Yesterday’s State Department briefing saw yet another incredible performance by Matt Lee of the Associated Press, expressing doubt, mistrust and mockery re the State Department’s assertion that peace talks had renewed in earnest. I can’t recall any other American journalist challenging authority in such an obstreperous and persistent manner. It seems obvious that Lee sees the peace process as the Emperor’s New Clothes.
I’ve excerpted two inspiring bits. First, his assertion that “there is absolutely no evidence that any progress is being made,” and his rejection of the claim that only skeptics and cynics could doubt this process, leading to his challenge of Tzipi Livni’s statement that realists can be dreamers.
And in the second bit, he mocks the idea that secrecy is somehow a fresh approach to the peace process– it failed many times before– and then calls Secretary of State John Kerry out on a Samuel Coleridge quotation. Lee says Kerry left out the bit in which Coleridge wrote of historical events unfolding before us: “passion and party blind our eyes” to the truth. It seems like an oblique reference to the Israel lobby.
These two bits are visible in the video at 25:00 or so and 32:00 or so.
Matt Lee: Okay. So they did put a work plan together.
MS. PSAKI: That was the goal of today, yes.
Lee: And so they succeeded in that?
MS. PSAKI: I will defer to our officials who will be briefing you later on more specifics.
Lee: Okay. All right. Will they be able to offer us more specifics, or will they say, it’s a secret?
MS. PSAKI: I will — we’ll discuss after the briefing.
Lee: Okay. Then, you also said that the Secretary’s comments about him being the only person who would comment, quickly followed by him saying he would never comment – (laughter) – so I’m not sure if that was very helpful at all – you said the point was that, “Don’t believe everything you read or every rumor that you hear.” I’m assuming that that’s going to go for your comments and the Secretary’s comments: claims that progress is being made when there is absolutely no evidence that any progress is being made. Is that correct? We shouldn’t believe that, those either?
MS. PSAKI: — Well, Matt –we’ll let the final results – we’ll let you judge the final results. Our goal here is to move to a final agreement. And obviously, we know – or the Secretary strongly believes, as do both parties, that in order to do that, we need to give the process the room and the space to make progress.
Matt Lee: Right. Okay. There was a lot of complaining upstairs about cynics and people who are skeptics and how they shouldn’t be. I’m assuming that you agree with all that, and I particularly want to point out that last line that [Israeli]Justice Minister [Tzipi] Livni said: “I believe that history is not made by cynics. It is made by realists who are not afraid to dream.”
MS. PSAKI: I liked that line.
Lee: You did?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. [Nodding]
Lee: You don’t think that the dreamer – you think the dreamers are realists?
PSAKI: [Shakes her head in bemusement]
Lee: I’m serious. I want to know what you think – why you think that all of the skepticism and all of the cynicism is misplaced.
MS. PSAKI: Because they’re here today. You heard all parties speak about how they’re committed to taking this process seriously and pursuing it in the weeks and months ahead….
Here’s the second bit.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has spoken a bit about how, in order to make progress and hopefully achieve a successful outcome, you need to take a different approach. And part of that is certainly keeping the negotiations and the discussions quiet….
Lee: Sorry. Taking a new approach is keeping everything quiet? That’s been an approach that’s been used every time going back to 1999, keeping everything secret. That’s not a new approach. The attempt to keep it quiet is not a new approach. But since you raised this idea of the fact that people who are up there and are being involved have done this again, I wanted to go back to yesterday’s announcement of Ambassador [Martin] Indyk and the Secretary’s quotation from the Coleridge poem that is in the preface. Is the Secretary aware of the three lines that follow the line that he read?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure you’re going to provide them to all of us right now.
Lee: Well, the first line, which he did read, is: “If men could learn from history, what lessons would it teach us!” That’s where he ended. But the line goes on: “But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us,” which doesn’t really lead – is not particularly an optimistic comment. Was he aware of the rest of the lines from that stanza? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: He’s been pretty busy.
Lee: So no?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure how much time for a poetry reading he’s had in the last couple of days.
Lee: All right.
Lee offered the same poetry lesson in his report on the talks. It is not a poem. The Coleridge statement was a casual statement recorded by a friend and published in Specimens of the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, after his death in 1834.