Friday, March 28, 2014

The expression oft proclaim the man

New York Times analysis of the difficult US-Saudi relations in the context of Barack Obama's visit to Riyadh --

Now the Obama administration is hoping to persuade Saudi Arabia to use its greater clout with Cairo to convince the government there to rein in its repression of the opposition and begin to overhaul its economy — the Western formula for restoring stability. “The Saudis realize that the interim Egyptian government is overshooting the runway with regards to their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood,” an administration official said on the condition of anonymity to discuss Mr. Obama’s coming visit. “The Saudis realize that the Egyptians have crossed the line with the massive crackdown on journalists, secular opposition, foreign embassy employees, etc.”

As it happens, the New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, is running a worthy feature called AnonyWatch where she encourages readers to challenge the rationale for anonymous quotes on a case by case basis. Now with this one, the issue is simply that it's contradicted by much of the rest of the story which notes Saudi encouragement of a regional crackdown on the Brotherhood, not to mention (which it doesn't) that the Saudis haven't taken any action to discourage the Egyptians and their loony judges from their current course.

But anyway, as for our anonymous White House official. He should probably avoid analogies to out-of-control planes when discussing Saudi Arabia, and he should probably avoid using a telltale phrase.

Because "overshooting the runway" is a breadcrumb trail to White House Senior Adviser, Dan Pfeiffer!