Asked If He’s Concerned About Image Trump Conveys of USA, Kerry Jokes, ‘I’m Concerned About Anybody Who Isn’t Me’

By Patrick Goodenough | February 29, 2016 | 11:07pm EST
Secretary of State John Kerry and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the State Department on Monday, February 29, 2016. (Photo: State Department)

( – Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday declined to comment on the presidential campaign, after being asked whether he was concerned about “the image that Donald Trump conveys of America.”

Speaking to reporters alongside his German counterpart, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Kerry chuckled as a German reporter brought up the Republican front-runner.

“The image that Donald Trump conveys of America and the United – in the world is not in any way close to the image that you depict of America in the world,” the reporter said. “Are you concerned? How dangerous do you think is this going to be for the United States?”

“Well, I suppose the impolitic thing to say is that I’m concerned about anybody who isn’t me,” Kerry replied, drawing laughter.

“But the real answer is that I’m not in politics,” he continued. “I’m engaged in diplomacy. I don’t comment on the presidential race and I’m not going to begin now.”

“And,” Kerry added, “there’s ample chatter out there, believe me.”

Foreign media coverage of Trump has tended to focus on his more controversial statements, and on foreign policy stances that set him apart not just from the Obama administration but in some cases from his GOP rivals too.

His call last December for Muslims to be temporarily banned from entering the U.S. – following the ISIS-inspired terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif. – brought claims of hate speech in Europe. It also prompted a petition calling for him to be barred from entering Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron rejected Trump’s comments but said he did not think he should be banned.

Trump has differed from some of the other Republican presidential candidates on several major foreign issues.

He said for instance that he would “get along with” Russian President Vladimir Putin (Putin in turn called Trump “bright” and “talented”), and he also questioned the wisdom of supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure (a position Trump in a December debate shared with Sen. Ted Cruz, but not with Sen. Marco Rubio).

The two issues – the Syrian conflict and how to deal with Putin, especially with regard to the Ukraine crisis – have become top priorities in the U.S.-German relationship.

The same German reporter who asked Kerry about Trump asked Steinmeier whether he was concerned that the two governments may be “running out of time when it comes to tackling these two big issues,” given that the U.S. will have a new secretary of state when the current administration ends.

Steinmeier said it was the nature of democracy that foreign ministers sometimes set things in motion but may not be around the witness the outcome.

“Our task is to push the cart a little bit further down the road using the means at one’s disposal,” he said. “If we should be able to do so in Syria to help further defuse the situation, then I think it’s fair to say we have achieved a lot, both of us.”

“And if we lay the foundation now for others to continue down that road, then I think that it would be fair to say that that is more than we might have been able to hope for at the beginning of our cooperation.”

Kerry disagreed that time was running out.

“I don’t know what the future brings, but I know that tomorrow I’m going to be working with this man [Steinmeier] and the next week and the weeks after. And we have a lot of time in the scale of diplomacy and human events to make good things happen,” he said.

“We’ve made a lot of good things happen together – with our other colleagues who’ve been part of this journey – and I am convinced that we have an opportunity over the course of these next weeks, literally, to make a difference in any number of trouble spots,” Kerry added.

“And for the rest, the future will take care of defining that.”

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