After sailing through his confirmation hearing, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) walked back to his office on the second floor of the Russell building with a heavy heart. Sure, his Senate compatriots believe in him, given that only three senators – including the obstinate senior Sen. Ted Cruz – voted against him. Even the President thinks he'll do just fine. But as he met with colleagues behind closed doors to bid farewell, Kerry felt the presence of departing Secretary of State Hilary Clinton tapping on his shoulder, asking if he was ready to take the reins, to make the most of his dream job. As he secluded himself in his Georgetown office to prepare for his first day as Secretary of State on Monday, he received a phone call from an unexpected source.
John Kerry: Hello?
Hillary Clinton: Hey, John. It’s Hillary. I just wanted to wish you the best of luck this week. The first week is always the toughest.
JK: Oh, thanks for the words of encouragement, Hillary. I wasn’t expecting your call so soon. Is Bill happy to have you back at the ranch?
HC: I’m sure he is. But you know I’d rather hop on the next plane to Togo than sit in a secluded ranch house with Bill yapping away. I’m just glad to be taking a break from Washington.
JK: Really? How is Togo this time of year? But I see what you mean. Teresa [Heinz Kerry, Kerry’s wife, former wife of Henry Heinz III, an heir to the H.J. Heinz Company] has been prodding me for some time to see when we can take off for Nantucket again. Looks like that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. From the looks of it, I’ll have Syria, Israel, Palestine, China and Mali to consider.
HC: Don’t jump the gun on the Middle East just yet. Barack didn’t talk much about Syria – it’s such a complicated situation that we should let the UN try and handle Assad. For now, keep your focus on the positive. Your colleagues just confirmed you for your dream job. At least you’re not getting grilled like Hagel is.
JK: Man, you seem pretty optimistic, Hillary. What happened?
HC: I’m sure you know from your trips back to Massachusetts, but once you get outside Washington, a weight is lifted off your shoulders. Though I feel for the Syrian people, I don’t personally have to worry about the consequences of Assad’s ruthless killings. It’s painfully obvious he’s worried about losing his grip on the country, a year after his buddy Mubarak fell and Qaddafi practically died at the hands of his people. Barack has Al-Qaida scurrying with his drones. I’m just worried that Israel and Palestine will clash over borders again and threaten diplomatic relations.
JK: Well, I guess that’s my responsibility now.
HC: Definitely. Heck, I’m going to write a book about these past couple of years.
JK: What will you call it?
HC: “Reliving History, Abroad.”
JK: Clever. [Facepalm.]
HC: Actually I was calling you for a different reason, John. I wanted to give you some advice that might help you during your term as Secretary of State.
JK: That’s nice of you, Hillary.
HC: First, on your first day, as soon as you get into the office, call Xi Jinping. He cancelled our meeting at the last minute over petty disagreements over Syria and the South China Sea. He freaking snubbed me.
JK: Gotcha. [He takes out a pad and paper and writes down notes.] Call…Xi.
HC: Then, set up a meeting with Barack to discuss China. He doesn’t terribly interested in it, with all of the focus on the Middle East. He needs to stay true to his shift to the Pacific.
JK: Hillary, is this advice or unfinished business you want me to take care of?
HC: [sighs] Sorry about that, John. Okay, here’s some actual advice: Early on, set up a trip with you and Teresa to Nantucket. Being on the road all the time can be stressful. It’s the campaign trail, except the stakes are higher each trip you take. Also, don’t worry about too much about Mali – the French will take care of it.
JK: [scribbles the words “Teresa,” “Nantucket” and “Mali” on his pad.] Gotcha.
HC: Are you sure you don’t need me to show you around on Day 1? I can head back to DC, if necessary. [She looks at Bill, who is cleaning out his saxophone across the room. She whispers, “I’m not really going to go.” He chuckles.]
JK: Thanks Hillary, but I’m sure I’ll be just fine. There has to be at least a few people I know out of the department’s 70,000 strong. I’ve planned a preliminary trip to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and curb tensions a bit. Last time we spoke, it seemed like he was worried about some weaponry in Palestine or something. Then I’ll make a trip to the Palestinian region to hear their side of the story. I believe I can settle this tension down.
HC: Sounds reasonable, I guess.
JK: Finally, I’ll take a trip down to Sudan and South Sudan to see what progress have been made and to try and further diplomatic relations with the independent…
HC: [clears throat] Are you serious?
HC: Why would you possibly go to Sudan right now? It’s been less six months since I visited South Sudan.
JK: I know, but George…
HC: Clooney? Him again? I thought we took care of this at the hearing last year.
JK: Well, Clooney insists his human rights abuse detection program actually works. Sure, I’m going to chat with Sal Kiir [president of South Sudan] about the usual diplomatic stuff – resuming oil exports from South Sudan, negotiating with al-Bashir rather than yelling at him over the withdrawal of troops from the border. You know, the usual. But then, Clooney and I will try out the satellites to see it in action.
HC: You’re putting the resolution of Sudanese violence in the region in the hands of George Clooney? Unbelievable…
JK: His eyes, Hillary. They’re so trustworthy. Teresa says they’re dreamy.