A diplomatic correspondent in more ways than one

The message sent to us by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack last Monday was picked up by Glenn Kessler in in today’s Washington Post: “U.S. policy on Iran evolves toward diplomacy.” Covering ground that Eli Lake covered in his New York Sun story on Monday, Kessler writes:

One of Rice’s most senior aides, counselor Philip D. Zelikow, last Friday made a speech to a Washington think tank in which he appeared to link progress on Middle East peace to securing greater diplomatic cooperation in the struggle against Iran.

“For the Arab moderates and for the Europeans, some sense of progress and momentum on the Arab-Israeli dispute is just a sine qua non for their ability to cooperate actively with the United States on a lot of other things that we care about,” Zelikow said. “We can rail against that belief; we can find it completely justifiable, but it’s fact. That means an active policy on the Arab-Israeli dispute is an essential ingredient to forging a coalition that deals with the most dangerous problems.”

Zelikow’s comments alarmed Israelis, who fear becoming a pawn in American diplomatic calculations, and U.S. officials said they were misinterpreted. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack even posted a statement on Power Line, a right-wing blog, saying there is no change in policy.

Put the substance of Kessler’s story to one side. I was bothered by Kessler’s description of us as “right-wing” and wrote him:

I wish you would have characterized our site as conservative rather than as right-wing. I wonder if you would be willing to explain why you did so. I would be most grateful for your response.

Kessler promptly responded:

You know, it was a poor lapse on my part and it should have been caught by an editor. I generally try not to use such snap labels, but I was under deadline pressure and wasn’t thinking. By the way, you have an excellent and interesting web site and I was impressed that McCormack felt the need to respond to it. That, more than anything, shows the impact of the blogs these days.

Thanks also for contacting me–it will make me be more careful the next time.


Glenn Kessler
Diplomatic Correspondent

For whatever it’s worth, I was surprised by Kessler’s gracious response and his kind words. They are not par for the course and I wanted to note both for the record.

PAUL adds: This is a very gracious response, and Scott is not wrong to say that such responses aren’t par for the course. However, a number of mainstream media stalwarts have responded graciously to criticism from me, in some cases more graciously than I probably deserved.

JOHN concurs: Amen. Given how harshly we have criticized mainstream media, I’ve often been surprised and gratified by the cordiality of our exchanges with reporters. Reporters are people too, and, as someone once said, a soft answer turneth away wrath.


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