Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

US State Department: Incompetence wrapped within intolerance wrapped within cowardice

Posted by Charles II on March 7, 2013

The State Department did a special briefing on Venezuela today. This is how it opened.

Background Briefing on the Situation in Venezuela
Special Briefing
Senior State Department Officials
Via Teleconference
March 6, 2013
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MODERATOR: Hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us this afternoon. Today we have with us two senior State Department officials to discuss the situation in Venezuela. We have with us [Senior State Department Official One] and [Senior State Department Official Two]. Hereafter for the rest of the call, they will be Senior State Department Official One and Senior State Department Official Two. This call is on background, so for all attribution we will refer to them as Senior State Department Officials.

So without further ado, I’m going to turn it over to Senior State Department Official Number One for some opening remarks before we get to your questions. Go ahead, Senior Official One.

Can anyone suggest a single reason why State Department officials should be allowed or encouraged to make anonymous comments about a foreign government? This is precisely the sort of thing that breeds distrust. Is one of those officials John Kerry, whose wife lost a lot of money in the Ketchup Coup?

It certainly sounds like it, when Elise Labott of CNN says, “We understand that Senior Official One put out a statement. If you could release that to the rest of the – of us, that would be great.” Who would put out a statement–withheld from at least part of the press– on such an issue? And there are certain Kerry verbal tics, like the repeated use of “if you will”” (it seems to be a Senate tic, since Senator Corker uses it repeatedly as well)

State Department Official Number Two sounds like SDO #1’s minder, probably a country specialist, who –unlike SDO #1– knows that the improbably-named Diosdado Cabello (“God-given Hair”) is not a narcotics kingpin.

SDO #1 has elevated Nicolas Maduro’s suggestion that Hugo Chavez was murdered to the level of a threat to US security (“after you have the kind of broadside, if you will, that Vice President Maduro launched against the United States yesterday, we obviously have security concerns, and we will remain very vigilant and review security issues regularly within our Embassy and here in Washington”) A much better response would have been to acknowledge that the relationship has been riddled with suspicion and that the US will do whatever it can to re-establish trust.

If the State Department wants to build trust, it will not repeat this sort of anonymous press conference. And, if I understand correctly, the White House failed to give routine condolences. That’s just shameful.
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Added: It wasn’t just Nicolas Maduro who thought that Chavez might have been murdered. In La Jornada, referring to three top leftist Latin American leaders who have been stricken by cancer Astillero said, “Just look at the unusual carcinogenic marksmanship or recent years against South American leaders not aligned with the United States.” So, yes, conspiracism and paranoia, but not necessarily crazy.

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