“It’s like sending in the electrician when you’re plumbing is broken.” – Catherine Herridge, Fox News Channel national correspondent
WHAT WILL old man McCain and his mini me sidekick Lindsay Graham do now? There’s nowhere for the rest of the Rice critics to hide, too many hacks to name, especially in the media [see Dana Milbank and Maureen Dowd].
The issue is why the Benghazi consulate was left without adequate security after repeated warnings, but also why the CIA and the State Department missed what was coming. Instead, there’s been a fever pitch frenzy to hang Ambassador Rice out to dry, led by McCain and Graham. The Obama administration has questions to answer, none of which has to do with anything Rice did, which Republican Senator Isaakson, in the video above, clearly lays out.
Herridge, who has not ventured into the conservative network circus, weighed in today on FNC, as the swiftboating of Susan Rice on Benghazi crested and crashed.
The Fox News correspondent [Harvard, with a Master's degree in journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism] was referring to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who had nothing to do with the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, but who was given the job to deliver the Administration’s talking points on TV that fateful Sunday in September, because Secretary Clinton doesn’t do political shows in her current diplomatic position. That the Administration wanted a career diplomat to represent them, considering an ambassador died in Benghazi, is understandable.
The backtracking mad scramble unfolded all day on Fox News Channel, as one person after another finally said on air what I’ve been writing about since the Benghazi swiftboating of President Obama, then Ambassador Rice, began. Starting, then escalating with the Rice swiftboating, complete with false report on the CIA being asked to stand down, it’s the latest saga in the on air reporting by the biased and unbalanced network.
Ms. Rice going out on the Sunday shows with the talking points she was given is exactly what it was: delivering an official message from the Administration, offering information approved at the time that had been declassified.
As Sen. McCain was making a fool of himself on “Face the Nation,” the conversation on “Meet the Press” foreshadowed a dramatic shift in the Washington narrative.
The information finally being digested clearly revealed Rice as the good soldier, with the responsibility for the talking points coming from an intelligence and political bureaucracy that rarely serves the people once it’s revved up.
GREGORY: Senator, you said that two days before that, Director Petraeus said it was terrorism. Why didn’t Ambassador Rice call it terrorism two days later?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Because she could speak publicly only on unclassified speaking points. I have some concern with those speaking points. But let me correct one thing.
GREGORY: Right. But what are the concerns and why speak at all? In other words, why were– why was there a reference to it being a terrorist attack taken out of the public talking points?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: That is something that we’re going to find out. But they– but it was. That’s the point. Now, with the allegation that the White House changed those talking points, that is false. There is only one thing that was changed, and I’ve checked into this. I believe it to be absolute fact. And that was the word consulate was changed to mission. That’s the only change that anyone in the White House made, and I have checked this out.
REP. ROGERS: And– and this one is a counterpoint here, and– and again, we get along well, we may disagree on this issue. But we get along well on many, many issues. What they– what was said and– and as I conclude the course of that investigation was that at some point, that those so-called talking points, in other words, the narrative of how we would call this event, went up to what’s called a deputy’s meeting. When– when asked, there was no one in the professional intelligence community could tell us who changed what. So that– there– there goes the disconnect. So the intelligence community said this is– this was a terrorist act.
GREGORY: Why wouldn’t we call it what it was? That’s what I don’t get.
REP. ROGERS: That’s a great question.
GREGORY: Why not just call it what it was? Who– why are we protecting?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: I happen to think that’s absolutely correct. I don’t know who we were– who we were protecting. I do know that the answer given to us is we didn’t want to name a group until we had some certainty. Well, where– where this went awry is anybody that brings weapons and mortars and RPGs and breaks into an asset of the United States is a terrorist in my view. I mean, that’s pretty– pretty clear. Also the other point was, once the video was put together, it was clear there was no demonstration. This should have been known much earlier. It also raises the concern of talking points by committee. And I have some concern about that.
GREGORY: But was there a cover-up? Do you believe that the president or anybody serving the president deliberately misled the American people about the true nature of this attack for political reasons?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: No, no.
GREGORY: Absolutely not, senator?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: That’s correct.
REP. ROGERS: I don’t…
GREGORY: Do you– do you believe anyone misled the American people deliberately for political reasons?
REP. ROGERS: Well, this is what I know. I know the narrative was wrong and the intelligence was right. Now, getting between there and there, I think you have to be careful about making those accusations. I think you should have to prove it– as an old FBI agent, you should prove it first.
GREGORY: So bottom line, as you say Petraeus.
REP. ROGERS: But the narrative was…
GREGORY: …does contradict Susan Rice. This is important. You’re saying, Petraeus says, look, I said it was terrorism all along. Susan Rice told the American people…
REP. ROGERS: Well.
GREGORY: …no, we thought it was spontaneous. There’s a disconnect.
REP. ROGERS: And even more important– even more important than that, the– the narrative as it went from the– at least the CIA and other intelligence agencies was accurate as for what we know today. It was an act of terrorism. We knew that. So the difference was what happened when it went outside the intelligence community for, as– as the senator called it, you know, a committee to look at this thing and make the determination on what the narrative was. The narrative was wrong. And why that’s important, this isn’t just about…
REP. ROGERS: …parsing words and who was right. There were some policy decisions made based on the narrative that was not consistent with the intelligence that we had. That’s my concern. And we need to say, hey, we need to figure out how that happened, and let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: We gave…
GREGORY: Did our people die because we didn’t protect them adequately? Is that the bottom line here?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: …we gave the direc– David, we gave the direction yesterday that this whole process is going to be checked out.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: We are going to find out who made changes in the original statement. Until we do, I really think it’s unwarranted to make accusations.
GREGORY: But can I ask this? Did our people die in that consulate because of the government’s failure to adequately protect them? Be that the State Department, be that the CIA?
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, that’s another subject. That’s another subject.
REP. ROGERS: There are two issues here. One is the physical security of the consulate itself. Based on all the intelligence that we knew, all of that information said clearly there was a high degree of threat. I believe that there was a catastrophic failure in recognizing that threat posture clearly on that date. That’s a separate issue than the intelligence issue. We had– clearly, the intelligence was right. Clearly, others had made decision based on that threat including other nations had pulled out of Benghazi. We knew all of that was going on through the investigation. But the State Department for whatever reason didn’t make the adjustments. I argue, and I think the Senator would argue, would have been prudent to protect the lives of the– that’s one issue. The second issue is the narrative that was created following it did not match the intelligence. And did the policy decisions that happen afterward cause problems for the United States? And I argue it has, which is why we have agreed together we’re going to get to the bottom of how that happened.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: If I might say, I think we are vulnerable. Intelligence should be used in assessing the safety of our 285 diplomatic missions all over the world. And there should have some precise effect. As of mid-August, we know that Ambassador Stevens was very unhappy with the level of security. And we’ve seen that testimony. We also know that some improvements were made to the annex. I believe that the security aspect of this is one of the biggest things. I went through hundreds of threat warnings, threat warning, after threat warning, after threat warning over the last six months. And also the prior events that had taken place. There is no question that Benghazi was one of the most difficult places. It should have had much better security, and no one should believe that these militias who were unarmed, who were stationed in front of his security are going do anything other than run when they see people approaching them with guns.
The caterwauling on the subject now revolves around who removed references to terrorism and Al Qaeda. Andrew Mitchell tried to disabuse Joe Scarborough on Monday that shrouding the truth was something new, because Mitchell is a hardened national security expert who knows how this has worked for over 50 years.
The American people have been lied to about all manner of national security intel going well beyond Reagan, but particularly during the Reagan years, which is likely why the Bush regime thought they could get away with lying about WMDs in Iraq. That Washington watchers are now aghast that someone in the intelligence chain reworked the raw intel and what the CIA had reported up the chain should surprise no regular reader around here.
That Senators McCain and Graham thought they’d found their perfect target in U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice goes back to a personal vendetta, because Rice isn’t a delicate flower and has taken on McCain openly on foreign policy before. Uppity broad!
However, both of these Republican senators are veterans of matters of war and intelligence stove piping, so it is embarrassingly shameful how they’ve ignored the facts of what can happen in these types of horrendous catastrophes when brave Americans are caught in the middle of bad policy and pay for it with their lives. That both McCain and Graham decided to play politics with this issue is nakedly obvious and a dereliction of their senatorial responsibilities.
Ambassador Susan Rice represented the Administration with talking points that were approved from the monster apparatus that has become known as the U.S. intelligence community, which includes cherry picking facts for the American people that government grunts think you can digest, but will also cause whoever’s in power the least amount of problem. Americans rarely pay attention to foreign policy unless their political team has the other guy in their sights.
This is the result of the Congress abdicating their responsibilities of national security, which begins with declaring war in the first place, as well as making sure our entanglements don’t end up exploding in our face. Our political parties don’t want to do either anymore, so that the Executive branch can have the leeway never intended by our founders. Once Congress no longer wants to be bothered with checking the president’s war powers, it’s not a far step to keep intelligence secrets from our senators and representatives, or bend the narrative to be the least explosive, because they’re fixated on party loyalty, or humiliating their adversary, rather than doing their jobs.
The issue of security at the Benghazi consulate continues to stand out, with the reported “secret agreement” between the CIA and the State Department where the attention deserves to be first. Secretary Clinton’s testimony is critical to this point and she won’t hesitate to be bluntly informative.
But now that target practice on Ambassador Rice has been rendered futile, Fox’s Megyn Kelly didn’t waste any time using her show today as an opportunity to turn the question to Secretary Clinton, ruminating on air whether testifying to Congress would hurt Clinton if she runs in 2016. It was the purist example of yelling “squirrel,” in the headline grabbing culture of cable coverage over substance that actually matters on the Benghazi issue.
However, hunting potential Democratic presidential candidates for sport is job one for Fox News, now that 2012 is over and Republicans have been vanquished, no matter how irrelevant the context.
It would also be helpful if David Petraeus had been able to keep his pants up so that in the middle of this terrorist attack he wasn’t simultaneously having his privacy invaded, because he’s another man who likes having sex with a hot woman, someone other than his wife of 37 years. It’s also not outlandish to wonder how divided his attention was at the time hair on fire security warnings were coming out of Benghazi.
Don’t expect Fox News channel to ask any probing questions about Mr. Petraeus anytime soon.
But at least Ambassador Susan Rice no longer has a noose around her neck.