He just can’t quit John McCain: Yesterday morning, Bob Schieffer’s performance on Face the Nation was just this side of insane.
It’s been a long time since the mainstream press signed up for a GOP lynch mob this way. (It was quite routine in the Clinton-Gore years.) But good God!
Schieffer just can’t quit John McCain! Yesterday, this was his first question to the GOP’s angriest man:
SCHIEFFER (11/19/12): Let’s talk a little bit about Libya. You were talking a lot about that. You and the president really kind of had a little set-to last week over the situation in Libya because you said once again that you would oppose the nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of state.On September 16, Rice appeared with Schieffer himself on Face the Nation. But uh-oh! She didn’t say that the deadly attack “was the result of spontaneous demonstrations in Egypt.” And she didn’t say that the deadly attack “was not a terrorist attack.”
A lot of people in the administration say she is the odds-on favorite to replace Hillary Clinton. Because of her performance on television after it the Benghazi attacks when she said it was the result of spontaneous demonstrations in Egypt, and not, and was not a terrorist attack, are you standing fast on that?
Here’s what she actually said. Can you tell the difference between Rice’s statements and Schieffer’s scripted paraphrase? Please note a key word—“began:”
RICE (9/16/12): Well, Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the president, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch, led by the FBI that has begun.Quite plainly, she didn’t say the deadly attack “was not a terrorist attack.” In response to Schieffer's question, she explicitly said that it might have been the work of “al Qaeda itself!”
So we’ll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what— It began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video.
But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post- revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.
SCHIEFFER: Do you agree or disagree with him that al Qaeda had some part in this?
RICE: Well, we’ll have to find out that out. I mean, I think it’s clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself, I think is one of the things we’ll have to determine.
She didn’t say the deadly attack was the result of spontaneous demonstrations in Egypt (although it may have been, in some sense). She said the evening’s events began as a reaction to Cairo, after which the extremist elements joined in with their heavy weapons. On two other programs, she said they "hijacked" ongoing events.
Can you tell the difference between those accounts? As a citizen, are you required to try?
From that point on, Schieffer lobbed an astounding assortment of softballs at McCain, while accepting gross misstatements from his treasured guest. Before the tired old fellows were done, Schieffer offered this unfortunate presentation:
SCHIEFFER: I would point out just one thing. She came on this broadcast immediately after the president of Libya, who said flatly this was the work of terrorists, some of them from Mali, others outside the country. And Secretary Rice stuck to her—stuck to her story, as it were, and said, “No, our best information is, it was a result, a reaction of those demonstrations that were happening in Egypt.”Like Maureen Dowd before him, Schieffer slimed Rice for “sticking to her story”—for refusing to agree with the claim of that Libyan pol. He plainly suggested, in the crudest ways, that Rice was sticking to a story she probably knew to be false.
I guess what I would ask you, Senator, do you honestly believe as an ambassador, one of our key ambassadors, to the United Nations, that all Secretary Rice would have known about this was what somebody gave her in a set of talking points to be on television?
But that Libyan pol had explicitly said that the attack had been preplanned for months. Does U.S. intelligence believe that even today?
As far as we know, it does not. Does Schieffer know or care?
Schieffer’s session with McCain was just extremely bad. His insinuations and bungled claims continued all through the program. An exchange with CBS reporter Bob Orr was especially bad.
But uh-oh! Finally, someone introduced contrary information! During Schieffer's panel discussion, David Ignatius said this:
IGNATIUS (11/18/12): I would just make one point. The dirty little secret here is that our intelligence analysts don’t know, even now, how all these factors came together outside the consulate on the night of September 11 so that the consulate was overrun. And that was the, one of the problems in the days immediately after.Ignatius was light-years off-message! After all the scripted bullroar, Ignatius said the intelligence community still doesn’t know much, even today, about the basic questions on which the Dowds and the Schieffers opine so freely, hewing to Crazy John’s line.
They did have intelligence that people linked with al Qaeda were in that crowd. But in terms of pre-planning, of directives from al Qaeda in the Maghreb, or other senior al Qaeda leadership to those people to do something, they don’t have that.
They had, very quickly, intelligence that people in that group that attacked the consulate were watching what happened in Cairo live on TV. And they had surveillance of them talking about it, and then they go to the consulate to attack.
So they were trying to figure out what’s the mix of that spontaneous driver and the fact that we know there’s part of organized terrorist groups. And you know, there is a fog of intelligence analysis and that’s a part of what you’re seeing here.
Beyond that, Ignatius said the intelligence community did have information suggesting that the attack was linked to events in Cairo, to the roiling protests about the video. Yesterday, Dowd and Schieffer both seemed to say that this was always a crazy idea.
Why is this a crazy idea? Dowd forgot to say. Why should Rice have agreed with that Libyan pol? Schieffer skipped that question too.
At any rate, David Ignatius went way off-script. Schieffer’s reaction was preordained. He knew what a newsman had to do!
At this point, he changed the subject.