Yesterday, there was a press conference on the occasion of Condoleezza Rice's 7-hour diplomatic visit to Mexico City - her first trip to Latin America as secretary of state. Neither Rice nor her Mexican counterpart Luis Derbez had much of great interest to say at the conference, since really this was just a prep trip for an upcoming U.S.-Canada-Mexico summit, so for me, the tightly controlled Q&A session turned out to be the most revealing aspect of the event.
The way it worked was that pre-selected members of the Mexican and traveling English-speaking press (local correspondants seemed to have been excluded) took turns asking questions of Secretary Rice, and on one occasion, Foreign Minister Derbez. And what happened was this: A member of the Mexican press would ask Rice about, say, migration issues and the question of civilian vigilante groups opearting on the Arizona border. Then, a reporter from Reuters would follow with a question about a Pakistani official's statement on al Quaeda activity. Back to the Mexican side and a question about Mexicans facing the death penalty in the U.S. And then it would be Fox News' turn to ask a question about Lebanon.
Seriously, for much of the English-speaking press, this event may as well have been in Washington, or Munich, or Tokyo, or anywhere else in world, really. Sad as it is, it didn't make any difference what country they were in at that moment because the only part of the globe that has any importance in terms of U.S. foreign policy right now is the Middle East.
The questioning certainly generated some grumbling among the Mexican press corps, I'll tell you that. Mexico has been complaining about how badly Washington has pushed it aside in favor of events related to terrorism and the Middle East, and the fact that the U.S. press expressed no interest in talking about U.S.-Mexico relations even at a press conference in Mexico City seemed to be rubbing everyone's noses in it.