Advice to the Next Secretary of State: Stay Home #Tillerson

Posted: 1:13 am ET
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Back in 2013, when Secretary Kerry was on his first trip overseas, D.B. Des Roches, an associate professor at the Near East South Asia Institute for Strategic Studies published a commentary about Secretary Kerry’s trip and the current ‘success’ metric.

Most recent secretaries have considered travel to be the measure of their terms. When Hillary Clinton returned to work from hospitalization, her staff gave her a football jersey with “112” on it – reflecting the number of countries she had visited. Republicans retorted that Condoleezza Rice still held the record for most miles logged.
[….]
This focus on secretary of state travel as a measure of dedication, efficiency and competence is dysfunctional. We should decide, as Mr. Kerry’s first trip (to Europe and the Middle East) gets underway, to abandon this harmful metric and evaluate diplomacy in a way that acknowledges its complexity.

Read more: Secretary of State Scorecard: Work Done Not Miles Flown, Please.

The writer made some excellent points, of course, and everybody paid attention.

Secretary Kerry has now traveled to 91 countries, logging in 1,395,606 miles, 588 travel days and 2,995.94 hours of total flight time as of this writing. It’s only a matter of time before somebody will have a compare/contrast infographic of the secretaries of state’s travel records from Kissinger to Kerry.

Recently, Gerald M. Fierstein — who was President Obama’s Ambassador to Yemen from 2010 to 2013 and who worked under Secretary Kerry until his retirement in 2016 — penned a similar piece urging the next secretary of state to well, “stay home.” Ambassador Fierstein also points to a most consequential cost when the secretary of state is often on the road.  Excerpt via Reuters:

As President Barack Obama’s tenure draws to a close, Washington is turning its attention to one of its silliest traditions: toting up the travel statistics of the outgoing secretary of state, as if miles traveled correlated to diplomatic achievement.

In his four years as secretary of state, John Kerry has thus far (he still has six weeks left) traveled over 1.3 million miles and spent 564 days – nearly one-third of his time as Secretary – on the road.  Although this easily surpasses Hillary Clinton’s 956,733 miles and 401 days, Kerry will not be able to match Mrs. Clinton’s record of 112 countries visited.  Alas, Mr. Kerry will only make it to 90 countries during his tenure.
[…]
If this were simply a matter of the secretary undertaking quixotic missions with little to show for them, it would probably not be an issue worthy of much attention.  But there are costs to U.S. foreign policy interests that are imposed by the secretary’s frequent absences from Washington.

When the secretary is on the road, he is not at the table when the president makes decisions that directly affect foreign policy.  Equally, since other senior diplomats are frequently on the road, the State Department often does not have an equal voice with the other Cabinet departments in the National Security Council meetings. The net result is an imbalance between diplomatic options and military or intelligence community preferences.

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The Many Adventures of Secretary of State John Kerry (2013-2017)

Posted: 12:50 am ET
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Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry has travelled the most number of miles at 1,395,606 than any other secretary of state. He has also spent the most number of days on the road as America’s top diplomat (588 days to Clinton’s 401) but apparently Henry Kissinger still holds the record at 200 for the most number of countries visited by a secretary of state; Kerry visited 91 countries while Clinton’s record is 112 countries.

Nonetheless, we doubt if Secretary Kissinger’s travels were as immortalized as Secretary Kerry’s many travel adventures. From getting lost in the Gobi Desert to escaping being cooked alive by the cannibals of the Isle of Embers, America’s Finest News Source  covered the secretary of state’s travels with admirable dedication. Here are some favorites via The Onion:

BANGKOK, THAILAND—Spitting out a broken tooth as his opponent lay motionless on the bare cement floor, a battered Secretary of State John Kerry emerged victorious Wednesday evening from an underground kickboxing tournament at Bangkok’s notorious Bang Kwang Central Prison, sources reported.

PANGSAU, MYANMAR—Thinking quickly to thwart disaster as he ventured deep into the Myanmar rainforest to meet with State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, Secretary of State John Kerry threw a vine over a pit of quicksand to save the life of his 12-year-old Moroccan companion, Drumstick, sources confirmed Monday.

BOGDARNYA, RUSSIA—Working frantically to gain access to the system’s override settings at the computer terminal controlling the impending implosion, Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled to stop the self-destruct sequence of an underground bunker located thousands of feet below the Russian countryside Tuesday while oligarch Dmitry Granovsky taunted him from the numerous banks of monitors positioned throughout the facility, sources confirmed.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA—Telling the U.S. secretary of state this was his final chance to hand over the briefcase he had been pursuing for months, Malaysian ambassador Dato’ Seri Halim Wan Salleh reportedly promised John Kerry he would spare his life in return for the item Friday as he held the dangling American statesman over the side of the Petronas Towers Skybridge.

LOW EARTH ORBIT—Having stowed away aboard a Soyuz resupply rocket and silently slipped into the International Space Station as part of a high-level fact-finding mission, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly found himself forced to jettison two Russian henchmen from an airlock Monday after being set upon by the thugs in an ambush that resulted in a violent zero-gravity struggle to the death.

NOVOSINKOVO, RUSSIA—Staring directly into the drooping eyes of the woozy, flushed henchman sitting across from him in the back room of a dimly lit tavern, Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly downed another vodka shot Sunday night as the last of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s security detail passed out beside him.

KINGDOM OF GOLDEN SANDS—Throwing herself in front of her beloved U.S. secretary of state as the royal executioner raised his scimitar, Princess Amirah of Arabia reportedly begged her father the sultan Friday to spare John Kerry’s life.

THE ISLE OF EMBERS—With the natives’ drumbeats suddenly falling silent as a mysterious midday darkness rolled across the island, sources confirmed that a solar eclipse occurred just in time Friday to stop imperiled U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry from being cooked alive by cannibals.

KIEV, UKRAINE—Following his overnight arrival in Ukraine amid the escalating regional tensions over the the Crimean peninsula, sources confirmed seeing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wearing a trench coat and cloaked in shadows at the back of a seedy, smoke-filled Kiev café Tuesday while reportedly awaiting a woman known to him only as Dasha.

SOUTHERN MONGOLIA—After failing to arrive at his destination in the Middle East this week for diplomatic talks with state leaders, sources confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had inadvertently traveled to Central Asia and is currently lost somewhere in the Gobi Desert.

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@JohnKerry Traveling Party Watches Adélie Penguin Mind Its Own Business in Antarctica

Posted: 3:04 am ET
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The Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) is a species of penguin common along the entire Antarctic coast, their only residence. They are named after Adélie Land, in turn named for Adèle Dumont D’Urville, the wife of French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville who discovered these penguins in 1840. via

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his traveling party look at an Adélie penguin after it approached them in Antarctica on November 11, 2016, as the Secretary conducted a helicopter tour of U.S. research facilities around Ross Island and the Ross Sea, and visited the McMurdo Station in an effort to learn about the effects of climate change on the Continent. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his traveling party look at an Adélie penguin after it approached them in Antarctica on November 11, 2016, as the Secretary conducted a helicopter tour of U.S. research facilities around Ross Island and the Ross Sea, and visited the McMurdo Station in an effort to learn about the effects of climate change on the Continent. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

An Adélie penguin waddles toward U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his traveling party in Antarctica on November 11, 2016, as the Secretary conducted a helicopter tour of U.S. research facilities around Ross Island and the Ross Sea, and visited the McMurdo Station in an effort to learn about the effects of climate change on the Continent. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

An Adélie penguin waddles toward U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his traveling party in Antarctica on November 11, 2016, as the Secretary conducted a helicopter tour of U.S. research facilities around Ross Island and the Ross Sea, and visited the McMurdo Station in an effort to learn about the effects of climate change on the Continent. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

 

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Photo of the Day: Secretary Kerry Examines the Sultan’s Parade Horses in Sokoto, Nigeria

Posted: 3:44 am ET
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Secretary Kerry Examines Some of the Sultan's Parade Horses in Sokoto U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, examines some of the Sultan's parade horses after delivering a speech about countering violent extremism and promoting good governance following a meeting with government officials and religious leaders at the Sultan’s Palace in Sokoto, Nigeria, on August 23, 2016. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Examines Some of the Sultan’s Parade Horses in Sokoto
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, examines some of the Sultan’s parade horses after delivering a speech about countering violent extremism and promoting good governance following a meeting with government officials and religious leaders at the Sultan’s Palace in Sokoto, Nigeria, on August 23, 2016. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

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Photo of the Day: Staffers Smile and Carry Signs Bearing Secretary Kerry’s Face

Posted: 12:21 am ET
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Staffers from U.S. Embassy Abuja Carry Signs Bearing the Face of Secretary Kerry Staffers from U.S. Embassy Abuja carry signs bearing the face of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry before he addresses them and their family members on August 24, 2016, at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]


Staffers from U.S. Embassy Abuja carry signs bearing the face of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry before he addresses them and their family members on August 24, 2016, at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. [State Department Photo/ Public Domain]

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Secretary Kerry Visits Ny-Alesund, Norway — Northernmost Civilian Settlement in the World

Posted: 1:34 am ET
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Secretary Kerry is traveling to the Dominican Republic, Norway, Denmark & Greenland from June 13-17, 2016. On July 16, he was on the research vessel “Teisten,” with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, on the Kongsfjorden in Ny-Alesund, Norway, the northernmost civilian settlement in the world.

[O]ne of the greatest challenges of our times besides the fight against extremism is to deal with the enormous battle of climate change. That’s why I’m going to Greenland tomorrow, because if we were to lose the ice sheet of Greenland, we would see a sea level rise of some 22 feet over the course of this century. Everybody knows that what is happening now is a – is a huge transformation in weather patterns, in the melt of glaciers – which I saw in Svalbard today, and I will see again tomorrow – and we have to make smarter decisions about the kind of energy that we’re going to provide ourselves with. (Via)

 

The research vessel "Teisten," carrying U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, floats on the Kongsfjorden in Ny-Alesund, Norway, the northernmost civilian settlement in the world, as the two leaders inspect the Blomstrand Glacier to see the effects of global warming on the Arctic environment on June 16, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

The research vessel “Teisten,” carrying U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, floats on the Kongsfjorden in Ny-Alesund, Norway, the northernmost civilian settlement in the world, as the two leaders inspect the Blomstrand Glacier to see the effects of global warming on the Arctic environment on June 16, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

A glacier appears outside the window of a transport plane on June 16, 2016, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flies from the Svalbard Airport in Svalbard, Norway, to an Arctic research station in Ny-Alesund, Norway, and tour the nearby Blomstrand Glacier. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

A glacier appears outside the window of a transport plane on June 16, 2016, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flies from the Svalbard Airport in Svalbard, Norway, to an Arctic research station in Ny-Alesund, Norway, and tour the nearby Blomstrand Glacier. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Two reindeer graze against a glacial backdrop on June 16, 2016, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende visit an Arctic research station in Ny-Alesund, Norway, the northernmost civilian settlement in the world, and before tour the nearby Blomstrand Glacier. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Two reindeer graze against a glacial backdrop on June 16, 2016, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende visit an Arctic research station in Ny-Alesund, Norway, the northernmost civilian settlement in the world, and before tour the nearby Blomstrand Glacier. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

 

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Secretary Kerry’s Travels: A Trip Every Month Since 2013; 165,808 Miles So Far in 2016

Posted: 1:16 am ET
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The State Department says that the Secretary of State” travels to all corners of the world to do his job. His duties as Secretary include acting as the President’s representative at all international forums, negotiating treaties and other international agreements, and conducting everyday, face-to-face diplomacy.”  The latest update from state.gov says that Secretary Kerry has now visited 81 countries, has racked up 1,135,417 miles, spent 495 travel days and has a total flight time of  2,465.53 hours /102.7 days.  It looks like JK is sticking true to form of traveling every month of the year for the last three years since he became SecState in 2013.

From June 2-8, Secretary Kerry is traveling to Paris, France; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and Beijing, China. He was in Mongolia on June 5 where he meet with senior government officials, hosted a town hall with young leaders and attended a traditional Mongolian cultural festival, a mini-Naadam according to the US Embassy Mongolia. It is “the three games of men” which includes  Mongolian wrestlinghorse racing, and archery,  He tried his hand at archery but skipped the other two.

 

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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.”
[…]
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.
[…]
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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Photo of the Day: Who put the genie in the lamp?

— Domani Spero
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Via state.gov

 Shopkeeper Offers Oil Lamp as Secretary Kerry Pays Visit to Muttrah Souk in Oman A shopkeeper offers an oil lamp to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as he visits the Muttrah Souk - a traditional bazaar - in Muscat, Oman, on November 10, 2014, during a break in P5+1 negotiations with Iran about the future of its nuclear program. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


Shopkeeper Offers Oil Lamp as Secretary Kerry Pays Visit to Muttrah Souk in Oman
A shopkeeper offers an oil lamp to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as he visits the Muttrah Souk – a traditional bazaar – in Muscat, Oman, on November 10, 2014, during a break in P5+1 negotiations with Iran about the future of its nuclear program. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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