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Posted at 04:23 PM ET, 09/11/2012

Is State Department practicing diplomacy on reporters?

This is what (some) diplomacy looks like: East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao shakes hands with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (VALENTINO DE SOUSA - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Forget China or North Korea. The State Department’s biggest diplomatic challenge might be with the reporters who cover it.

The latest volley came Tuesday, after State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a question-and-answer session with reporters that she didn’t think it was helpful to engage in diplomacy with Israel, or anyone else, for that matter, “in public.”

But, wait, the Associated Press’s Matt Lee interjected. “What are you doing up here every day then?”

Nuland insisted that briefing (aka spinning) the media isn’t an act of diplomacy. “I’m explaining our national policies...” she countered. “I’m not doing diplomacy with you. I’m explaining our diplomacy.”

But Lee maintained that Nuland was, in fact, engaging in diplomacy, and then there was a bit of back-and-forth. It ended with Nuland asking Lee if their conversation, by his logic, made him a diplomat.

Lee shot back that he wasn’t so “duplicitous.”

There was laughter among the reporters, and, it seems, this particular crossfire ended in detente — for now.

By  |  04:23 PM ET, 09/11/2012

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