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Kerry on vacation, and on call

There are legitimate reasons to criticize a secretary of state’s oversight of foreign relations. Spending a few days on vacation shouldn’t be one of them.

Some Republicans were quick to condemn Secretary of State John Kerry’s decision to enjoy the long Fourth of July weekend on Nantucket as Egypt was being rocked by political turmoil. When pictures of Kerry boarding his yacht made the rounds soon after President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the Egyptian military, critics pounced. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, for example, tweeted an image of the yacht along with the message: “Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry hard at, um, work while Egypt explodes.”

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The State Department did Kerry no favors by categorically denying that he had been on the water, only to reverse itself once the photos appeared. But it shouldn’t have been an issue to begin with. Sniping at government leaders for taking time away from the office is the sort of pettiness that makes partisan politics so unappetizing. Millions of Americans remain digitally tethered to their jobs 24/7, even while vacationing. Does anyone imagine that isn’t the case for the nation’s top diplomat? No senior administration official can simply unplug from the world by going to Nantucket — or to Nairobi or Nicosia. The department’s spokeswoman underscored the point on Friday by releasing the list of foreign ministers Kerry had called on July 4 and 5.

In 1984, responding to critics who said he spent too much time on his ranch in California, Ronald Reagan remarked that “presidents don’t take vacations — they just get a change of scenery.” The same is true for secretaries of state.

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