FINAL BUNGLES ON BENGHAZI: Eric Schmitt deceives the world!


Atop the front page of the Times: Campaign 2000 might be defined as death by bogus quotation.

For twenty months, journalists concocted a string of silly statements—silly statements the Democratic candidate hadn’t actually made.

The liberal world just sat there and took it. The outcome wasn’t good.

As we approach tonight’s final debate, Campaign 2012 is turning into death by cherry-picked quotation.

The Romney campaign has worked for five weeks to build a campaign against Susan Rice—with Obama as the real target, of course. You’ll hear the final attack tonight.

This morning, in the New York Times, Eric Schmitt presents the ultimate version of this five week old attack.

Schmitt’s report sits atop the Times front page, under a headline which starts with “Benghazi.” As journalism, his report makes no sense. It does make sense as a textbook case of adhering to a standard line—in this case, to an ugly line of attack which came from the Romney campaign.

Why did Eric Schmitt write this report? We have no idea. But gaze on the high-profile charade which passes for upper-end journalism.

Let’s walk through Schmitt’s fraudulent effort:

Schmitt’s report is strange from the start. He focuses on Susan Rice, saying she said something wrong on TV.

But what did Rice say that was actually wrong? As he starts, Schmitt doesn’t exactly tell us that, although he offers a clear implication:
SCHMITT (10/22/12): Even as Susan E. Rice took to the Sunday talk shows last month to describe the Obama administration's assessment of the Sept. 11 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, intelligence analysts suspected that the explanation was outdated.

Ms. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, has said that the judgments she offered on the five talk shows on Sept. 16 came from talking points prepared by the C.I.A., which reckoned that the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans had resulted from a spontaneous mob that was angry about an anti-Islamic video that had set off protests elsewhere. That assessment, described to Ms. Rice in briefings the day before her television appearances, was based on intercepted communications, informants' tips and Libyan press reports, officials said.

Later that Sunday, though, American intelligence analysts were already sifting through new field reports that seemed to contradict the initial assessment. It would be several days, however, before the intelligence agencies changed their formal assessment based on those new reports, and informed administration officials about the change. Intelligence officials say such a lag is typical of the ever-changing process of piecing together shards of information into a coherent picture fit for officials' public statements.
And so forth and so on, etcetera.

As he starts, Schmitt clearly implies that something was wrong with Rice’s presentation that day—though even here, intelligence officials only “suspected” that new reports “seemed to contradict” what Rice said.

But what did Rice actually say that was wrong? As he bafflegabs along, Schmitt never explicitly tells us.

That said, Schmitt clearly implies what was wrong with her statement. He clearly implies that Rice attributed the killings to “a spontaneous mob that was angry about an anti-Islamic video.” And he clearly implies that this was wrong—that intelligence analysts “were already sifting through new field reports that seemed to contradict” that assessment.

This is the way the Romney campaign has always wanted this story told. As he continues, Schmitt quickly gives voice to their lusty complaints—although he still hasn’t explicitly said what was wrong with Rice’s presentation:
SCHMITT (continuing directly): Gov. Mitt Romney and Congressional Republicans have sharply criticized Ms. Rice's comments and the administration's shifting public positions on the cause of the attack, criticisms that Mr. Romney will probably reprise in the final presidential debate on Monday night.

On Sunday, Congressional Republicans cited the administration's response to the attack as symptomatic of larger leadership failings. ''This is going to be a case study, studied for years, of a breakdown of national security at every level, failed presidential leadership—senior members of the Obama administration failed miserably,'' Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on ''Fox News Sunday.''

The gap between the talking points prepared for Ms. Rice and the contemporaneous field reports that seemed to paint a much different picture illustrates how the process of turning raw field reports, which officials say need to be vetted and assessed, into polished intelligence assessments can take days, long enough to make them outdated by the time senior American officials utter them.
We’ve now heard Republicans fulminating about the bad things Rice said. And as we go along, Ricre's error seems to get bigger and bigger. We now seem to have heard that “contemporaneous field reports...seemed to paint a much different picture” of what occurred (our emphasis).

But we still don’t know exactly what was wrong with Rice’s remarks! Finally, in paragraph 9, Schmitt almost seems to tell us:
SCHMITT (continuing directly): Intelligence officials, alarmed that their work has been turned into a political football, defend their approach, noting that senior administration officials receive daily briefings that reflect the consensus of the nation's array of intelligence agencies, but can also dip into the fast-moving stream of field reports, with the caveat that that information is incomplete and may be flat wrong.

''A demand for an explanation that is quick, definite and unchanging reflects a na├»ve expectation—or in the present case, irresponsible politicking,'' James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said at an intelligence symposium on Oct. 9.

The Associated Press reported Friday, for instance, that within 24 hours of the attack, the C.I.A.'s station chief in Tripoli, Libya, e-mailed headquarters that witnesses said the assault was mounted by heavily armed militants. But intelligence officials said Sunday that one report was not enough to establish the attack's nature.
Was that the problem with Rice's remarks? In fact, Rice explicitly said, on those Sunday shows, that “extremists” armed with “heavy weapons” came to the consulate that night! On all five shows, she plainly suggested that it was these heavily-armed militants who produced the ultimate violence. (Or do you think there’s some sort of big difference between “extremists” and “militants?”)

On all five programs, Rice said the violence came from heavily-armed extremists! Surely, Eric Schmitt knows that. But readers never get that information in this long, highly fraudulent “news report,” which sits at the top of the Times front page on the day of the final debate.

You’re never told that Rice actually said that. Instead, you’re given the clear impression that she did not—that this omission was the very large problem with her comments.

Finally, in paragraph 13, Schmitt quotes something Rice said on those Sunday programs. And sure enough!

As it had been ordained by the gods, Schmitt cherry-picks what Rice said:
SCHMITT (continuing directly): According to interviews with a half-dozen American officials, including policy makers and intelligence officials, here is a rough chronology of what happened, some details of which The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

On Sept. 13, Ms. Rice and other cabinet-level officials were told about the assessment that there had been protests at the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

''The first briefing was exactly as one would expect in the early aftermath of a crisis,'' an American intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the continuing F.B.I. investigation of the assault. ''It carefully laid out the full range of sparsely available information, relying on the best analysis available at the time.'' Briefers said extremists were involved in attacks that appeared spontaneous.

On Sunday, Sept. 16, Ms. Rice summed up a common theme she voiced on all five television programs: ''What this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated, response to what happened, transpired in Cairo,'' where protesters angered by the video invaded the grounds of the American Embassy.
Scmitt is a major journalist of long standing. Could any journalist fail to see the key words in that short clipped quote—those key words being, “began as?”

In paragraph 13, Schmitt offers a short clipped quotation from Rice’s appearance on This Week. In that very short quotation, Rice is describing the way intelligence said the evening in question began.

But as it has been done from the start, Schmitt disappears the more relevant part of what Rice said on that program. As she continued, Rice seemed to tell ABC’s Jake Tapper that the deadly violence eventually came from a group of heavily-armed militants!

Here is a fuller chunk of what Rice told Tapper:
RICE (9/16/12): Well, Jake, first of all, it's important to know that there's an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired.

But our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated, response to what happened transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.

We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people, came to the embassy to—or to the consulate rather—to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo. And then, as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that, as you know, in the wake of the revolution in Libya, are quite common and accessible. And it then evolved from there.

We'll wait to see exactly what the investigation finally confirms, but that's the best information we have at present.
Again and again, Rice told Tapper that this was only a preliminary assessment. But when Schmitt finally quoted something Rice said, he did what every stooge has done:

He presented the first part of what Rice’s two-part account—and he simply omitted the second! He omitted the part where Rice told Tapper that “extremists with heavier weapons” arrived at the scene and “hijacked” events.

Anf uh-oh! At the very start of his report, Schmitt gave the plain impression that Ambassador Rice never said that—that this omission is what was wrong with what she said on those Sunday programs!

On all five Sunday programs, Rice told a story which had two parts. As it has been ordained by the gods, Schmitt cherry-picked the first part of her story and disappeared the second This is precisely the way the Romney campaign has told this story from Day One, attempting to give a false impression about what Rice actually said.

Go ahead—read Schmitt’s full report, which runs 1148 words. At no point does he ever tell you what Rice actually said that morning.

He doesn’t report that Rice said, again and again, that this was only “our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present.” And he doesn’t report that Rice seemed to say that the killings were done by “extremists” with heavy weapons.

This news report is grossly deceptive. You have some decisions to make:

Do you believe that Eric Schmitt doesn’t know what Rice said on those Sunday programs? Do you believe he has never gone back to review the transcripts in question?

Do you believe that Eric Schmitt’s editors don’t know what Rice said on those programs? If so, how can they be journalists?

Do you believe that Schmitt and his editors don’t know what Susan Rice said? If so, we have a bridge to their homes in the Hamptons we'll sell you! And we have a treat you can give Chris Hayes, the paper-trained puppy who told this story the same cherry-picked way, just last weekend.

What could have been in Eric Schmitt’s head when he assembled this big bowl of cherries? We have no idea.

But of one thing you can be certain: The liberal world will sit there and take it! Rachel will have some silly reassurance to give you in place of these facts. Lawrence will be clowning around, challenging Tagg to a fight or explaining that Mitt isn't funny.

As they play, this punishing theme will spread all through the electorate. Millions of voters will buy this line—and the children will gambol and play, just as their predecessors did back in Campaign 2000.

Rice has now been grossly misrepresented on the front pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times. In each case, a massively cherry-picked version of her remarks has been offered in place of the facts.

But on The One True Liberal Channel, the darling children will gambol and play, helping you see that Obama is best. They will not challenge the Post and the Times. They won't even tell you about this!

Darlings! Within the world of these climber kids, the Post and the Times are powerful players!

Dearest darlings, it just isn’t done! Instead of that, look over here...


  1. On all five Sunday programs, Rice told a story which had two parts. As it has been ordained by the gods, Schmitt cherry-picked the first part of her story and disappeared the second

    Bob's defense of Rice seems to be that half of what she said was true. Maybe that's a good average for a politician.

    1. I thought it was an accurate description of failed journalism.

      Half of what Rice said -- as it turns out, the relevant part -- is never quoted.

      Many slurping that down is good for you, but what trolls eat may not suffice for the rest of us.

    2. I think it is also telling that there are those who determine that the part they like is the "relevant" part and the part that doesn't quite fit is "irrelevant."

      And that's why we lose these arguments.

      And for once, I have to agree with David. When you are reduced to arguing that your side is "half-right" you don't have much of an argument.

      But at least that's movement from "Rice was right. It was the CIA who was wrong."

    3. You're of course free to think that the part of Rice's statement where she talked About The Actual Attacks is *not* the relevant part to cite when you want to discuss what she had to say About The Actual Attacks...

      Yes, you're quite free to think that.

      But it does make you like like a bit of a fool, you know.

    4. You are free to believe that the entire reason this massive failure of intelligence, executive decision-making and failed PR spin has resonated to Obama's detriment is the media's very real failure to acknowledge that Rice discussed militants with heavy weapons.

      But it makes you look like someone preparing an alibi for an upcoming defeat.

  2. "The Romney campaign has worked for five weeks to build a campaign against Susan Rice—with Obama as the real target, of course."

    No, Bob. Romney's first words on this on Sept. 11 had, of course, nothing to do with Susan Rice who hadn't spoken publically yet. And when he did a face plant on that, he didn't mention Rice or Libya at all until he thought he caught Obama in a gotcha in the second debate. And he hasn't mentioned Rice or Libya since.

    In fact, the right-wing noise machine might have been grousing about Rice a little bit, but they really didn't get going until last week after Romney's second face plant on the Benghazi attacks.

    And here you are, taking their bait and arguing on their terms, rather than stressing that Romney has proven that he will shoot his mouth off when he knows absolutely nothing, and when that which he thinks he knows is demonstrably false.

  3. Except there is no reason to think the murders "began as" the protest in Cairo or that a protest was "hijacked" whatever that means as opposed to an independent organized group of militants carrying out a planned attack on 9/11.

  4. I guess David in Ca must now believe the attack was on half an Embassy. With the Times in the tank, however, it's hard to escape that this story is something Obama must survive, it's his Swift Boat.

    1. Greg, I think Obama will do just fine. He'll stick to what has been the clear position of this administration from Day One -- that this was an act of terror, that the perpetrators will be identified, hunted down and brought to justice. And he's got a pretty good record of doing exactly that to those who attack our country and murder our people.

      And remember, tonight's debate won't be just about Benghazi, although it is certain to come up. It will be about foreign policy, which is something I don't think Romney has spent five minutes thinking about.

      I'm sure Romney's staff has been frantically trying to get him up to speed and handed him a whole ream of talking points, praying at the same time that, just this one time, he doesn't try to strike out on his own and go off-message.

    2. The Anonymous IdiotOctober 22, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      Yes, and because I think Obama will do fine, it is entirely misplaced for anyone to point out media failures on the issue.

    3. Well, that non sequitur doesn't even rise to the low level of your usual knee-jerk insults.

  5. If it was "opportunistic" the opportunity was 9/11 and security failures, not a protest over a video. It appears there was a deliberate effort to tie the attacks into the video protests as frequently as possible because it shifts blame to a video producer (now imprisoned).

    1. Just how much security should have been in place, not only in Benghazi, but at every U.S. diplomatic compound throughout the world in order to prevent an attack by a band of militia armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades?

    2. "Wood, in an interview with CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, said he and many other senior staff at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, "felt we needed more, not less" security personnel in the country, but were told "to do with less. For what reasons, I don't know."

    3. I don't know. Maybe it had something to do with this:

      House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012....Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

      Ryan, Issa and other House Republicans voted for an amendment in 2009 to cut $1.2 billion from State operations, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions. Under Ryan’s budget, non-defense discretionary spending, which includes State Department funding, would be slashed nearly 20 percent in 2014, which would translate to more than $400 million in additional cuts to embassy security.

      I'm sure you'll be writing your Republican Congressman immediately to protest this outrage. While you're at it, why don't you lambaste Issa for endangering Libyan lives.

    4. I keep asking what level of security would be needed to prevent this specific attack, and I get no answers.

      And even deploying enough security to repel any kind of attack imaginable, how long do they remain deployed? Until the threat ends? When is that?

    5. Anon 10:37

      You assert that it "appears there was a deliberate effort to tie the attacks [query, why plural, were there multiple attacks in Libya] into the video protests as frequently as possible because it shifts blame" to the video producer (now imprisoned)."

      It appears based on what evidence other than your own apparently extremely biased imagination? How do you know that the only reason this is an issue at all isn't that the Republican Rove-model propaganda machine, with the mindless assistance of the MSM, has successfully inserted this complete red herring into the campaign?

      Can you provide any evidence that you are able to be objective about this or anything else or that you have any ability to think critically?


  6. re: "...this punishing theme will spread all through the electorate. Millions of voters will buy this line..."

    And American citizens living in Canada will be included...Any of Canada's most prominent political journalists that I've heard or read, have bought into this theme.

    The cherry picking has worked. Somerby's been vindicated.

    Even the top journalists at our public broadcaster, the CBC, are leading their coverage of your election with descriptions that refer to 'reports' that indicate Obama and his administration may have collectively misled on this. Full of caveats but just raising it in they way they have is enough to make it sound legit, of course.

    And it's only been a few months since the last reference by a Canadian political journalist of the punchline about who claimed to 'invent the internet.'

    Sam Gunsch
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

    1. Please, Sam, do not provide evidence that Somerby is correct.

      That sort of thing is unwelcome here!

      This comments section is for the purpose of ham-handed attempts to ridicule the work of Mr. Somerby only.

      Agreement with him, about anything, marks you as just another of his sheep.

  7. Early on Sept 12, the right wing blogosphere was stating as an absolute fact that the attack on the embassy was a premeditated terrorist action, and the YouTube trailer had nothing to do with it.

    They had no way of knowing this, of course, but the mere possibility was good enough to make it a fact.

    As far as the Obama haters are concerned, this is still the case.

    This story line will never go away, like Jimmy Carter and the disastrous rescue mission in the desert that he planned and micromanaged, it will become part of conservative mythology.

    It will be accompanied by the "undeniable fact" that Obama was only speaking in general terms in the Rose Garden when he referred to "acts of terror."

    No other interpretation is possible or permissible.