Once again showing his low tolerance for spin from the State Department, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee pressed spokeswoman Jen Psaki to explain John Kerry’s turnaround concerning Syria intervention. Lee argued that Kerry’s speech about Syria, before the President announced he would be seeking approval from Congress, was an impassioned moral stance but that his feelings after meeting with the President changed. Lee demanded that Psaki explain what Kerry meant when he said that President Obama was “courageous” by taking the vote to Congress when a “no” vote could be used as “an excuse or a reason not to act.”
QUESTION: Can I – on Syria —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — specifically, policy-wise, I’m assuming, given the Secretary’s powerful testimony yesterday and the day before, plus his very powerful speeches that he gave on Friday and Monday, that he still feels the same way that he did last week. And so what I don’t understand, though, is how he is comfortable with the President’s decision. I understand the President is the Commander-in-Chief and that everyone is going to get onboard with whatever he decides, but I don’t understand why he is so full-throatedly in favor of this. He, over the weekend, said the President was acting courageously by taking this to Congress, and I don’t understand what is courageous about asking permission for something that you say you don’t need to do what you believe to be the right thing, not just morally but in general.
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Can you explain why this is a courageous move and – or why the Secretary would call it a courageous move?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly let me first say, of course, the Secretary does feel how he did on Friday, how he did on Sunday, that targeted intervention is absolutely the right step, and he does support the President’s decision to bring this to Congress. And —
QUESTION: So was there some kind of, like, group spine removal procedure at the White House over the weekend? I don’t understand. How does – how is this courageous?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously the President has the authority to act without the cooperation of Congress, but the President and the Secretary strongly agreed that when the Administration and the people’s representatives stand together that that strengthens our case and makes our case even stronger internationally.
QUESTION: Right. But —
MS. PSAKI: And —
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: No – well, if the Administration firmly believes the case that it has laid out – right?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: If the President has made a decision that the United States should act militarily, if the Administration believes that it doesn’t need congressional authorization to do it and, in fact, reserves the right to go ahead and do it even if Congress were to vote no, why – it would seem that the only reason to go to Congress then would be to give the President an excuse or a reason not to act.
MS. PSAKI: That’s absolutely not the case. The President has made —
QUESTION: So the Secretary is totally sure and is very comfortable with this decision and does not believe that the President is sacrificing the courage of his convictions for political expediency in this case?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. And quite to the contrary…