looks like a bunch of people there are real serious about their GOT.

Anyhow, we thought we’d check what else Ambassador Bleich is doing.  Don’t you think this photo below is just pretty wild?  That’s Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich who posted that “the cage of death is actually pretty fun.” Compared to his Facebook page, this looks almost peaceful, despite that gigantic snout.

Ambassador Bleich in a face-to-face croc encounter from the “Cage of Death” at Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Australia (photo via Amb Bleich/FB)

The encounter with the croc kind occurred in Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia earlier this week during  a trip to welcome the arrival of  Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine battalion from Hawaii for training in country.

Quick excerpt from Ambassador Bleich’s FB post:

I spent the past several days in the Northern Territory preparing for the next rotation of U.S. Marines to arrive in Darwin to train with their Australian mates. Each time, I come back to Darwin, I’m reminded of the genuine kindness and hospitality of Territorians. Part of the Marines’ reason for training in Darwin is the ability of our combined forces to practice expeditionary exercises in a large uninhabited training area. But a big part of the attraction is about the people. Our Marines feel truly welcome in Darwin. 
[…] 
By the time I welcomed the Marines onto the tarmac in Darwin last night, I was able to give them three pieces of practical advice: 1) don’t step in any water deeper than your ankle; 2) never pass up a conversation with a Darwinian; and 3) the “cage of death” is actually pretty fun. (See photos!) Welcome Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine. We’re all glad you’re here. 

Read in full here.  Sky News covered the military rotation here: http://goo.gl/Orz8g and says that the 200 Marines on training in Darwin is the second rotation in a five year program.  Next year there will be 1100 Marines and  eventually 2500 on six month rotations.
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