Diplomats are expected to be careful and judicious in their speech — which is why the word “diplomatic” found its way into everyday speech — but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is the exception to the rule. He seemingly has a knack for ill-advised comments.
In recent remarks, Kerry said that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t reach a peace agreement with Palestinians. Of course, “apartheid” is a highly loaded word, evoking images of the repressive and racist South African regime that imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Kerry’s statement was promptly and roundly criticized by supporters of Israel from both sides of the aisle, and Kerry then apologized, saying he wished he could rewind the tape and use a different word — although he blamed the chorus of criticism in part on “partisan, political purposes.”
What’s interesting about the story is not Kerry’s blunder — we should all be used to that by now — but that it happened at a super-secret, closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission. For decades, the Trilateral Commission has been a favorite target of conspiracy theorists, who have depicted is as a kind of shadow world government that puts people into positions of power and then pulls the strings.
So, how did someone get a recording of a powerful figure speaking to the Commission? It turns out that a journalist just walked into the meeting — he “slipped past both Commission staff and Diplomatic Security,” according to a letter of apology the North American chair of the Commission wrote to Kerry — and recorded Kerry’s remarks. The incident therefore doesn’t reflect the kind of approach to security you’d expect from the hyper-competent, brooding omnipresence depicted by the conspiracy-minded.
So, perhaps John Kerry’s latest bit of thoughtless floundering may have a positive impact after all: it may finally strike the Trilateral Commission from the list of organizations that are the focus of international intrigue and the latest conspiracy theories.