Benghazi-Era State Dept. Spox Nuland Apologizes for 'F**k the EU!' Line; WashPost Buries on A7

The spokeswoman who helped circle the wagons for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the aftermath of Benghazi recently found herself in a fresh controversy over a leaked phone conversation in which she exclaimed "F**k the EU!" in reference to the European Union's stake in negotiations regarding internal strife in Ukraine.

So naturally in reporting the matter, the Washington Post buried the story on page A7, slapping it with a yawn-inducing headline: "U.S. official apologizes for blunt remark."* What's more, diplomatic correspondent and veteran Hillary Clinton cheerleader Anne Gearan completely left out any reference to Nuland's controversial role in the Benghazi coverup (excerpt below; emphasis mine):


The top U.S. diplomat for Europe apologized Thursday for comments about the European Union that were — to put it lightly — undiplomatic.

“F--- the E.U.,” Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said in a private telephone call that was intercepted and leaked online.

In the call, Nuland, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and State Department spokeswoman, was dismissively referring to slow-moving European efforts to address political paralysis and a looming fiscal crisis in Ukraine. But it was the blunt nature of her remarks, rather than U.S. diplomatic calculations, that seemed exceptional.

Nuland also assessed the political skills of Ukrainian opposition figures with unusual candor and, along with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, debated strategy for their cause, laying bare a deep degree of U.S. involvement in affairs that Washington officially says are Ukraine’s to resolve.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki acknowledged that the recording was authentic and said Nuland had apologized to E.U. officials. But U.S. officials were also quick to point the finger at Russia, which has bristled at U.S. involvement in Ukraine.

The recording “was first noted and tweeted out by the Russian government. I think it says something about Russia’s role,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

The recording surfaced on YouTube on Thursday, just as Nuland arrived in Ukraine for talks. It was also widely viewed on a Russian-language Web site, where it appeared online along with a photo montage of Nuland, Pyatt, and opposition figures. The Russian caption reads, “Puppets of the Maidan,” the colloquial name for Kiev’s Independence Square.

[Read: A quick guide to who’s who on the call]

Illicitly recorded material is a staple of politics in former Soviet republics, where it’s known by its Russian name “kompromat,” meaning “compromising materials.”

Of course this was a private conversation, nonetheless in the post-Wikileaks, post-Snowden era, American diplomats must be exceedingly cautious about whatever they say and whenever they say it, all the more to avoid embarrassing the United States.

Don't expect this to become the Obama administration's version of the "old Europe" faux pas which the media never let Donald Rumsfeld let down. You may recall that on February 19, 2003, nearly a month after Rumseld made those now-infamous remarks, then-ABC White House correspondent Terry Moran grilled White House press secretary Ari Fleischer  about a sense of "dismissive superiority" emanating from the Bush administration (emphasis mine):

Is it possible that the attitude which emanates not from the press, but from the administration, of "you're with us or you're against us," kind of dismissive superiority to some of the oldest American allies, is contributing to the problems in forging a common front against Iraq?

Granted, these two cases aren't completely analogous, but don't expect the media to start worrying the Obama administration has an imperious attitude towards U.S. allies.

At the open of my piece, I mentioned that Nuland was a key player in the State Department's post-Benghazi spin. Here's a refresher about Nuland's efforts to shield her boss, Hillary Clinton. From the Wall Street Journal's Siobhan Hughes's July 11, 2013 Washington Wire blog post (emphasis mine):

Ms. Nuland, who was nominated for the post of assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, was involved immediately after the Benghazi attacks in an e-mail exchange about “talking points” that would be used to explain the administration’s understanding of the attacks.

In the 2012 email exchange, Ms. Nuland had expressed concern about releasing certain information. In one instance, she objected to allowing lawmakers to identify terrorist groups by name.

The talking points later became a flashpoint when then-United Nations ambassador Susan Rice used them on Sunday television news programs to say – inaccurately – that the attacks had been sparked by a protest.

“Why should we believe that you will be open and forthcoming on the disclosure of important information to Congress when you deliberating and intentionally withheld information about Benghazi from Congress and the American people?” asked Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.).

“I am 400% committed to positive cooperation with the Congress; to sharing fully all information that we can,” Ms. Nuland replied. “As you recall in that first week after the attack, there were numerous briefings.”

Sen. James Risch (R., Idaho) asked what Ms. Nuland knew and when about the role played by terrorism in the attacks at the U.S. posts.

“I don’t want to dwell on the Benghazi question – but the Benghazi question is there – and it hasn’t been answered,” Mr. Risch said.

Ms. Nuland said that she had a communications role at the State Department and not a policy job, explaining that she did not read intelligence reports because it would have been too difficult to keep that information separate.

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) tried to engage Ms. Nuland in a discussion about the Central Intelligence Agency’s annex to the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, but Ms. Nuland demurred.

Mr. Paul said he suspected that the attacks may have revolved around what he suspected was arms being taken from one group and sent to another through the CIA annex.

“We can’t get to the truth,” Mr. Paul said. “That’s the problem with running secret government and running secret wars. We can’t have oversight because we don’t have any information.”

*The digital headline is even blander: "In recording of U.S. diplomat, blunt talk on Ukraine"

Foreign Policy Libya Europe Government & Press Anne Gearan Victoria Nuland