The more shocking message he delivered was that the November killings in Paris are more terrible than those of January. Why? Because the earlier killings, of cartoonists and Jews, were .  .  . were what? First he said the previous attacks “had a legitimacy in terms of” and then stopped himself. Even Kerry realized that what he was about to say was indefensible: that they had a legitimacy in terms of the beliefs of the attackers, who were offended after all by nasty cartoons of Muhammad. And as to the Jews, well, perhaps the attackers were offended by the mere existence of Jews, or perhaps in Kerry’s misguided view they were deeply moved by the real or imagined plight of Palestinians.

Kerry himself has repeatedly linked Islamic terror to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and come very close to justifying it. At Harvard last month he had this reaction to the terror spree of Palestinians stabbing Jews in and near Jerusalem: “There’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years. Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing.” Like his statement that ISIS and its terror have “nothing to do with Islam,” this one was also plainly false. There has been no “massive increase in settlements,” something the statistics show quite clearly and that Kerry might be expected to know. But the facts were not in his head. Instead, there was a theory of the case in there: Palestinians commit terror because Israelis build settlements.

In the Paris case, there’s a theory inside his head as well, and it isn’t so very distant from what he said at Harvard. The Paris attacks of January had a “rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.” Sure. They were angry about cartoons that criticized or lampooned Muhammad, and about Jews. Completely understandable, it seems. But not these new attacks: This was different. “It was to attack everything that we do stand for. That’s not an exaggeration.”