MONDAY, MAY 13, 2013

Part 1—Maureen Dowd tries to make sense: We apologize for starting our week-long report on Benghazi with Maureen Dowd’s latest column.

That said, Dowd is very influential within the American press corps. Several parts of her new column help define what’s at stake as this topic returns center stage.

At the start of Sunday’s column, Dowd described a new war in the capital “as Hillaryland goes up against Foxworld.” She also describes the way the capital has “plunge[d] back into Clinton Rules.”

Given Dowd’s long, destructive history, that second comment seems quite portentous. But first, let’s examine her sad attempt to discuss last week’s congressional hearing.

For unknown reasons, Dowd seems to think that Wednesday’s hearing took place in the Senate. Twelve hours after her column appeared, her error has not been corrected.

Whatever! Dowd is conveying the feel in the capital as Hillaryland wages war with Foxworld! In the passage shown below, she signals her sympathy for Gregory Hicks, who testified last Wednesday morning—in the House, not in the Senate.

Hicks served as second-in-command at the embassy in Tripoli. As Dowd describes his testimony, she signals her own sentiments:
DOWD (5/12/13): In an emotional Senate [sic] hearing on Wednesday, Stevens’s second-in-command, Gregory Hicks, who was frantically trying to help from 600 miles away in Tripoli, described how his pleas were denied by military brass, who said they could not scramble planes and who gave a “stand-down” order to four Special Forces officers in Tripoli who were eager to race to Benghazi.

“My reaction was that, O.K., we’re on our own,” Hicks said quietly. He said the commander of that Special Forces team told him, “This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more” chutzpah “than someone in the military.”

The defense secretary at the time, Leon Panetta, insisted, “We quickly responded.” But they responded that they would not respond. As Emma Roller and David Weigel wrote in Slate: “The die was cast long before the attack, by the weak security at the consulate, and commanders may have decided to cut their losses rather than risking more casualties. And that isn’t a story anyone prefers to tell.”
Dowd’s general sympathies seem fairly clear in that passage. Later, though, she betrays her mammoth incomprehension as she tries to describe something Hicks said.

In his actual testimony, Hicks trashed Susan Rice real good. This is Dowd's semi-bungled account of what he quietly said:
DOWD: Hicks said that Beth Jones, an under secretary of state, bristled when he asked ask her why Susan Rice had stressed the protest over an anti-Muslim video rather than a premeditated attack—a Sunday show marathon that he said made his jaw drop. He believes he was demoted because he spoke up.

Hillary’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, also called Hicks to angrily ask why a State Department lawyer had not been allowed to monitor every meeting in Libya with Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who visited in October. (The lawyer did not have the proper security clearance for one meeting.) Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, has been a rabid Hillary critic on Fox News since the attack. Hicks said he had never before been scolded for talking to a lawmaker.
Just for the record, Dowd doesn’t know what Hicks “believes” about his supposed demotion. She also doesn’t know if Cheryl Mills spoke “angrily” to Hicks.

That said, please note the absurdity of the highlighted passage, in which Dowd attempts to describe Hicks’ criticism of Rice.

During his testimony, Hicks did say that his jaw dropped when he watched Rice on TV. In fairness to Hicks, he didn’t explicitly cite Rice’s failure to describe “a premeditated attack.”

That embellished paraphrase comes from the mind of Dowd. But Dowd seems to think that’s what Hicks said—and she shows no sign of knowing that this criticism would make no earthly sense.

According to Dowd, Hicks said Rice should have stressed the idea that the assault in Benghazi was “a premeditated attack.” Do you mind if we explain to Dowd why Rice didn’t do that?

Go ahead—just click here. Courtesy of ABC News, you can review twelve versions of the talking points from which Rice worked that day, going back to the original proposal from the CIA itself.

Earth to Dowd, who seems to think that Hicks testified in the Senate:

In all those versions of the talking points, not a single word says or suggest that the Benghazi attack was “premeditated!” Even in its original presentation, the CIA didn’t say or suggest any such thing.

To the contrary! Below, you see the start of the CIA’s original proposed talking points. The CIA proposed these talking points on September 14, before other agencies began to offer objections or other ideas.

In its own unedited presentation, the CIA didn’t include a single word suggesting “premeditation!” Instead, the agency said it believed the attack was “spontaneously inspired by the protests” in Cairo.

This was the CIA’s stated view at the time Rice appeared on TV. Earth to Dowd: This is the view Ambassador Rice was reporting:
ORIGINAL CIA TALKING POINTS (9/14/12): We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.

The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.
In its original presentation, the CIA didn’t say a single word suggesting “premeditation.” In fact, the agency’s presentation was quite different.

In its original presentation, the CIA said the attacks in Benghazi “were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo”—protests against that anti-Muslim video, the video Dowd seems to think Rice should not have mentioned.

Go ahead—reread the relevant part of Dowd’s column. She describes a criticism of Rice—a criticism which makes no sense. Plainly, though, in classic fashion, Maureen Dowd doesn’t know that.

Dowd is a very major figure in American journalism. She is also a major fool and has been for many years.

In part, our current bullroar over Benghazi reflects this far-reaching cultural problem. Maureen Dowd is clueless, a fool—and she’s the queen of our “press.”

Tomorrow—Part 2: The Clinton Rules

Next: What Ricks really said


  1. What Bob Somerby doesn't say today:

    Somerby tells us what what Dowd "doesn't know." To be fair, Somerby can't really know what *isn't* in Dowd's head.

    But we can say this: Dowd DOES know The Story.

    And The Story is now thoroughly locked down throughout the entire press -- it's called Susan Rice Mislead Us About Benghazi.

    There is no combination of facts which will dislodge The Story, however flawed and false it may be.

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