John Kerry Breaks Hillary Clinton’s Travel Miles as SecState, Plus JK’s Inner Circle Album

Posted: 2:30 am EDT
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In November 2013, David Rohde, a columnist for Reuters, and a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize penned a lengthy piece for The Atlantic on How John Kerry Could End Up Outdoing Hillary Clinton. Below is an excerpt:

“… (If you ask long-serving diplomats—the vast majority of whom are politically liberal—to identify their favorite secretary, they will name Powell.) Before taking office, Kerry conducted long interviews with every living former secretary of state—Kissinger, George Shultz, Baker, Madeleine Albright, Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Clinton—and set out to model himself after Shultz, who, in six and a half years serving under Ronald Reagan, was seen as a combination of the two prototypes, both a great diplomat and a good manager. “Beyond going around doing things as secretary of state,” Shultz told me in an interview, “you have to recognize that you have managerial responsibilities.”
[…]
Richard Armitage, who served as Powell’s deputy secretary of state, praises Clinton but says she was poorly served by her aides. “My view is that she was pretty sheltered,” he told me. “They were not interpersonally pleasant, and they were very protective of her. You can get into a cocoon.”
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Kerry also works in a cocoon, albeit one of a different sort. Very quickly he earned a reputation in the State Department for being aloof, keeping to himself, and not bothering to read staff memos. Diplomats outside Kerry’s inner circle complain that they have little sense of his priorities or plans. One former aide told me Kerry is “lovably unapproachable.” Career State Department officials complain to journalists that, under Kerry’s leadership, power has become so centralized among the secretary and a small coterie of his aides that decision making in the building slows to a crawl during his frequent overseas trips. Others in the State Department say Kerry has a kind of diplomatic attention deficit disorder—he shifts from topic to topic, changes his schedule often, and fails to focus on long-term strategy. State Department employees say morale in the building is lower now than under Clinton, despite Kerry’s early diplomatic achievements.
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Colin Powell told me that before he became secretary of state in 2001, he received a letter from George Kennan, the famed foreign-policy thinker, then in his 90s. Kennan warned Powell about the dangers of traveling too much—of prioritizing activist diplomacy over providing the White House with solid foreign-policy analysis. “This office has in recent decades, in my view,” Kennan wrote, “been seriously misused and distorted.” Kennan urged Powell to minimize his travel and focus on advising the president. Powell gave a copy of Kennan’s letter to Kerry. So far, Kerry is not following the advice.

The Rohde piece was written slightly over two years ago. As Secretary Kerry winds up his tenure in the next 12-13 months, it is likely that somebody will revisit this topic again.  Meanwhile, it doesn’t look like his globetrotting days are going to let up anytime soon.  In late November, Secretary Kerry travelled to France, Belgium, Kosovo, Serbia, Cyprus, and Greece (November 30-December 4, 2015).  He came back briefly and is now off again, to Paris, from December 7-11, 2015 to attend the 21st UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP21).

Since assuming office in February 2013, Secretary Kerry has traveled 422 days. As of this writing, he has traveled  a total of 957,744 miles with visits to 77 countries according to state.gov. (Secretary Clinton covered 956,733 miles in her four years on the job. Condoleezza Rice’s record is 1.06 million miles in the air).

About that small coterie of aides, below is an album of sorts with some members of the Kerry inner circle in the last couple of years:

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with his chief of staff, David Wade, and State Department Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki before his airplane departs Moscow, Russia, on May 8, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with his chief of staff, David Wade, and State Department Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki before his airplane departs Moscow, Russia, on May 8, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

9:59 p.m., September 11, 2013 - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits in the aisle of his Air Force jet as he chats with, from left, Executive Secretary John Bass, Deputy Chief of Staff Jonathan Finer, Counselor to the National Security Advisor Salman Ahmed, and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman about upcoming negotiations with Russian officials focused on eliminating Syrian chemical weapons. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

9:59 p.m., September 11, 2013 – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits in the aisle of his Air Force jet as he chats with, from left, Executive Secretary John Bass, Deputy Chief of Staff Jonathan Finer, Counselor to the National Security Advisor Salman Ahmed, and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman about upcoming negotiations with Russian officials focused on eliminating Syrian chemical weapons. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepares with his Deputy Chief of Staff, William C. Danvers, for a joint press availability in Istanbul, Turkey, April 7, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prepares with his Deputy Chief of Staff, William C. Danvers, for a joint press availability in Istanbul, Turkey, April 7, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah discuss the Secretary’s upcoming trip to Africa during a meeting at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on April 25, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah discuss the Secretary’s upcoming trip to Africa during a meeting at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on April 25, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and State Department Executive Assistant Jennifer Davis, bangs the gavel to begin a meeting of more than 60 anti-ISIL coalition parties held on December 3, 2014, at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. [State Department photo /Public Domain]

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leads his staff in an airborne rendition of “Happy Birthday” on April 15, 2015, as they celebrate the birthday of and final trip for State Department Executive Director Kathleen Hill, a career Foreign Service Officer departing to a new assignment after organizing Secretary’s visit to Lubeck, Germany, and his 59 preceding international trips across 765,000 miles since he assumed office in February 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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State Department Chief of Staff Jon Finer speaks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on July 29, 2015, before he joined U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in testifying about the Iranian nuclear deal before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and a group of advisers – State Department Executive Assistant Lisa Kenna, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Egypt and Maghreb Affairs John Desrocher, and Chief of StaffJon Finer – sit with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain and his advisers on March 14, 2015, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, at the outset of a bilateral meeting amid an Egyptian development conference. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chats with State Department Chief of Staff Jon Finer and Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Frank Lowenstein before addressing reporters on November 24, 2015, following his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the Muqata’a Presidential Compound in Ramallah, West Bank. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Senior Aide Jason Meininger laugh as bar patrons at the Navigator Inn invite the Secretary in for a drink as he walked through Iqaluit, Canada, just below the Arctic Circle, after the United States assumed a two-year chairmanship of the body during a meeting of its eight member nations and seven Permanent Representatives on April 24, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Sullivan, walks through the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, after addressing members of the bilateral Mission, UNESCO, USOECD and their families on November 17, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Tom Sullivan, walks through the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, after addressing members of the bilateral Mission, UNESCO, USOECD and their families on November 17, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Jonathan Finer and Jennifer Park, @JohnKerry's Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff.

Ambassador to Seoul Mark Lippert with Jonathan Finer and Jennifer Park Stout, @JohnKerry’s Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff. May 17, 2015 via Twitter

 

And let’s not forget Ben F. Kerry, Secretary Kerry’s best friend in Washington, D.C. who apparently performs ribbon-cutting events on occasion, and all he gets is an extra homemade kibble.

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State Dept to Release 5,000 Pages to Benghazi Panel, No Hearing With Kerry Top Aide For Now

Posted: 12:40  am EDT
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On July 22, The Hill reported that the Gowdy committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attacks announced it has called on one of Secretary of State John Kerry’s top aides to appear this week. The panel apparently wanted Jon Finer, Kerry’s chief of staff, to appear on July 29th to discuss the State Department’s compliance with the panel’s investigation.

Late on July 27, The Hill reported that the State Department has agreed to release 5,000 pages of documents to the House Select Committee on Benghazi tomorrow, July 28. This document release temporarily cancels Mr. Finer’s appearance before the panel but chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) has not ruled out any future appearance.

The new document dump comes after a standoff between the State Department and the House panel, which had previously ordered a top aide to Secretary of State John Kerry to testify on Wednesday.

After the department committed to releasing the 5,000 new pages to the committee, the hearing with that aide — Kerry’s chief of staff, Jon Finer — will be postponed until after Kerry has completed a marathon string of briefings and hearings to sell the international nuclear deal with Iran.
[…]
“If the State Department does not fulfill this production, or if production continues to be anemic and underwhelming, we will move forward with scheduling a compliance hearing before the committee,” he added.

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Photo of the Day: Meet John Kerry’s Top Lieutenants

Posted: 2:43 am EDT
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Who’s missing from the picture? Tom Sullivan.  He was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff on April 20, 2015 but his bio was not up at state.gov when we blogged about these appointments in May. The official bio is now up:

Tom Sullivan serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the U.S. Department of State. Most recently, he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs.

Prior to joining the Department of State in August 2012, he worked for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar from 2007-2012, serving as her Deputy Chief of Staff.

He previously worked at the Council on Foreign Relations as a Research Associate to President Emeritus Leslie Gelb from 2003-2005.

A native of Minneapolis, MN, Tom holds a M.A. in International Affairs from the University of Chicago and a B.A. from Yale University.

Related post:
Who’s Running Foggy Bottom? You Get Three Guesses. Wait, Four Guesses?

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Who’s Running Foggy Bottom? You Get Three Guesses. Wait, Four Guesses?

Posted: 2:27 am EDT
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In March, the State Department’s Chief of Staff David Wade left his post to start an adventure in parenthood. Secretary Kerry released a statement on his departure.

 

Two days later, Jonathan Finer was officially appointed as Chief of Staff. He previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.

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The Travels With Secretary Kerry page indicates that he has travelled to 59 countries, logging 769,650 miles, and 339 travel days. So far, his total flight time is 1,671.18 hours or about 2.5 months spent flying around the world.

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What’s this question about who’s running Foggy Bottom?

There’s the Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken as Foggy Bottom’s stay-at-home dad. Wait, he’s often traveling, too.  As Secretary Kerry was on his way to Africa, D/Secretary Blinken was in Mexico:

But there’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D/MR) Heather Higginbottom as Foggy Bottom’s stay-at-home mom, right? We thought that’s the main reason why the State Department asked for a second deputy, so one is always home to mind the shop. But as Number #1 was on his way to Africa and Number #2 was in Mexico, D/MR Higginbottom was in Paris to mark the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) fourth annual International Jazz Day:

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Foreign Policy’s John Hudson reported recently that when “Kerry crisscrossed the globe to various diplomatic hotspots during the first two years of his tenure, Wade rarely left Washington and instead consumed himself with the personnel and management decisions that go along with running a massive bureaucracy.”  A State Department official also told FP that “Finer, will continue to travel with the secretary, albeit less frequently than in his previous role as deputy chief of staff.”

That’s raised concerns among some rank-and-file diplomats that no single point person will fully fill the role of Wade, leaving Foggy Bottom without a stay-at-home dad to make important decisions while Kerry’s abroad.

Hold it. No need to worry. More from FP:

A new key change, which hasn’t been previously reported, is Kerry’s appointment of two deputy chiefs of staff to assist Finer at home and abroad.

Tom Sullivan, the younger brother of Hillary Clinton’s loyal foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan, became the new deputy chief of staff for policy this month. Formerly serving as a liaison between the State Department and Congress, Sullivan will advise Kerry on policy and join him on most of his foreign travel. That will allow Finer to remain in Washington more often.

Still, Finer, unlike Wade, will still play a significant role in traveling with the secretary and aiding his policy decisions — including on a trip this week to Africa and South Asia, according to one official.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Stout, formerly the chief of staff to the undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, has been named deputy chief of staff for management. In that role, Stout will assist Finer in his day-to-day management issues in Washington.

“We felt that two deputy chiefs of staff was the best way to structure our front office to meet the big challenges and opportunities of the last two years, and to advance the secretary’s priorities on the road and in the building,” said a senior State Department official.
[…]
“Smart move in my view,” said Ilan Goldenberg, who recently left the State Department as a member of the Israel-Palestine negotiating team.

Traditionally, Goldenberg said, the deputy chief of staff has traveled with the secretary and been a key policy advisor. Meanwhile, the chief of staff runs the politics, messaging, and internal management of the department, he said.

The new set-up, Goldenberg said, will delegate much of the internal dealings to the deputy. That will free the chief of staff to “do more big picture policy instead of constantly being forced to deal with tough management questions,” he added.

Sigh. Everyone is looking at doing policy.

Here are the new folks reportedly running Foggy Bottom.

Jonathan Finer| Chief of Staff
Term of Appointment: 03/08/2015 to present

Jon Finer is Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of State, where he previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. He previously worked for four years at the White House, most recently as Senior Advisor to Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken. Before that he was Special Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa and Foreign Policy Speechwriter for Vice President Joseph R. Biden. He joined the Obama Administration in 2009 as a White House Fellow, assigned to the Office of the White House Chief of Staff and the National Security Council Staff.

Prior to entering government service, Jon was a foreign and national correspondent at The Washington Post, where he reported from more than 20 countries and spent 18 months covering the war in Iraq, embedding with the U.S. Marines during the 2003 invasion and based in Baghdad in 2005-2006. He also covered conflicts in Gaza (2009), Russia/Georgia (2008) and Israel/Lebanon (2006); the 2004 U.S. Presidential campaign; and the 2004 Major League Baseball playoffs.

Before the Washington Post, Jon spent a year in Hong Kong as a Henry Luce Foundation Scholar, working as a reporter and editor at the Far Eastern Economic Review. He has a law degree from Yale, where he co-founded the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project; an M.Phil. in international relations from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and an undergraduate degree from Harvard. He was born and raised in Norwich, Vermont.

Jennifer Park Stout | Deputy Chief of Staff
Term of Appointment: 03/11/2015 to present (see YouTube Video via US Embassy New Zealand)

Jennifer Park Stout serves as Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Jennifer has served in a number of capacities both in and out of government. Most recently, Jennifer was Chief of Staff to Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel.  Prior to that, she was Special Assistant to the President in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.

From 2012 to 2013 as Vice President of International Government Relations for MetLife, Jennifer supported government and industry relations and international business segments in the Asia Pacific. From 2010 to 2012, she was a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau at the State Department, leading the bureau’s public affairs and public diplomacy strategy.

Previously Jennifer was Senior Advisor and Director of Senate Affairs in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs at the State Department and spent 11 years on Capitol Hill, working as a legislative aide to then-Senator Joseph Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Senator Jim Webb, and Representative James Moran.

Jennifer holds a M.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University and a B.A. from James Madison University.

Thomas D. Sullivan |Deputy Chief of Staff
Term of Appointment: ???
Mr. Sullivan does not appear to have an online bio at state.gov.  He is currently listed as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.

According to FP,  Tom Sullivan is “the younger brother of Hillary Clinton’s loyal foreign policy adviser” Jake Sullivan.  The older brother previously served as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department and also as deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.   One other interesting connection here: like Jake Sullivan, the new Chief of Staff Jon Finer has a law degree from Yale.  Both have a M.Phil. from Oxford, and both were Rhodes Scholars.

Back to the younger brother —  Senator Amy Klobuchar, the  senior Senator from Minnesota gave a Tribute to Tom Sullivan during the 112th Congress on the occasion of his departure from the Senate and his move to the State Department.

Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the exceptional leadership and dedication of my deputy chief of staff Tom Sullivan, who has been with me since my first days in the Senate and will soon be leaving to accept a senior adviser role at the U.S. State Department.

To say that Tom will be missed would be an understatement. Over the last 6 years, he has distinguished himself as an invaluable member of my staff, rising through the ranks and filling many key roles along the way. He started out as a legislative assistant, but it wasn’t long before he was serving as my deputy legislative director and, eventually, my deputy chief of staff.

In many ways you could call Tom the nerve center of my office–the utility player who can step in and perform virtually any task that is asked of him, regardless of whether it is press strategy or scheduling or legislative analysis. No policy was ever too complex for him, no assignment too daunting, no challenge too thorny.

Tom’s versatility is especially apparent in his knowledge of policy, which spans the full spectrum of State and Federal issues. He came to my office with a background in foreign relations but quickly became an expert in everything from energy to technology to health care, mastering and remembering even the most minute of details without losing sight of the forest for the trees. That is a rare talent, and Tom has it in spades.

 Mr. President, as you know, Senate offices often become like their own little family units. In the last 6 years, Tom Sullivan has become an esteemed member of the Klobuchar family, and he will be sorely missed–not just for his skill and expertise but for his composure, kindness, and unflappable good nature. We wish Tom well in his new position at the State Department and know that we can expect to see great things from him as he begins a new and exciting journey in public service.

We should note that the new COS Jon Finer is currently traveling with Secretary Kerry on his trip to Sri Lanka, Kenya and Djibouti.

Now we’re just waiting for the announcement of four new special assistants  assisting the two newly appointed deputy chief of staff.

So serious question. Who’s interested in addressing the “tough management questions” and fixing whatever is broken in the building? Anyone?

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