In this town, reporters sometimes ask government briefers questions they can’t immediately answer. They’re often told, “I’ll get back to you on that.”
At some places, such as the Pentagon or the State Department, the briefers — or usually the people working for them — will indeed get back, within a few hours, via e-mail. At the White House, maybe they will, often they won’t.
But whether the response actually answers your question, well, that’s another story.
Take, for example, a question that a reporter asked State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland on Tuesday about whether department officials will be “meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood delegation that is currently in Washington?”(Some of the Egyptian delegation met Tuesday with White House officials, our colleague William Wan reported.)
Pretty straightforward, yes or no question. “We’ll get back to you,” she said.
And here’s the e-mailed response.
Answer: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is hosting a conference in Washington titled “Islamists in Power: Views from Within” on April 5.
Okay, that’s a fact. And some Brotherhood members will be there. So the answer is “yes”? Ah, not so fast.
Some of the conference participants will meet with State Department officials while in town,” the e-mail says. So the answer is surely yes? Maybe “Some of the conference participants”is some code for “Muslim Brotherhood.”
Deputy Secretary [William] Burns will meet with Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Dr. Marwan Muasher and some of the participants in the Carnegie conference on April 4, the answer continues.
Wait a minute. Muasher? Jordan’s former ambassador to Israel and to Washington and a former World Bank official? Hardly known to be a member of the Brotherhood. So maybe the answer is no?
Some of the Carnegie Endowment conference participants will also meet with Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Robert Hormats and Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, the answer concludes.
Any further questions?