The lightbulb finally went on. I finally realize what’s bothering me about this.

Quoth he: “I’ve met foreign leaders who can’t go out and say this publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, ‘You’ve got to win; you’ve got to beat this guy. We need a new policy.’ Things like that.”

And later, after this “correction” of the original quote from “foreign leaders” to “more leaders” (it gets scare quotes because it’s a difference that makes no difference, and because, as you see, Kerry immediately undoes it):“I have heard from people, foreign leaders elsewhere in the world who don’t appreciate the Bush administration and would love to see a change in the leadership of the United States.”

The point isn’t whether this statement is true. The point isn’t when these meetings took place. (Hugh Hewett says CNN verifies Kerry hasn’t met with any world leaders since declaring as a candidate. He hasn’t even left the country since 2002.) It isn’t even whether we should care which “foreign leaders” are for who in the U.S. elections.

It’s safe to say that Colin Powell, as Secretary of State, has met with plenty of world leaders, and speaks to them on an almost daily basis. It’s also pretty safe to say that not all of them agree with the Bush administration’s policies. It’s not too much of a stretch to presume that some of them wish Bush weren’t president. On the other hand, some of them undoubtedly regard the prospect of a Kerry presidency with the same dread that I do.

Does Powell tell us this? No. Why? Because, as elitist as this may sound, not everything that is done in public service is, or should be, done in the public eye. I daresay world leaders would stop talking to Powell if they thought he was going to tell CNN what they said. (Substitute “Fox News” if media slant is an issue for you. It isn’t the point here.)

Kerry is correct not to name names. It would be a violation of confidentiality. However, he has already broken confidentiality in revealing that the conversations took place at all. It would be improper of these “world leaders” to make public statements that might influence the American election, and it is improper of Kerry to reveal the contents of these private conversations (assuming for the moment that they did happen). These people took a significant political risk in confiding to Kerry that they support him, and Kerry demonstrated that their trust in his discretion was misplaced. The fact that he hasn’t named names (yet) is small consolation. When he perceives that there is political gain in doing so, he will reveal them. If the press doesn’t already know their names, it’s because they choose not to know.

John Kerry can’t keep a secret. That’s the issue here, or should be.

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