Monday, July 17, 2006

Don't mention their war

The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin has noted the strange habit of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow to pose questions to reporters, as opposed to the more customary role of answering questions from reporters. The latest example of this reveals a clear point of sensitivity of the White House concerning the useless G8 statement on the Lebanon crisis:

MR. SNOW: Jim, let me ask you a quick question. Is your -- I want to make sure I've got the sort of gist of the question correct. Are you asking whether we consulted the Israelis on language to put in? Is that the corner of your question?

Q I guess that's part of my question, and how do you think the Israelis are going to respond to this request for release of arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I'll put it this way: There are a lot of people here in the American delegation, but I can tell you that our senior leadership was not on the phone working out language with the Israeli government, but the Israelis obviously know what's going on here, know what our position is, and know what the position of some of the other countries are.

These negotiations -- it's the President in the middle of negotiations, it's a small room, there aren't a lot of people in it. So these reflect the discussions among the leaders.

On a not unrelated note, Condi made clear that no one should expect any difference in the private message to the Israelis from the public nod-and-wink ones:

SECRETARY RICE: We're saying to the Israelis privately precisely what we're saying to them publicly.

In fact, one possibility is that the statements from Burns and Condi are both true, and the White House has not grasped the potential of the Israel-Lebanon crisis to completely derail their foreign policy. With this administration, summers spent ignoring clear warning signs have sad precedents.

UPDATE 18 JULY: Snow did it again --

MR. SNOW: How does it seem that the United States is giving breathing room? You and I have talked -- I'm just curious about the characterization. How would you draw that conclusion?

Q Well, I don't think that he's even had a conversation with Olmert.

MR. SNOW: Okay, so you're assuming because the President hasn't called Olmert that that creates breathing room? I'm trying to get the context for the question. Let me proceed, and if it doesn't do well enough, you can follow up ...

Q So the idea that the United States is holding back in doing any more criticizing of Israel to give them a chance to take out as many targets as they want?

MR. SNOW: No, because, Deb, the insinuation there is that there is either active military planning, collusion or collaboration between the United States and Israel, and there just isn't. Israel is proceeding in the manner it sees fit to defend itself and its territory.

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