December 11, 2023

On Tuesday, the National Security Council’s John Kirby went before fellow liberals who normally work as stenographers for power (i.e. Kirby and his friends), but during the Israel-Hamas war, Kirby has fended off questions ranging from the insane to the wrong to downright anti-Israel. This time, he was accused by a reporter for a Saudi-funded outlet of being a puppet for Israel and pressed by ABC, CBS, CNN, NPR, Reuters, and The Wall Street Journal to cut off aid to Israel.

Reporter Nadia Bilbassy-Charters of Saudi-funded Alarabiya had the questions about Kirby and the U.S. being under Israel’s control. She began her turn by wondering why the Biden administration hasn’t “embrac[ed] the dissent voices”.

She also suggested that the administration offer a full-throated “critici[sm]” of Israel because “actually, it is in violation of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention.”

“With due respect, John, some think people you repeat what the Israeli army spokesmen saying. It’s exactly what they’re saying you’re repeating here. So, how can you — why not — the dissenting voices, not just understanding them and we have a channels [sic] because we’re a democracy,” she ranted.

Bilbassy-Charters finally finished speaking: “Why not — what’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with standing here and say Israel do something wrong because you’re the best friend, you have leverage on them, why not criticizing [sic] them?”

Looking perplexed in disagreement as she spoke, Kirby first noted that her “question presupposes that we’ve made some determination that the law of armed conflict has violated and I don’t think — we’re not at that point.”

When she clapped back wondering if this meant the U.S. is “disagreeing with the U.N.,” Kirby reiterated the U.S.’s position that “we’re not going to react in near realtime to every event” and “Israel has a right and responsibility to defend itself and we’re going to make sure they have the tools and capabilities to do that.”

Kirby hit his stride in not only reminding reporters and viewers to not lose sight of what Hamas did on October 7, but clapping back at those claiming Israel’s the side committing a genocide (click “expand”):

KIRBY: Again, we’re one month after this and we ought not forget what happened one month ago. 1,400 people slaughtered in their homes and at a music festival and when Hamas decided to conduct operations, it was with the intent of killing people. You know, I heard this word genocide tossed around about. Hamas actually does have genocidal intentions against he people of Israel. They’d like to see it wiped off the map. They said so on purpose. So, that’s — that’s what’s at stake here and we’re going to keep making sure that Israel has that ability to do that. Now, as for the voices, of course, we respect all different voices and perspectives on this and we know that there’s a lot of high emotion here when it comes to what’s going on. We have never shied away from criticizing our friends and partners when we believe it’s warranted and we’ll continue to do that. We also believe that — that — that — the — the best diplomacy, the best progress and diplomatic pursuits is to do it privately, and outside the public eye and we’ll continue to do that as well. We’ll continue to have the tough conversations with our good friend.

BILBASSY-CHARTERS: I don’t think anybody forgot what happened on October 7, but regardless —

KIRBY: I’m not saying you did forget. I’m just saying it’s all good for us, we should not — we should all be reminded and it happened a month ago today.

Rewinding to the first question in Kirby’s Q&A, ABC’s Selina Wang held up the rabidly anti-Israel U.N. and its Secretary-General’s claim that “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children” with the IDF targeting “civilians, hospitals, refugee camps, mosques, churches, and U.N. facilities, including shelters.”

“So, if a war zone is becoming a graveyard for children, can you still say that Israel is following the laws of war,” she huffed.

Kirby argued that while the U.S. “continue[s] to stress to our Israel counterparts that they be as…careful in their targeting as possible”, “Hamas is putting those children and their families in greater danger by not letting them go, by encouraging them to stay, by sheltering in their homes, they’re building tunnels under their hospitals and by holding children hostages.”

He faced follow-ups from CBS’s Weijia Jiang, CNN’s M.J. Lee, The Journal’s Annie Linskey, NPR’s Asma Khalid, and Reuters’s Trevor Hunnicutt pressing the administration to make aid to Israel conditional on limiting Gazan civilian casualties (click “expand”):

LEE: Is there any scenario where future aid to Israel would be contingent on how they conduct themselves in terms of minimizing civilian casualties?

(….)

HUNNICUTT: And is the President frustrated at all with his inability to prevail upon his Israeli counterpart to engage in these humanitarian pauses?

KIRBY: There have been humanitarian pauses already.

(….)

KHLAID: In late October, you had referred to the fact the administration is not drawing any red lines for Israel. As the death toll for civilians in the Gaza Strip has gone up, I wanted to ensure, is that still the case, that the administration has no red lines at all?

KIRBY: That is still the case.

(….)

JIANG: I know that you’ve repeatedly said you talked to the Israelis, the U.S. talks to them every day about minimizing civilian casualties. But do those talks include laying out any consequences if they do not, including a suspension of aid?

(….).

JIANG: But Jake Sullivan, Finer, you, and others have said any time the U.S. transfers weapons to another country, it requires assurances those weapons will be used within the in accordance of law. To be very clear, the U.S. does not believe —

KIRBY: That’s different than what you’re suggesting in your question, which is that we’re going to layer on more restrictions on the security assistance that they’re getting and that’s not what I’m — that’s not what I’m alluding to — 

JIANG: — right.

KIRBY: — or talking about.

JIANG: The transfer of weapons that have already happened. Just to be clear, the U.S. has not determined that Israel has violated any of those boundaries?

KIRBY: No.

(….)

LINSKEY: [I]f the United States is not analyzing the sort of impact on the ground, how can you be confident that the laws of war are not being broken?

KIRBY: When I say analyzing, I mean, it’s not like we’re creating a stack of Powerpoint slides everyday on every operation…[T]he sense from how they’re doing is from our — our communications with them[.]

Hunnicutt also had a question that unintentionally made the case for conservatives pushing for Schedule F if and when a Republican returns to the White House:

There’s hundreds of USAID employees that have signed on to a letter disagreeing with Israel. There’s some dissent cables floating around the State Department. Why are so many federal government employees at odds with the policies that you’re talking about?

Kirby also faced tough questions about the continued attacks by Iranian proxies on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria. Along with surprising suspects in theGrio’s April Ryan and NBC’s Peter Alexander, Fox’s Jacqui Heinrich and Edward Lawrence were on the case:

Speaking of Alexander, the ever-inept Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre eventually had to go before her pals in the Briefing Room and, needless to say, it didn’t go well when the NBC reporter asked:

There’s been…a lot of videos of individuals who have been tearing down signs…of Israelis presently being held hostage in Gaza. There’s been some tense confrontations…Is there White House’s view that these actions should be condemned, the pulling of — the pulling down of them? Or that that’s a form of peaceful protest?

Jean-Pierre played dumb, claiming she only had “sorta, kinda seen the reporting”, but Alexander wasn’t having it: “There’s been, like, 30 million videos that have gone around of this”.

She then claimed she wouldn’t comment on the “specifics on that particular thing”, leaving Alexander incredulous (click “expand”):

JEAN-PIERRE: No, I know. I know. I hear you. I hear you. I’m just not going to —

ALEXANDER: Is it okay? Is it okay? Is that peaceful protest to pull that down or should you not be doing that?

JEAN-PIERRE: — I’m just not going to go into specifics on that particular thing. What I can say: there are real violent protests and threats that are happening right now and senior administration officials are — are aware of these reports, which are deeply concerning and that is something that we’re focused on, right?

ALEXANDER: So, to be clear, it’s deeply concerning that people would be pulling these things down?

JEAN-PIERRE: I’m just saying as it related a lot of reporting out there about violent         protests and threats and so, I can speak to that. I can speak to how FBI is tracking an increased volume. I can speak to the frequency of threats that we’re seeing to Jewish community, to the Arab-American community, to the Muslim community in the United States since October 7. That is something that I can speak to. And, obviously, DOJ and FBI are working with local law enforcement on those — on those threats. And, of course, that is deeply concerning to us and, so, that is what we’re going to work on, focusing on that.

ALEXANDER: I’d be grateful if you take the question, just to see if there’s a position the White House has on that, just for going forward b/c it’s created a lot of divide in this country right now, as it was appropriate?

JEAN-PIERRE: I’m — I’m happy to. I’m happy to.

After the briefing, Jean-Pierre put out a tweet stating the obvious that doing such a thing is wrong and distressing to those who know and care about the hostages.

But Alexander and his NBC colleagues chose to be cowards and not blast this mealy-mouthed behavior from Jean-Pierre on NBC Nightly News or Wednesday’s Today.

Jean-Pierre had one more embarrassing moment as Alexander brought up the pro-Hamas protest from Saturday in which a mob banged on and rattled a White House fence and splattered red-painted handprints on the same entrance.

“Is the President concerned — is the White House concerned that these protests, in this case, vandals, could get so close that they could vandalize it, that they could get their hands on the gates outside of the White House,” he first asked, but Jean-Pierre ducked.

After unsuccessfully asking it again, Alexander finally got Jean-Pierre to condemn the mob:

ALEXANDER: Does the President think it’s appropriate for people to put red, blood-stained hands on the outside of the White House?

JEAN-PIERRE: Obviously not. Obviously not.

To see the relevant transcript from the November 7 briefing, click here.