The Volokh Conspiracy

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"In March" vs. "and marched"


Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a news conference in Gandhinagar, India, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Kerry said he will travel to Paris this week for talks on countering extremist violence, following sharp criticism of the Obama administration for not sending a senior official to Sunday's rally for unity in Paris that was attended by some 40 world leaders and more than 1 million people. (AP PhotoRick Wilking, Pool)

An article in The Blaze reports:

Secretary of State John Kerry said those questioning why the Obama administration didn't send any senior officials to France's unity rally on Sunday were "sort of quibbling a little bit."

Kerry also said the U.S. should get credit for sending a senior State Department official to France in March, almost a year ago.

"I really think this is sort of quibbling a little bit, in the sense that our Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, was there in March," Kerry said Sunday in India. "Our ambassador was there in March. Many people from the embassy were there in March."

I couldn't find any audio of Kerry's remarks (please pass one along if you can find it), but I quite doubt that he was referring to what happened in the month of March. Rather, my guess is that he was talking about "in the march" or "in a march," referring to the Paris march (where the ambassador was present) or the D.C. march organized by the French Embassy (where Nuland was present).

I acknowledge that the State Department official transcript does say "in March," but it would very much surprise me if Kerry was nonsensically referring to March—Why March? What happened in March? Wouldn't the ambassador have been there during most months, and not just March?—when it would have made perfect sense for him to be referring to "the march" or "a march." And indeed both the secretary and the questioner to whom he was responding had just been talking about the Paris march.

[UPDATE: I have now seen the recording [starting at about 00:43], and it's pretty clear to me that Kerry was actually saying "and marched"—as I expected, a reference to Sunday's march, not to the month of March (though a slightly different reference than I had expected). The audio doesn't include the Nuland sentence, but I presume that he said "and marched" there, just as he had for the following two sentences.]

Maybe this was a transcription error, or maybe it was just mumbling on Kerry's part—[UPDATE: in retrospect, a transcription error, I think]. But I feel pretty confident that he shouldn't be faulted here for supposedly trying to "get credit for sending a senior State Department official to France in March, almost a year ago." And I say this as someone who has faulted the administration for not sending the president, the vice-president, or at least the attorney general (who was in Paris) to participate in the march.

UPDATE: Post title revised in light of the UPDATEs above.