Moronic Questions and the Reporters Who Ask Them
I’m not sure which is dumber–the fact that a member of the State Department press corps actually asked about this, or that State spokesperson Victoria Nuland seemed to take the question semi-seriously. From the transcript of her daily press briefing from Friday:
MS. NULAND: Oh, here we go. Here we go. Matt’s got one.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’ve got my Vatican question….[D]o you regard it as a free and fair exercise in electing a leader of a country?
MS. NULAND: We did a little bit more digging on this. We consider Vatican City a sovereign juridical state. As some of you know – I think Matt knows – that sovereign juridical state has about 600 resident citizens. I would simply note that in the context of the election for the Pope, they were electing the head of a religion. He’s also the head of this sovereign juridical state. It’s interesting to us that since this is a European state, we have never had a request for ODIHR monitoring of the election, ODIHR being the election-monitoring entity in the European space. So, obviously, were that to come forward, we would take it very seriously.
QUESTION: So, wait, who requests that?
MS. NULAND: The – it can be requested by citizens. It can be requested by parliament. It can be requested by the opposition, as it was in the case of Belarus.
QUESTION: So if – (laughter) – such a request was made, would – the Vatican would have to open up its voting process for that kind of state?
MS. NULAND: If such a request were made for ODIHR monitoring of the voting, then the Vatican would have to consider whether it would open itself to ODIHR monitors.
QUESTION: Okay. But – all right. That’s very interesting. Now—
MS. NULAND: And as I said yesterday—
MS. NULAND:—we would – if you wanted to be a monitor, we could see if we could arrange it, Matt. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That would be great. I would love to spend a week or two in Rome.
MS. NULAND: Exactly.
QUESTION: Can women be monitors?
MS. NULAND: In the Vatican City context, I don’t know. We’d have to work on that….
QUESTION: Is it then correct that the U.S. does not take a position on whether the election of the Pope was free and fair and transparent?
MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday—
QUESTION: Without universal suffrage, without—
MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, we don’t have any reason to question the process.
“Matt” is Matt Lee, the Associated Press reporter assigned to waste space in the State Department press room. At the briefing on the 14th, he asked this question, which is evidently the one Nuland felt she had to do a “little digging” to answer:
QUESTION: Can I just ask you: Does the United States regard the election of the Pope to – that election to have met international standards for the election of a world leader? (Laughter.) He is, after all, a head of state, and a head of government. Does it follow? Does it – you routinely criticize countries or governments for having elections where there is not universal suffrage, where there is not any possibility of appealing the results, where there is not – where there were no monitors, for example. I’m wondering if this meets the standard for a free and fair election in your mind.
MS. NULAND: Well, I think the world has watched this conclave go forward as it’s gone forward in history down the centuries.
QUESTION: Today, it seems like it would be the – it’s probably the least transparent election. (Laughter.) I mean, it’s more opaque than an election in North Korea or Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
It may be that Lee has a really strange sense of humor, or it may be that having access to high government officials has gone to his head. On the other hand, he may simply be an idiot. I report, you decide.
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