Political Hay

Kerry’s Logan Act

There he goes again, meeting with unnamed foreign leaders.

By 1.19.05

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John Kerry recently returned from an extended tour of the Middle East and Europe. He tried some of his old material on the road, bashing the Bush administration's foreign policy and criticizing America's effort in the war in Iraq, as if November 2, 2004, had never happened.

While Kerry's Bush-bashing tour may have won him some gratifying ovations overseas, it's what he has said upon his return to the United States that should raise the eyebrows of every American.

On Martin Luther King Day, Kerry gave a speech in Massachusetts chiefly notable for its perpetuation of the silly myth that a coordinated conspiracy to disenfranchise African Americans had cost him votes, possibly even the election. But buried deep in that same story was the following utterance:

"Throughout Europe, as I met with European leaders, it's clear that they're prepared to do more, but the (Bush) administration has not put the structure together for people to be able to do it," he said.

Kerry declined to specify which leaders expressed a desire to help more with Iraq, or how.

Then on Tuesday, during his grilling of Dr. Condoleezza Rice at her confirmation hearing, Kerry repeated the story, but peppered in an assertion that Arab nations wanted in, as well.

"Every Arab leader I asked, do you want Iraq to fail, says no. Do you think you will be served if there's a civil war? They say no. Do you believe that failure is a threat to the region and to the stability of the world? Yes; same with the European leaders. But each of them feel that they have offered more assistance, more effort to be involved, want to be part of a playing field that's more cooperative, and yet they feel rebuffed."

Bear in mind this was not an official trip to Europe and the Middle East. Kerry was not visiting as a representative of the United States Government. He was in no way commissioned by the executive branch to negotiate alliances with foreign countries. So what was he doing there? In an e-mail to 3 million political supporters in which he also calls for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Kerry said, "After several months consumed by the campaign trail, I wanted to make contact with our soldiers on the ground there."

In short, his trip was, essentially, a very public vacation. One in which Kerry seems to have run afoul of the Logan Act, which reads:

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

The Logan Act became necessary when, in 1798, a friend and political supporter of Thomas Jefferson named George Logan spirited off to Paris on his own authority to secure an accord with France during a time of great tension between the U.S. and that country. Logan later served a single term in the United States Senate.

No one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, and certainly not a U.S. Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee. But it wouldn't be unheard of. In the late-1980s the National Security Council considered using the Logan Act to muzzle Speaker of the House Jim Wright, who was at the time playing footsies with the Communist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

But all of Kerry's bloviating can be overlooked and chalked up to post-election face-saving and I-told-you-so-ism, right? Well, maybe. But remarks and actions like these have become an unsettling trend for John Kerry.

For example, as the nation became well aware during the course of the 2004 election, John Kerry has probably violated the Logan Act before, and possibly other laws that make it a crime to negotiate with enemies of the United States.

The script of the famously hard hitting Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad on the subject recaps the story better than I could:

Even before Jane Fonda went to Hanoi to meet with the enemy and mock America, John Kerry secretly met with enemy leaders in Paris, though we were still at war and Americans were being held in North Vietnamese prisons camps.

Then he returned and accused Americans of committing war crimes on a daily basis. Eventually, Jane Fonda apologized for her activities. But John Kerry refuses to. In a time of war, can America trust a man who betrayed his country?

Of course, John Kerry could just be embellishing his conversations with Arab and European leaders. He has been known to stretch the truth, or at least mumble unsubstantiated statements, such as this one from last March:

"I've met with foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but, boy, they look at you and say: 'You've got to win this. You've got to beat this guy. We need a new policy.' Things like that."

No one is suggesting that John Kerry will be the subject of a criminal probe or a congressional hearing. Many of us have long ago given up hope that obstreperous liberals in Congress who deliberately weaken our country's position in a time of war will face appropriate repercussions. But it would be nice if John Kerry would stop visiting "foreign leaders" for a while, at least until the war in Iraq is over. Either that, or stop making up stories.

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About the Author

Patrick Hynes is an account executive with the consulting firm Marsh Copsey + Scott and the proprietor of the websites www.passionforfairness.com and www.crushkerry.com.