The White House and the State Department might need to get together for some high-level talks.
Just one day after a “senior administration official” sparked controversy after being quoted by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg as calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit,” anonymous White House officials have a new target: Secretary of State John Kerry.
An article in The New York Times about a wide variety of international crises that have hit the Obama administration in recent months — from the rise of the Islamic State to its handling of Ebola in West Africa — contained an interesting nugget that demonstrates a deep disconnect between The White House and State:
“Mr. Kerry is vocal and forceful in internal debates, officials said, but he frequently gets out of sync with the White House in his public statements. White House officials joke that he is like the astronaut played by Sandra Bullock in the movie ‘Gravity,’ somersaulting through space, untethered to the White House.”
Aides for Kerry told The Times they reject that portrait and said the secretary frequently dials into White House meetings. Kerry’s team also said he put together a long memo for battling the Islamic State that the administration has followed.
“Something is very wrong when White House officials openly ridicule the Secretary of State,” tweeted Mike Doran, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution Center for Middle East Policy.
However, there have been some recent signs of tension. Kerry unleashed a litany of criticism towards the Obama administration in April after he said that Israel could become an “apartheid state” if peace talks with the Palestinians fail.
“It’s as if he isn’t the foreign minister of the world’s most powerful nation,” wrote Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Havid in July, “but an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.”
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