Part 3—Dumber than any fifth grader: If our most famous journalists were fifth graders, we’d probably fire their teachers.
“Why has been teaching Bobby Schieffer?” That’s what we’d probably say, after watching him offer this sad account of What Susan Rice Said:
SCHIEFFER (11/19/12): A lot of people in the administration say [Rice] 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?According to Schieffer, Rice went on TV and said the Benghazi attack “was not a terrorist attack.”
If a fifth grader couldn’t do better than that, we’d probably fire his teacher. But as you may know, this particular Bobby Schieffer isn’t a struggling grade school student. He’s a multimillionaire TV broadcaster—one of the people to whom Rice spoke on September 16, the Sunday morning in question.
Schieffer hosts the CBS show, Face the Nation. If he's acting in good faith, he’s dumber than a fifth grader.
This past Sunday morning, Schieffer told the world that Rice said the Benghazi assault wasn’t a terrorist attack. But this is part of what Rice told Schieffer when she spoke with him on September 16, the morning in question:
SCHIEFFER (9/16/12): Do you agree or disagree with him that al Qaeda had some part in this?It’s clear that “extremist elements” escalated the violence, Rice told Schieffer that morning. She said it might turn out that these extremists were “al Qaeda itself.”
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.
Does it sound to you like Rice told Schieffer that the attackers weren’t terrorists? Two months later, that’s what Schieffer told Saint John McCain and his CBS audience!
If a fifth grader couldn’t do better than that, we’d wonder about his teacher. We’d wonder why a bright fifth grader couldn’t read better than that.
Can we discuss this conduct by Schieffer? In a rational world, citizens would be shocked—and upset—to see their society’s biggest broadcasters misbehaving this way. But gross misstatement is now an expected part of mainstream press corps culture.
According to Nexis, Bob Schieffer’s groaning misstatement wasn’t mentioned on cable last night. Such misstatements are now the expected norm all through the broadcasting world.
Big career liberals accept such misconduct as they accept the turn of the seasons. Trust us: You will never see your favorite TV-star liberals complain about conduct like this.
They will complain about Sheriff Joe. They will never complain about people like Schieffer. Darlings, it just isn't done!
Quite routinely, our major journalists seem to lack the intellectual skill of the average fifth grader. Consider what Lord Dowdinpantz wrote in the Washington Post.
Dowdinpantz comes from a long line of barons—and it seems to show in his work. He was Skull and Bones at Yale. Perhaps his brothers call the Post to bail him out when he writes manifest nonsense.
Whatever! In Sunday morning’s Washington Post, Dowdinpantz went on at length, saying Rice “is ill-equipped to be the next secretary of state.”
Concerning Rice’s equipment, we have no view. We do have a view about the type of work which follows.
What would we say about a fifth grader who crayoned pensees like these? From this point on, we will use the pen name (the "nom de plume") of this Dowdinpantz:
MILBANK (11/18/12): It was Rice’s own shoot-first tendency that caused her to be benched as a spokesman for the Obama campaign for a time in 2008. She unnerved European allies when she denounced as “counterproductive” and “self-defeating” the U.N. policy that Iran suspend its nuclear program before talks can begin. She criticized President George W. Bush and McCain because they “insisted” on it. But, as The Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out at the time, European diplomats were rattled by such remarks because the precondition was their idea.Good lord! What sorts of tutors served the prince, that he could turn out so poorly?
Rice’s pugilism provoked the Russians to weigh in this week in opposition to her nomination as secretary of state. The Russian business daily Kommersant quoted an anonymous Russian foreign ministry official as saying that Rice, who quarreled with Russia over Syria, is “too ambitious and aggressive,” and her appointment would make it “more difficult for Moscow to work with Washington.”
Compared with this, the flap over Libya is relatively minor—but revealing. It’s true that, in her much-criticized TV performance, she was reciting talking points given to her by the intelligence agencies. But that’s the trouble. Rice stuck with her points even though they had been contradicted by the president of the Libyan National Assembly, who, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” just before Rice, said there was “no doubt” that the attack on Americans in Benghazi “was preplanned.” Rice rebutted the Libyan official, arguing—falsely, it turned out—that there was no evidence of such planning.
How ridiculous is this work? Let’s review this sad effort in steps:
Using Nexis, we find no sign in the Washington Post or the New York Times that Rice “was benched as a spokesman for the Obama campaign for a time in 2008,” although we’ll assume that some such trivial event may possibly have happened. (May have happened. Also, quite possibly not.)
Regarding Rice’s statements about Iran, you can read Glenn Kessler’s report for yourself. If you do, you’ll see that Milbank grossly misrepresented this matter. Quite plainly, the European officials about whom Kessler reported were criticizing Obama’s policy, not some “shoot-first tendency” on the part of his spokesperson.
A fifth grader could have spotted this fact. Trained as a courtier to Europe's royals, Dowdinpantz-Milbank could not.
The second paragraph we have posted is a simple embarrassment. To Milbank, if an anonymous Russian says Rice is too aggressive, that means she shouldn’t serve.
Would a fifth grader ever be willing to look this dumb in public?
Milbank even defers to Russian officials in his assault on Rice! But for full embarrassment, look what this pitiful fellow says in the last paragraph we’ve posted.
Like his patroness Lady Dowd, Milbank seems to say that Rice should have moved beyond her “talking points” on September 16—should have revealed classified information on those TV programs. Like Dowd and Schieffer both, he says Rice should have deferred to the judgment of the Libyan official who appeared on Face the Nation before her.
One weeps for children this slow. This is what that Libyan official told Schieffer that Sunday:
SCHIEFFER (9/16/12): Was this a long-planned attack, as far as you know? Or what do you know about that?That’s what El-Magariaf said. Who knows? It could even be right!
EL-MAGARIAF: The way these perpetrators acted and moved, I think we—and their choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no—this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined.
SCHIEFFER: And you believe that this was the work of al Qaeda, and you believe that it was led by foreigners. Is that what you're telling us?
EL-MAGARIAF: It was planned—definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival.
But to this very day, has it been determined by U.S. intelligence that the Benghazi attack had been preplanned for several months? That is was timed to coincide with September 11? As far as we know, it has not been so determined. Indeed, the Washington Post seemed to report a contradictory assessment from U.S. intelligence in a news report just this Saturday.
Had the attack been planned for months? This Sunday, neither Schieffer nor Dowd nor Dowdinpantz asserted that such a finding has been reached. And yet, all three criticized Rice because she didn’t accept this assessment two months ago, right there on the spot!
This wasn’t part of the assessment Rice had received from U.S. intelligence. There's a strong chance that it isn't true. And yet, according to three major players, she simply should have agreed with this claim, right there on network TV, on the spot!
Where does such manifest lunacy come from? And what explains the fact that conduct like this is accepted by one and all?
We’ve tried to answer that question for years. By now, though, one fact is clear: The career liberal world will never complain about work like this from people with the clout of Schieffer and Dowd.
No matter how foolish their conduct may be, Joan and Chris and Rachel won’t speak. Schieffer, Dowd and Milbank can adopt ludicrous right-wing attack lines as much as they like.
Liberal “leaders” will go after Sheriff Joe. Schieffer, Dowd and Dowdinpantz will escape any comment.
Milbank performed like a failing fifth grader in this ridiculous column. But how odd! All three of these major journalists pushed the same line this Sunday! All three advanced the ridiculous claim that Rice should have simply blurted agreement with that Libyan official.
Where did they get this ridiculous claim? How did it happen that all three of these major journalists advanced the same ridiculous thought?
Rachel and Chris and Joan won’t ask. We’ll state one obvious point:
You’d have to be dumber than any fifth grader to say that Rice should have blabbed agreement with that Libyan official. When you see three major “journalists” advance this same claim, this hasn’t happened by accident.
A group dynamic is surely involved. By whatever means, these three subhumans are almost surely reciting somebody’s line.
They did this all through the Clinton-Gore years, with results that changed world history. During that era, liberal heroes like Joan and David sat there and watched as Chris performed this function.
This Sunday, Schieffer and Dowd and Milbank were plainly reciting somebody’s line, just as they did in the bad old days. All three recited a point so inane, so plupotently stupid, that it had to come from some source.
In a rational world, this kind of Scripted Group Inanity would be seen as a firing offense. If a journalist seemed to be dumber than a fifth grader, he or she would be fired.
In our world, such conduct isn’t seen that way. In our world, this conduct is seen as The Way The Millionaires Work.
Final point, offered largely in jest: Rice’s rival for the big job is Senator John Kerry.
Kerry was Skull and Bones at Yale. So was the silly Lord Dowdinpantz, who has just invented a big pile of crap about a brother Bonesman’s opponent!
That said, Schieffer, Dowd and Milbank all advanced manifest nonsense this Sunday. But this is par for the course in our world.
Rachel Maddow will never discuss this. Neither will the bright young puppy who goes by the stage name Chris Hayes.