When a Fox News personality goes after an Obama administration spokesman, I usually find myself thinking, bravo. But that was not the case tonight when I happened to see Fox’s Shepard Smith rip into P.J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State in charge of the Bureau of Public Affairs.
Smith asked Crowley to state the administration’s position on the battle aboard the Marmara. Crowley began to answer, as Smith knew he would, that the administration was still looking into the facts. Smith immediately cut Crowley off and began berating the State Department for not having formulated a position on the merits. Smith’s main talking point was that the “rest of the world” has a position, so why don’t we?
I don’t watch Smith very often and don’t have much of a feel for him. On this occasion, though he was a jerk and a fool.
The fact that the “rest of the world” rushed to judgment on this incident, almost invariably condemning Israel based solely on “facts” handed out by anti-Israeli forces, is no reason why we should. The Obama administration has behaved admirably by declining to join the herd and by saying it wishes to understand the facts fully before it judges them.
As I suggested here, the imperative that the news cycle imposes on news organization should not trump the responsibility of governments to get the facts right. The same news organizations that are jumping on the State Department for not having embraced a particular set of facts will be the ones that lambaste it if it gets any facts wrong.
JOHN adds: Basically, I agree; but it does seem that the relevant facts are now known. The most fundamental question is, does the administration support Israel’s blockade of Gaza? If so, a lot follows. Beyond that, there really isn’t any doubt but that the violence was initiated by heavily-armed and well-organized jihadists who surprised the Israeli soldiers by the ferocity of their attack with clubs, pipes, knives and guns. The Associated Press has belatedly begun to catch on.
So I am OK with the administration taking its time to marshal the facts and come to a reasoned position, but we should also be sensitive to the fact that impressions–mostly wrong ones–are being formed around the world. The time is not far off–measured in hours, not days–when the Obama administration ought to be able to view the videos, assess all of the evidence, and come to the right conclusion, which is to say, to support our only real ally in the Middle East.
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