We have written here and here about the “senior Obama administration official” who called Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit” in an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. This is the full context:
The other day I was talking to a senior Obama administration official about the foreign leader who seems to frustrate the White House and the State Department the most. “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit,” this official said, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by his nickname.
This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors….
Today the Obama administration tried to distance itself from the “chickenshit” comment.
“Certainly that’s not the Administration’s view, and we think such comments are inappropriate and counter-productive,” Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the National Security Council, stated Wednesday.
But consider: the “senior Obama administration official” made the comment in a conversation with a reporter, Goldberg, who was working on a story about the strained relationship between the Obama and Netanyahu governments. He must have known that the “chickenshit” characterization would be quoted, albeit anonymously. He must have wanted it to be quoted. He must have known that it would garner a great deal of attention. And Goldberg, who spends a lot of time talking with members of the Obama administration about Israel, considered the remark “representative” of the ways in which members of the two governments talk about each other.
So was the Obama administration’s repudiation of the senior official’s remarks merely pro forma? It would seem so. Today reporters asked both John Earnest, on behalf of the White House, and Jen Psaki, on behalf of the State Department, whether the administration will try to identify the senior official and set him straight. The answer? No, of course not. Here is Ms. Psaki:
And Mr. Earnest:
Which tends to confirm that the senior official was indeed speaking for his boss, the president. But, either way, what sense did it make to call Netanyahu a crude epithet? What purpose could possibly have been served? The outburst, whether it represented Obama’s own views or not, was childish and petulant, at best. Viewed from any direction, the episode reveals, once more, an administration in disarray.