Friday, March 13, 2009

As White House Chides UN's Ban, Will "Deadbeat-Gate" Have Legs?

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

WASHINGTON, March 12 -- Will the UN's "deadbeat-gate" controversy have legs? On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in comments to the House Foreign Affairs Committee called the U.S. a deadbeat. Ranking member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen repeated the word to reporters, including Inner City Press, and Ban mirthfully confirmed that he had used it.  That midnight his Spokesperson issued a "clarification," which did not mention the word. In New York the next day, Ban called it a misunderstanding. But as one observer points out, usually it is said that the listening and not the speaker misunderstand the use of a word. And  Ban's laughter when he confirmed using the phrase does not support the position that it was not understood.

  What it appears happened was that some of the Democrats running the Committee gave the impression that they view the U.S., by which they mean the Bush Administration, out of office for 50 days now, as a deadbeat. Representative Bill Delahunt told Inner City Press that the U.S. does not have credibility to criticize the UN when it is behind on dues. In this reading, Ban picked up on the mood and played into it.

  Those who know Ban well, though, believe that the word did not simply and spontaneous spring to mind. Either it was used in the sessions preparing him for his two day Washington visit, or it was even suggested to him by his American advisors, among them Robert Orr and Lynn Pascoe.

  While Ban used the word "misunderstanding" in his prepared introduction to his monthly press conference Thursday in New York, none of the questions that he took used the word.  (At that time, Inner City Press was at an IMF press briefing in Washington.) 

UN's Ban and Secretary Clinton, "deadbeat-gate" not shown

  By contrast at the White House press briefing on Thursday, Obama's spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about the comment by CBS' Mark Knoller. Gibbs called the word "unfortunate," and when asked if Ban should apologize suggested that Ban publicly "acknowledge" the U.S.'s role.  

  This is not what Ban or his advisers were hoping for, when they came to Washington.  In the eyes of some, it ended it overshadowing the visits with Obama, Senator Kerry and Representative Edward Markey.  Inner City Press has taped a debate about the snafu, which will go online over the weekend, here. Watch this site.

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