Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 20, 2010

It Depends on What the Meaning of “Her Words Speak for Themselves” Is

At Friday’s State Department news conference, the acting deputy spokesman, Mark C. Toner, was asked if Hillary Clinton had misspoken when she told an Ecuadorian TV station that the Obama administration would be suing Arizona over its immigration-enforcement law. Toner responded that her words “stand for themselves,” which produced the following colloquy — excerpted here both for its comedy silver and as a contribution to the debate on whether Hillary has done “an incredible job” as secretary of state:

QUESTION: … [the] Arizona governor said in a written release, “To learn of this lawsuit through an Ecuadorian interview with the Secretary of State is just outrageous. There’s no way to treat – this no way to treat the people of Arizona.” Is there an apology here?

MR. TONER: The Secretary responded to a question she was asked in an interview. This is obviously an issue of great concern and resonance domestically, but it is as well in the hemisphere. … Her words speak for themselves. And I would just defer you to the Justice Department …

QUESTION: So you’re saying she did not misspeak?

MR. TONER: I’m saying her words stand for themselves. …

QUESTION: You say that her words stand for themselves, but that doesn’t answer the question of whether she misspoke or spoke too early. Can you answer that? …

MR. TONER: – I’d defer you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: I think you would want to refer me, not defer me.

MR. TONER: I said refer you. …

QUESTION: But the question is … about what the Secretary said.

MR. TONER: And I will say for the third time that her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: In other words, that you don’t –

MR. TONER: Not in other words.

QUESTION: You don’t want to –

MR. TONER: Not in other words. And I would also say, as I just spoke, is that the President, the Secretary, others in this Administration have said the long-term solution to this is comprehensive immigration reform.

QUESTION: All right. Well, let’s [talk] about the short-term solution to the Arizona situation, not the long-term solution. Let’s talk about what she actually said in the interview. Did she misspeak?

MR. TONER: Her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: That doesn’t answer the question.

MR. TONER: No. She – her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: She did not misspeak, so the Administration is intending to sue Arizona?

MR. TONER: Her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Is the Administration intending to sue Arizona?

MR. TONER: Defer you to the Justice Department on –

QUESTION: Refer.

MR. TONER: – the next steps legally. I said refer.

QUESTION: You’re saying defer.

MR. TONER: Am I saying defer? Well, anyway, go ahead.

QUESTION: … You know, State sends us to Justice, Justice goes back to State, and so on and so on. Was she – did she mean to say maybe that the Justice Department was studying this lawsuit or –

MR. TONER: Look, I’m not going to parse the Secretary’s words….

QUESTION: So it’s no misstatement in any way. What she said –

MR. TONER: They stand –

QUESTION: — she stands by it.

MR. TONER: They stand for themselves …

QUESTION: Okay, well then, you know, this is a daily briefing. So is the Administration intending to sue Arizona over this –

MR. TONER: That’s a matter for the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Is that perhaps not the answer that she should have given when she was asked the question?

MR. TONER: Matt, her words speak for themselves, okay?

OK, OK. We will simply add her self-speaking words to the mini-Bartletts of diplomatically dumb quotations she has been compiling over the last year and a half. It is a volume that already contains her dismissal of prior U.S. understandings with Israel as “unenforceable”; her assurance to Congress that “crippling” sanctions would be in place if engagement failed; her embarrassing explanation to Al Arabyia that “experts” had assured her that engagement would succeed; her description of the Gaza blockade as not only unsustainable but “unacceptable” (a word previously reserved for game-changing violations of binding UN resolutions by an adversary, until that position unfortunately became unsustainable); etc.

It is a record that speaks for itself; no wonder some think she is ready for Joe Biden’s job.

At Friday’s State Department news conference, the acting deputy spokesman, Mark C. Toner, was asked if Hillary Clinton had misspoken when she told an Ecuadorian TV station that the Obama administration would be suing Arizona over its immigration-enforcement law. Toner responded that her words “stand for themselves,” which produced the following colloquy — excerpted here both for its comedy silver and as a contribution to the debate on whether Hillary has done “an incredible job” as secretary of state:

QUESTION: … [the] Arizona governor said in a written release, “To learn of this lawsuit through an Ecuadorian interview with the Secretary of State is just outrageous. There’s no way to treat – this no way to treat the people of Arizona.” Is there an apology here?

MR. TONER: The Secretary responded to a question she was asked in an interview. This is obviously an issue of great concern and resonance domestically, but it is as well in the hemisphere. … Her words speak for themselves. And I would just defer you to the Justice Department …

QUESTION: So you’re saying she did not misspeak?

MR. TONER: I’m saying her words stand for themselves. …

QUESTION: You say that her words stand for themselves, but that doesn’t answer the question of whether she misspoke or spoke too early. Can you answer that? …

MR. TONER: – I’d defer you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: I think you would want to refer me, not defer me.

MR. TONER: I said refer you. …

QUESTION: But the question is … about what the Secretary said.

MR. TONER: And I will say for the third time that her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: In other words, that you don’t –

MR. TONER: Not in other words.

QUESTION: You don’t want to –

MR. TONER: Not in other words. And I would also say, as I just spoke, is that the President, the Secretary, others in this Administration have said the long-term solution to this is comprehensive immigration reform.

QUESTION: All right. Well, let’s [talk] about the short-term solution to the Arizona situation, not the long-term solution. Let’s talk about what she actually said in the interview. Did she misspeak?

MR. TONER: Her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: That doesn’t answer the question.

MR. TONER: No. She – her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: She did not misspeak, so the Administration is intending to sue Arizona?

MR. TONER: Her words speak for themselves.

QUESTION: Is the Administration intending to sue Arizona?

MR. TONER: Defer you to the Justice Department on –

QUESTION: Refer.

MR. TONER: – the next steps legally. I said refer.

QUESTION: You’re saying defer.

MR. TONER: Am I saying defer? Well, anyway, go ahead.

QUESTION: … You know, State sends us to Justice, Justice goes back to State, and so on and so on. Was she – did she mean to say maybe that the Justice Department was studying this lawsuit or –

MR. TONER: Look, I’m not going to parse the Secretary’s words….

QUESTION: So it’s no misstatement in any way. What she said –

MR. TONER: They stand –

QUESTION: — she stands by it.

MR. TONER: They stand for themselves …

QUESTION: Okay, well then, you know, this is a daily briefing. So is the Administration intending to sue Arizona over this –

MR. TONER: That’s a matter for the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Is that perhaps not the answer that she should have given when she was asked the question?

MR. TONER: Matt, her words speak for themselves, okay?

OK, OK. We will simply add her self-speaking words to the mini-Bartletts of diplomatically dumb quotations she has been compiling over the last year and a half. It is a volume that already contains her dismissal of prior U.S. understandings with Israel as “unenforceable”; her assurance to Congress that “crippling” sanctions would be in place if engagement failed; her embarrassing explanation to Al Arabyia that “experts” had assured her that engagement would succeed; her description of the Gaza blockade as not only unsustainable but “unacceptable” (a word previously reserved for game-changing violations of binding UN resolutions by an adversary, until that position unfortunately became unsustainable); etc.

It is a record that speaks for itself; no wonder some think she is ready for Joe Biden’s job.

Read Less