Front-page report serves McCain: Was Susan Rice vindicated by David Petraeus’ closed-door testimony before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees?
Not at the Washington Post, where confusion reigned—and John McCain’s interests were served—in this gruesome front page news report by Karen DeYoung.
DeYoung’s report is awful from its fatuous headline on down. (Hard copy headline: "Libya attack was terrorism, Petraeus testifies on Hill.")
This report is dreck, starting in paragraph 2. But here are a few basic points:
Keeping Rice under the bus: Here is DeYoung’s account of Susan Rice’s now-famous TV appearances on September 16:
DEYOUNG (11/17/12): The timing of the CIA’s conclusion has become a contentious issue in Congress, where some prominent Republicans have charged that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and President Obama’s leading candidate to become secretary of state, knowingly presented a whitewashed account in television appearances on Sept. 16.According to DeYoung, Rice was “reading from administration talking points” when she appeared on those programs. That’s an uglier way of saying this:
Reading from administration talking points, Rice hewed to the “spontaneous” theory, saying that the attack began as a protest against an anti-Islamic video that was privately produced in the United States and was hijacked by “opportunistic extremist elements.” In the television interviews, she said this was the “best information” available, but stressed that the matter was under investigation.
Rice was presenting the intelligence community’s best assessment of what had occurred.
Essentially, DeYoung reports that Rice was reading Obama’s script. That is a very ugly way of describing what happened. Beyond that, it leaves Post readers barefoot and clueless about where the intelligence assessment came from.
Post readers were very poorly served by this ugly report.
A striking claim which gets pushed to the curb: Later in her report, DeYoung describes the process which produced the early assessment of what had occurred at the consulate.
As she does, she rushes by several significant facts. We'll highlight just one passage:
DEYOUNG: In the swirl of initial reporting about the attack, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, two accounts made their way into the first round of analysis, the officials said. Reports from the ground in Libya described a demonstration at the Benghazi mission, similar to a large anti-U.S. protest the same day outside the U.S. Embassy in Egypt.Check out that highlighted passage.
At the same time, intelligence quickly uncovered links to militant groups, including associates of al-Qaeda. The administration did not make the terrorist links public until the Sept. 19 congressional testimony by Matthew G. Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center.
Since then, the CIA and other intelligence analysts have settled on what amounts to a hybrid view, suggesting that the Cairo protest sparked militants in Libya, who quickly mobilized an assault on U.S. facilities in Benghazi.
The details about possible al-Qaeda involvement were not included in talking points initially used by both Petraeus and Rice because they were preliminary and were based on classified sources, intelligence officials said.
According to DeYoung, the current CIA assessment holds that the militants who staged the deadly attack were reacting to the Cairo protests that day—that they “quickly mobilized an assault” on the Benghazi compound.
This contradicts a claim which is still being made against Rice—the claim that she refused to acknowledge the obvious fact that the attack was preplanned, perhaps for months.
From the beginning, Fox World has insisted that the Benghazi attack just must have been preplanned to coincide with September 11. Just this Thursday, the New York Times described the ongoing complaint about Rice in this way:
“Ms. Rice...has come under withering attack from Senator John McCain and other Republicans for suggesting that the siege in Benghazi that killed four Americans was a spontaneous protest rather than a premeditated terrorist attack.” (Our emphasis.)
Right from the start, crackpot Republicans have insisted that the assault was surely “premeditated”—preplanned to coincide with the anniversary of September 11. Rice has been called every name in the book for failing to state this obvious fact on those TV news shows.
This morning, DeYoung reports that the intelligence community doesn’t believe the attack was preplanned! She says the CIA thinks the assault was “quickly mobilized” in reaction to the events in Cairo.
But so what! DeYoung fails to note that this contradicts a basic claim which is still being made against Rice—a claim McCain has been making. Rice remains under the bus in this piece.
McCain is untouched, serene. DeYoung works hard to keep you from knowing how crazy his conduct has been.
This is a horrible news report, in quite a few different ways. DeYoung is reinventing basic facts as early as paragraph 2, ginning up conflict and contradiction as she goes.
But more than anything else, this report protects the craziness of McCain and fails to provide basic fairness to Rice. On the bright side:
In 2006, DeYoung got to write the authorized biography of the sainted Colin Powell. In the book, she served as “sock puppet” to the great man, according to one New York Times review.
Her report today is misleading and confusing. It jumbles its basic information. It’s very unfair to Rice. It serves Post readers very badly.
But on the bright side, DeYoung may get to write McCain’s official biography too! And isn’t that what this big crazy world of pseudo-journalism is really all about?
Extra credit/A magical word: Note the way a magical word is tossed around in this piece. For one example, revisit this horrible passage:
DEYOUNG: Reading from administration talking points, Rice hewed to the “spontaneous” theory...Rice hewed to the “spontaneous” theory? Is that even written in English?
By now, the world “spontaneous” serves as a talisman is the reporting of the assault against Rice. You write it to signal GOP hacks that you are helping advance their claims—claims which are so incoherent that they can’t be conveyed in any conventional way.
Rice hewed to the “spontaneous” theory! DeYoung slimes Rice for this misconduct, then notes, much later in the piece, that the CIA now believes that the deadly assault was "quickly mobilized" in reaction to the events in Cairo.
DeYoung hurries you past that contradiction. This is a terribly fake news report, a terrible sign of the times.