John Kerry: Modest boastfulness vs boastful modesty?

US Secretary of State

Is modest boastfulness becoming in a Secretary of State?

Was John Kerry being modestly boastful or boastfully modest while talking to young Ethiopians in Addis Ababa recently?

Perhaps a bit of both when he disclaimed all thought of a “legacy” only to immediately claim PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, as his gift to the world. “…maybe our legacy will be what we do to try to help,” he said modestly, appearing to refer to President Obama and himself, “I think of what we’ve done with PEPFAR. I was proud. I wrote that legislation.”

He then went on to spell it out. Thousands of people, he said, had benefitted from the $48-billion AIDS relief efforts, that have now run a decade.

He’s not wrong on that count. PEPFAR pays for anti-retroviral treatment for more than three million HIV positive people worldwide. Mr Kerry is also right that he did some of the legislative heavy-lifting for the programme.

But as this naysayer points out, PEPFAR started in 2003 so it is a part of George W Bush’s legacy and it was a touch mendacious of Mr Kerry to appdar to claim PEPFAR as an Obama administration success (he didn’t, not in so many words, but in a general way that might have led to that impression).