Longtime lurker, first time diarist. Crossposted from stickybuffalo.
"And I don't sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar, we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick."Uh huh. I'm sure the boys in the BP boardroom are shitting their solid gold underpants in terror.
- Barack Obama, 6/7/10
Seriously, i like Barack and all, but when has he ever kicked anyone's ass? Not counting little old ladies, that is. Speaking of which, how backwards is it that the Helen Thomas affair is apparently the only event of Obama's presidency about which the White House has been moved to voice any kind of unqualified official outrage from the Press Secretary's podium?
Overstatement? Let's do a little exercise. Here's the official White House statement on the Freedom Flotilla raid last week:
"The president affirmed the importance of finding better ways to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza without undermining Israel's security," the statement said. "He underscored the importance of a comprehensive peace agreement which establishes an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state as the way to resolve the overall situation and the United States' continuing commitment to achieving that goal by working closely with Turkey, Israel and others with a stake in a more stable and secure Middle East."Ouch! Netanyahu's ass will be parked in a bucket of ice for weeks after that whooping.
Remember, that torrent of blistering rhetoric came in response to the murder of 11 peace activists by Israeli commandos aboard a humanitarian aid convoy in international waters. When pressed for a quote on the actual killings and how they were actually, kind of, maybe a little bit, wrong, the best Robert Gibbs could do was quote a UN Security Council statement that "deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force", and then point out that the United States is technically a Security Council member. So, y'know. Next question?
Not exactly the fullthroated condemnation some of us wanted to hear, but understandable -- this is the no-drama Obama administration, after all. It's not their style to go off half-cocked and inflame partisan passions when what's called for is a cool-headed and even-handed appraisal of a complex situation. Right?
Now, let's hear Gibbs's take on events leading to the ouster of the most senior member of the WH press corps, maybe the last and most respected practitioner of what was once called journalism, who in an unguarded moment as a private citizen last week said some shit that was admittedly over the top, regarding a situation in the middle east that is clearly way, way over the top:
"Those remarks were offensive and reprehensible," Gibbs said today during a press briefing. Thomas was absent from the front row seat reserved for her in the White House press room.Yes, Helen Thomas lost her shit during an argument she didn't intend to be public and blurted out something to the effect that the Israelis should just get the hell out of Palestine. Not a very nice, or a very thoughtful, or a very helpful, thing to say. Certainly a goof worthy of a public apology and some private fence-mending. Maybe even bad enough to justify hounding her out of the profession Dan Rather style, ending a trailblazing career of half a century -- Obama himself thinks so, calling Thomas's forced retirement "the right decision." But on the "offensive and reprehensible" scale, can we agree that it's hardly on par with state terrorism? Can we get a little motherfucking perspective up in here?
"She should and has apologized," Gibbs continued. "Obviously, those remarks do not reflect the opinion, I assume, of most of the people in here and certainly not of the administration."
For the cherry on top of this sundae of irony and shame, we go back to that same White House press briefing from last week on the flotilla massacre, in which the administration was taken to task by one ornery correspondent for its appalling nonchalance about the killings:
Q The -- our initial reaction to this flotilla massacre, deliberate massacre, an international crime, was pitiful. What do you mean you regret when something should be so strongly condemned? And if any other nation in the world had done it, we would have been up in arms. What is the sacrosanct, iron-clad relationship where a country that deliberately kills people and boycotts -- and we aid and abet the boycott?Who was that uppity reporter, you ask? The only muckraking bastard in the room asking the relevant question? Well, let's just say it was one 89-year-old whose crap Robert Gibbs doesn't have to put up with any more.
MR. GIBBS: Look, I think the initial reaction regretted the loss of life as we tried and still continue to try to gather the relevant --
Q Regret won’t bring them back.
MR. GIBBS: Nothing can bring them back, Helen. We know that for sure because I think if you could, that wouldn’t be up for debate. We are -- we believe that a credible and transparent investigation has to look into the facts. And as I said earlier, we’re open to international participation in that investigation.
Q Why did you think of it so late?
MR. GIBBS: Why did we think of --
Q Why didn’t you initially condemn it?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I think the statements that were released speak directly to that.
And if you've managed to keep your lunch down through this entire post, congratulations -- there may be a job open for you in the white house press corps.