After her grueling trip to South Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took off to Bermuda for a bit of R&R with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. While the couple strolled on the sand, news photographers snapped away.
But the Clintons didn't count on a hurricane blowing their way--one ironically named "Bill"--forcing a quick end to the Bermuda holiday.
So, the press corps at the State Department asked spokesman Ian Kelly for confirmation, but he was extremely reluctant to answer questions on the topic, Mrs. Clinton's escape from the hurricane not being on his top ten talking points.
A long, long time ago, I briefly covered the State Department for NBC news and I remember how carefully reporters had to calibrate their questions and how closely the official answers had to be parsed. But the following exchange with Kelly is a classic:
QUESTION: So have the Clintons now left Bermuda, because -
MR. KELLY: Oh, jeez.
QUESTION: Yeah, I feel the same way about this. It would just be nice to know.
QUESTION: It's got be answered.
MR. KELLY: No, she's not in Bermuda.
QUESTION: She's not in Bermuda anymore? She left?
MR. KELLY: She's not in Bermuda.
QUESTION: Is she in Martha's Vineyard?
MR. KELLY: I don't know where. Frankly, I don't know where she is.
QUESTION: Did they leave this morning?
MR. KELLY: I'm not sure when they left.
QUESTION: Ian - there are pictures of them walking on the beach in Bermuda in the New York papers.
MR. KELLY: Okay.
QUESTION: So why can't you just say that they left, that they -
MR. KELLY: I said that they're not in Bermuda.
QUESTION: No, you - you didn't say that they left. Did it have anything to do with the storm coming in?
QUESTION: Why did they cut their holiday short in Bermuda?
MR. KELLY: Any other questions?
MR. KELLY: No other questions? Okay.
QUESTION: No, we have other questions, but what's the weirdness about this? I mean, they've left Bermuda. There are pictures of them.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: We're not just asking you to be irritating.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, we're getting a lot of questions from people who want to know because they're doing hurricane coverage, so they want to know, you know, do they need to have an extra team out there so they can see the Clintons leaving? I mean, this is a news story.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, they're on vacation. We don't think it should be a news story.
QUESTION: Well, it's too late. It already is. Did they leave Bermuda today to get out of the way of the storm?
MR. KELLY: They did not leave Bermuda today. They left Bermuda yesterday.
QUESTION: Okay. And are they in Martha's Vineyard now because of Chelsea's -
MR. KELLY: I do not know where they are. That's the honest truth.
QUESTION: And can you please just either say - just deny these ridiculous rumors about Chelsea Clinton's wedding?
MR. KELLY: No. It is not my role to talk about what Chelsea Clinton's plans are. That is really inappropriate.
QUESTION: Ian, can you take it a little step further on their leaving Bermuda yesterday and say it was due to the incoming storm?
MR. KELLY: I really have no further comment on it. I mean, go ahead and - guys are - it's your right to ask me questions, but it's also my right not to answer the questions.
Silly me. I used to think that when you're a government spokesperson, you're geting paid to take questions from the press and answer them.