The organizers of the Center for American Progress's conference made much of how Secretary of State John Kerry arrived straight from an international junket. His spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, tweeted as much on the way to the airport. Kerry took the stage, made a Red Sox reference, then used most of his speech to denounce those who had shut down the government—a decision that canceled a larger planned Obama-led Asian junket.
"A self-inflicted wound like the shutdown we just endured can never happen again," said Kerry. "I'll tell you, apart from the jokes at some of these summits about whether, because we weren't being paid, one country or another could buy our meals, there were real consequences to our not being there. None of what occurred was irreparable, or irreversible, but being a responsible democracy requires we don't ever do that again."
Kerry read through the local news clips, British broadsheets saying America was "recklessly throwing away its future" and German newspapers outright mocking us. "The shutdown and the dysfunction and the simplistic dialogue that came with it did not impress anyone," said Kerry. "They took no interest in 2016, who'll win the Senate, who won the news cycle ... it has entered into the calculation of leaders, as we negotiate with Iran, as we secure the peace of Israel."
This was followed by a speech from Al Gore, who was also, according to moderators, coming off "24 hours without sleep" after flying around the globe. If that was so, Gore compensated by exploding with energy, charging around the stage, at one point imitating the old Dan Aykroyd/Steve Martin "Wild and Crazy Guys" sketch to describe how excited he'd been about the first cellphones.*
"What happened with this shutdown is pathetic!" said Gore. "There are great people there trapped in a bad system." What trapped them there? "Democracy has been hacked. Corporations are not people. Donors should not be anonymous. Apathy isn't irony."
There was an irony: The Center for American Progress is also structured in a way to protect it from revealing the identity of donors. But the point was that Democrats want the shutdown to define the GOP for as long as humanly possible.
*Correction, Oct. 24, 2013:This post originally misspelled Dan Aykroyd's last name.
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