Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Benghazi, it's desperately partisan Republicans vs. Obama, the CIA, and the facts

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The desperate Republican obsession with Benghazi -- and more broadly with bringing down President Obama no matter what -- ran into a problem on Friday by the name of General David Petraeus.

Yes, yes, I know, l'affaire Petraeus is the current media obsession, but let's detach that scandal from the general's closed-door comments to Congress.

But first, the obsession, courtesy this time of the WSJ:

David Petraeus told Congress Friday in closed hearings that the CIA believed from the start that the September 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi were by terrorists. That leaves one VIP who's still missing from Congressional scrutiny: Hillary Clinton.

GOP Congressman Peter King said Mr. Petraeus's testimony differed from what the former CIA director told Congress immediately after the attacks. Mr. King also said Mr. Petraeus said that the CIA's original talking points on the attacks were edited. The altered version became the basis for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's misleading and now infamous comments blaming the attacks on a YouTube video. Both that discrepancy and the issue of the altered talking points need further digging, especially if Ms. Rice is nominated to be the next Secretary of State. 

The overt purpose of this editorial is to smear Hillary (as well as Rice), but the selective "reporting" of events typical of Republican conspiracy theorizing on Benghazi (and on pretty much everything else) is clear from out outset: the talking points were edited, which is proof of a conspiratorial cover-up (that in the warped view of some Republicans rises to the level of, and even surpasses, Watergate).

But what did Petraeus really say? And what are these Republican partisans (and the WSJ is nothing if not a partisan Republican organ) leaving out?

First, the Obama administration did change "consulate" to "diplomatic facility" -- but only for the sake of accuracy.

Second, and more to the point, check out Daily Intel's recounting of the general's testimony, from the AP report. Basically:

-- Yes, the CIA from the outset thought the attack involved a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda.

-- Yes, CIA talking points referred to it as a terrorist attack.

-- Yes, those talking points were changed to remove references to terrorism, though by whom exactly Petraeus wasn't clear.

-- Yes, Rice's comments on the Sunday talk shows reflected these new talking points, which means she was relaying the CIA's "best intelligence" when saying the attacks were spontaneous.


Democrats said Petraeus made it clear the change was not made for political reasons during President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.

"The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. "He completely debunked that idea."

So why the changes? Well, there was a really, really good reason -- one that contrats starkly with Republican efforts to politicize the entire Benghazi story -- lead-up, attack, and aftermath (we saw it from Romney in the heat of the moment just as we're now seeing it from the likes of McCain and Graham): 

The recently resigned spy chief explained that references to terrorist groups suspected of carrying out the violence were removed from the public explanation of what caused the attack so as not to tip off the groups that the U.S. intelligence community was on their trail...

"There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process," Schiff said. "They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information."

Which is to say, as Dan Amira summed it up, "there was a conspiracy... to catch the terrorists."

You'd think this would shut Republicans up on the matter. It won't.

Desperate to catch Obama in a major scandal, even more so now after what to many of them was a shocking re-election win, they'll keep playing politics not just with a tragedy but with intelligence and the anti-terrorist effort, including the effort to track down the perpetrators of this deadly attack, even with the facts staring them in the face.

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  • You would think after how badly they got burned during Clinton's term that they wouldn't do this. But as Deep Throat said in the movie, "The truth is these guys just aren't that smart." And it does seem that they have so vilified Obama that they really believe he is up to no good.

    By Anonymous Frankly Curious, at 2:04 PM  

  • The whole Benghazi "story" demonstrates the power of the "megaphone effect" in right-wing media. The likes of Drudge/Fox News/right-wing talk radio will hammer away at a "story" like this, day in and day out until the MSM will take the bait and give it much more coverage than it really deserves. We saw the same thing with Solyndra. Never mind that, during the Bush/Cheney years there were scandals virtually every month that were vastly worse than Solyndra that got little coverage in the MSM.
    Of course, all this is assuming that Solyndra is even an Obama administration "scandal" to begin with. And I have yet to see any evidence that Benghazi is a scandal.
    I suspect this will all eventually play out, without a single shred of evidence that there was any wrongdoing by the Obama administration. (Oh, and by that time, Drudge/Fox/Rush will have cooked up the next "scandal").

    By Blogger Marc McDonald, at 1:28 AM  

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