IT’S the obsessions of the week, the rewrites of the Benghazi talking points. It won’t keep another Benghazi style attack from happening again or keep our embassy personnel safer. It’s politics, just like when George W. Bush marketed his Iraq war campaign prior to the 2002 election.
In a development that happened this afternoon, confirmed by Jay Carney, the White House held a closed press briefing on deep background, meaning the information can be used but no individual specifically quoted in any reporting,” which included 14 news organizations from television to print to new media [update].
The talking points Ambassador Susan Rice unloaded on the Sunday talk shows before the 2012 election is coming back to haunt President Obama. It’s the genesis of all the problems that have occurred since.
Hell hath no fury like the national media scorned and they do feel used on Benghazi. That’s Obama’s problem now, even as Republicans overplay their hand. Which side wins is where the story revolves, with Obama hoping he can thwart a second term curse that Republicans are fanning.
ABC News is drilling all the way down, so the price not paid by the Obama administration before the election is now coming due.
State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland raised specific objections to this paragraph drafted by the CIA in its earlier versions of the talking points:
“The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.”
In an email to officials at the White House and the intelligence agencies, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland took issue with including that information because it “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned …”
The paragraph was entirely deleted.
Victoria Nuland was the chief of staff of Strobe Talbott in the Clinton administration. During the Bush administration Nuland was principal deputy foreign policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. This gives you an idea of her mindset on transparency. You cannot work for Dick Cheney on foreign policy without knowing your way around manipulating copy that can cause election year mischief.
But wait, ABC reportedly omitted something so someone in the White House emailed Think Progress [update]:
A source familiar with the White House emails on the Benghazi talking point revisions say that State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland was raising two concerns about the CIA’s first version of talking points, which were going to be sent to Congress: 1) The talking points went further than what she was allowed to say about the attack during her state department briefings; and, 2) she believed the CIA was attempting to exonerate itself at the State Department’s expense by suggesting CIA warnings about the security situation were ignored.
It’s important to note that no one immediately after the Benghazi attack was even uttering the CIA’s name, let alone questioning their role, with a pieces I did the first to ask questions about then CIA Director David Petraeus. Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were both CIA [update].
Stephen Hayes has a Sean Hannity type breathless piece in the Weekly Standard, to which ABC News links, that goes through the contortions about how the talking points on Benghazi were re-written from the CIA’s initial assessment, which was that it was a terrorist attack. The nut of it is that the Administration backed away from identifying it as such, but then eventually came back to that point. Hayes makes a point of talking about a PSA Obama and Clinton made for Pakistan citing the amateur YouTube video, which he claims proves the Administration was focused on blaming the video instead of terrorists for Benghazi. Hayes never considers part of the goal of President Obama and Secretary Clinton was to make sure the amateur YouTube video that caused a ruckus in some parts of the middle east didn’t spread to Pakistan, which is very volatile.
Even as the White House strove last week to move beyond questions about the Benghazi attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2012, fresh evidence emerged that senior Obama administration officials knowingly misled the country about what had happened in the days following the assaults. The Weekly Standard has obtained a timeline briefed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence detailing the heavy substantive revisions made to the CIA’s talking points, just six weeks before the 2012 presidential election, and additional information about why the changes were made and by whom. – Stephen Hayes [The Weekly Standard]
Stephen Hayes has a penchant for hyperbole, not to mention missing the facts. He’s the guy who helped forward the discredited scenario that Mohamed Atta met in Germany with Iraqi intelligence, which became Vice President Dick Cheney talking points. Hayes even wrote a stem-winding book on the connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, a hypothesis that has been debunked by the 9/11 Commission, deemed completely unprovable by other experts. So it’s unsurprising he’s rolling with the talking points on Benghazi as the “smoking gun” of the “cover up.”
Hayes and Republicans have a hard time identifying a screw up when they see it, which is exactly what the initial handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack was and something you’d have to be an idiot partisan hack to deny. That’s the one thing everyone on all sides has agreed on. The Obama administration blew the initial handling of the Benghazi attack. This isn’t news. That the Obama administration likely did it for political reasons is ironic, because it didn’t work from the start, Susan Rice taking heat the second her interviews landed.
What I’m having difficulty appreciating is the rewriting of the Benghazi talking points was a scandal, instead of a blundering mistake. That it was a “cover up,” instead of a political marketing plan before an election that caused quick blowback when Rice delivered the words, with the Obama administration spinning ever since. That they finally returned the to the terrorist attack truth was inevitable, but it hardly changes the events of the day.
It’s similar to what George W. Bush did before the 2002 election cycle. The entire Bush administration and the Republican party did a marketing campaign filled with distortions, hyperbole and downright lies before the election to force Democrats to vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq. It was a political campaign with talking points replete with lies.
Mother Jones has the whole sorry marketing campaign from the Republicans on Iraq, which geared up before the 2002 election.
“From a marketing point of view you don’t introduce new products in August.” – White House Chief of Staff Andy Card on rollout of the war
I’m all for calling politicians on their lack of transparency, but when it comes to manipulation marketing to make an Administration look good for the voting public right before an election, it’s not like the Republicans have a leg to stand on.
None of this hyperbolic media coverage, not the fact that Victoria Nuland helped rewrite the talking points for a television and voting populace, or the fact that Stephen Hayes has now got a timeline of the rewrite, changes one element of the Benghazi attack or takes us to a place where we can prevent something like this from happening again.
It’s politics, all of it, and it won’t solve a thing.