John Kerry Says He's 'Going to Think About' Running for President in 2020

By Patrick Goodenough | November 29, 2018 | 4:18 AM EST

John Kerry speaks at the Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 27, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

( – Former Secretary of State John Kerry, asked about the possibility of a 2020 presidential run, said this week he was “not taking anything off the table” and was “going to think about it.” He added that while he was also prepared to endorse another candidate he had yet to find someone he’d be willing to back.

At the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, Kerry shared at length his thoughts on what is wrong in America today, before a panelist noted the timing of his recently-published memoirs and asked, “So, are you or aren’t you, and when will we know, and what are you thinking about – are you a candidate for 2020?”

“I’m thinking about how the hell to get out from under that question fast. I really am,” Kerry began, drawing laughter before turning serious.

“You know, I said I’m not going to eliminate – I’m not going to—uh, I’m not, I’m not taking anything off the table,” said Kerry, who will turn 75 on December 11.

At the same time, he pointed out that he has not been paying visits to “the most obvious states,” or laying groundwork for a bid.

“Am I going to think about it? Yeah, I’m going to think about it,” he continued. “I’ve said that point-blank, simply because of all the things I’ve just talked about. If you care about these things, you have to think about it.”

Kerry also said, however, that he was “perfectly ready to embrace somebody that I think can win, who wants to address all the issues that I just talked about and understands them.”

“But I’m going to be very candid here – and some people who are thinking about it aren’t going to love me for it,” he added, “I don’t see the person yet that I’m prepared to say that about.”

Despite that remark, Kerry then praised former Vice President Joe Biden and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, describing the former as “clearly qualified, clearly great – he understands all these issues” and the latter as “terrific” on guns, climate change and inclusivity.

Earlier in the talk, Kerry called himself “as invigorated, as energized as at any time in my life, because of what is happening and what is not happening in our country.”

He spoke about domestic and foreign policy issues, including climate change, describing his early activism on the environment. (Kerry played a role in the inaugural Earth Day in 1970, a year after returning from active service in Vietnam, and as a senator from Massachusetts participated in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and climate conferences such as those in Kyoto in 1997 and The Hague in 2000.)

“I’m convinced there’s a vast majority in America that shares the values, shares the vision, wants to have multilateral engagement, wants to engage with other countries … wants common sense to apply to things that scientists tell us are happening,” he said. “They’ve got to vote.”

Kerry said American “democracy right now is absolutely dysfunctional. It’s a disgrace.”

He directed pointed criticism as President Trump, accusing him of the “hostile takeover of the Republican Party.”

“We have lost the ability in our country to ascertain the baseline of facts on which we are going to make decisions as a government,” Kerry said. “I don’t know how you define yourself as the greatest negotiator in the world and then you just pull out of things,” he added, citing the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and the Iran nuclear deal.

Kerry played a key role in negotiations for the Paris accord and the Iran deal. (The TPP was negotiated during the tenure of his predecessor Hillary Clinton – who championed the deal as secretary of state before opposing it during her 2016 presidential campaign.)

Kerry has been asked before about 2020 but in recent months mostly called the issue a diversion and argued for everyone to focus on the midterm elections.

Last September he appeared on ABC’s “The View” to promote his memoirs and said in response to a question about 2020, “I doubt I would be running for office again.”

In a CBS interview that same month he did not directly deny having ambitions for another presidential campaign but also said that “talking about 2020 right now is a total distraction and waste of time,” saying he was “exclusively focused” on helping Democratic candidates in the midterms.

At the time Trump responding in a mocking tweet that he “should only be so lucky” as to have Kerry as his opponent.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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