“I’m not here to answer your questions, I’m here to try to get answers to mine.”
We here at Legal Insurrection have a special love/hate relationship with the C-SPAN soundbite catalog that populates after every State Department press briefing. Yesterday’s meeting with the pool was eventful to say the least.
No, not eventful. It. was. awkward:
One reporter asked Harf how the department could curb Iranian influence in the Middle East without directly engaging Iran.
“I agree with you that it’s a challenge,” Harf told the reporter, who replied, “I never said it was a challenge.”
“You don’t think it’s a challenge?” Harf shot back.
“I’m not here to answer your questions, I’m here to try to get answers to mine,” the reporter said, then asked his question very slowly.
Newsmax posted some pretty comprehensive coverage of the entire press conference, with two more videos showing Harf coming undone under pressure from the pool. (I especially like the part where Harf gets caught in a lie after insisting that Iran would not be able to access millions of dollars in frozen assets once a nuclear deal is signed.)
Pointing out these types of exchanges is important—and not just for the purpose of embarrassing Marie Harf. There is a mile of distance between taking tough questions from the press pool, and taking abuse from the press pool. This was not abuse, yet Harf treated it as such.
This is a problem.
Right now, the State Department is acting the way a teenager acts when he has been caught in a lie: flustered, short, and in a hurry to deflect and move on. For an administration that claims to be concerned with transparency, they seem to take great issue with being asked to explain the important ends and outs of what Barack Obama is trying to do in the Middle East. Right now, the press has printed all they can print on the Iran “framework” based on the bullet points coming from State and the White House; they want to dig deeper, but for some reason (gee, I wonder why) State doesn’t feel the need to provide them with the information or explanations they need to do so.
It looks like Harf isn’t going to get away with telling her press pool that the issues she’s tasked with presenting are simply too complex to be discussed in a briefing. How refreshing…or something.
As for real pushback? I’ll believe it when I see the fruits of their frustration in black and white, where it belongs.DONATE
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