Ongoing rule: Once a demon, always a demon!

SATURDAY, MAY 11, 2013

Glenn Kessler nails Susan Rice: Via Kevin Drum, Glenn Kessler’s new post is important reading, for several different reasons.

One reason: Kessler’s post includes important new information about Benghazi.

It is now clear that Benghazi will be a major topic for the next few months, if not for the next several years. For that reason, people should be exposed to the information in Kessler’s instructive new post.

Unfortunately, Kessler’s post is important for a second reason. It illustrates an unfortunate fact about the way our discourse has worked over the past twenty years.

Uh-oh! Once someone like Susan Rice has been branded a demon, that person will be a demon for life. New information won’t alter this judgment.

Once a demon, always a demon! At one point in his instructive post, Kessler enacts this unfortunate rule in a truly remarkable way.

Given yesterday’s revelations, it’s clear that Benghazi will continue to be a major topic. For that reason, let’s review the relevant parts, good and bad, of Kessler’s important new post:

That consulate wasn’t a consulate: We’ve always known that the Benghazi “consulate” wasn’t an actual consulate. We have continued to use the term because it didn’t seem to make any difference.

We’re going to change our ways. Early in his post, Kessler describes the actual nature of the operation in Benghazi. This is important stuff:
KESSLER (5/10/13): First, some important context: Although the ambassador was killed, the Benghazi “consulate” was not a consulate at all but basically a secret CIA operation which included an effort to round up shoulder-launched missiles. In fact, only seven of the 30 Americans evacuated from Benghazi had any connection to the State Department; the rest were affiliated with the CIA.

The official reports, such as the one from the Accountability Review Board and the Senate Homeland Security Committee report, essentially dance around that uncomfortable fact:


So, from the State Department perspective, this was an attack on a CIA operation, perhaps by the very people the CIA was battling, and the ambassador tragically was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, for obvious reasons, the administration could not publicly admit that Benghazi was mostly a secret CIA effort.
It isn’t news when Kessler notes that Benghazi “was mostly a secret CIA effort.” That said, Kessler helps explain the debate between CIA and State concerning the content of those talking points.

His explanation is quite instructive. We think you should read his whole post.

The link to Cairo was always there in the CIA talking points: Yesterday, ABC News released twelve versions of the talking-points used by Rice on the Sunday programs of September 16, 2012.

To review those materials, just click here. You’ll see how the talking-points evolved in the two days before Rice did those shows.

As Kessler continues, he notes a fact which surfaced when ABC released those materials. Right from the start, the CIA said it believed the Benghazi attack was inspired by the protests in Cairo—protests which were directed at that lunatic anti-Muslim video:
KESSLER: The talking points were originally developed by the CIA at the request of a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Interestingly, all of the versions are consistent on one point—that the attacks were “spontaneously inspired by protests at the U.S. embassy in Cairo,” a fact later deemed to be incorrect.
Was that fact “later deemed to be incorrect?” We’re still not sure that’s true. But in the days before Rice did those shows, various agencies were debating what the talking-points should say. And sure enough! The CIA’s original talking points had started by saying this:
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 extremist with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.
As Kessler notes, that’s what the CIA said it believed even before other agencies suggested changes to the talking points.

Why does this matter? In part, because viewers of Fox are being told something totally different. For one example, this is what Bill O’Reilly told Fox viewers last night:

“Let's be clear. David Petraeus, the head of the CIA, he didn't sign off on this at all. It was the White House and the State Department working together, all right, who made these edits and misled the world into thinking it could have been an anti-Islamic video put out by some nut in the USA.”

We’re sorry, but that’s just bogus. Right from the start, the CIA said the Cairo protests inspired the attack in Benghazi. And those Cairo protests were directed at that anti-Islamic video.

That’s what the CIA said. It didn’t come from “the White House and the State Department working together.” But so what! Last night, O’Reilly told Fox viewers, for the ten millionth time, that the White House invented a big bogus tale about that meaningless video.

Who will correct O’Reilly? Will the New York Times do so in front-page reporting? Will the nation’s professors straighten this out in crisp, clear op-ed columns?

Should Rice have named Ansar Al-Sharia: Leaving Kessler for a moment, let’s consider another point from the CIA’s original talking points.

When Rice appeared on those Sunday shows, she attributed the Benghazi attack to “extremists armed with heavy weapons.” But she didn’t name any specific group.

Should she have named some specific group? This is the relevant passage in the CIA’s original talking points:
ORIGINAL CIA TALKING POINTS (continuing directly from above): Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar Al-Sharia. That group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attack, but did not deny that some of its members were involved.
“Initial press reporting?” The claims in that highlighted passage are very poorly sourced. Should Susan Rice, or anyone else, have fingered Ansar Al-Sharia based on “initial press reporting?” Based on its leadership’s failure to deny that some of its members may have been involved?

The notion strikes us as very foolish. One wonders about the CIA’s smarts when it puts such shaky material in its original proposed talking points.

Once a demon, always a demon/Kessler keeps killing the pig: Kessler’s post includes some important information. Unfortunately, it also helps us observe a basic part of modern press corps culture:

Once a demon, always a demon! Once a person becomes a official press corps target, she will always be an official target. We think this passage concerning Rice almost defies belief:
KESSLER: For reasons unknown, the White House sent U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice on five Sunday shows with those talking points—and the rest is history. The talking points were so weak that Rice immediately raised suspicions that the administration was hiding something important. (She instantly earned Pinocchios.) She also repeatedly referenced the supposed impact of an anti-Islam video, which was never a part of the talking points.
Once a demon, always a demon! Let’s see how this lunacy works:

According to Kessler, Rice “immediately raised suspicions that the administration was hiding something important.” To support this claim, he links to his original post on this topic, which in fact made little sense.

He fails to state the basic point: Rice didn't create the talking points. But good God! Once a demon, always a demon! In the last part of the highlighted passage, Kessler assails Rice for citing that “anti-Islam video.”

We’re sorry, but that is insane.

As Kessler has already explained, the CIA had always said that the attack in Benghazi was inspired by the protests in Cairo. That seems to be what the intelligence community thought as of September 16.

But good grief! The protests in Cairo were protests against the “anti-Islam video!” It’s crazy to let Rice cite the Cairo protests, then to assail her for mentioning the video.

The Cairo protests concerned the video! If she was going to mention the one, why wouldn’t she mention the other?

Kessler’s passage seems insane, but this is the way your pundit corps has worked for the past twenty years. Once a public figure is demonized, she’ll be a demon forever.

No matter what later evidence shows, she will always be judged to be wrong. If the facts change, the judgment will not. New logic will be invented.

This is straight out of Wonderland. But this is the way the press works.

In this case, Rice has been named a demon for life, like several major figures before her. (At present, Hillary Clinton is being restored to that earlier status.) In that highlighted passage, Kessler finds an amazing new way to kill this particular pig.

This has gone on for the past twenty years. Our liberal heroes have aggressively failed to address this practice. Our highest paid, most brilliant professors have been in the south of France.


  1. But, for obvious reasons, the administration could not publicly admit that Benghazi was mostly a secret CIA effort.

    In other words: the Administration did put out a deceptive story, but they had to, because they couldn't publicly admit the CIA involvement.

    Two comments:

    1. Poor Susan Rice wasn't the person who decided to mislead the country. She was merely the schnook who agreed to be a spokesperson for the misleading talking points.

    2. No doubt the CIA involvement was part of the reason for the Administration's dissembling. But even Huffington Post noted that political considerations influenced the talking points.

    Political considerations influenced the talking points that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used five days after the deadly Sept. 11 assault in Benghazi, Libya, with State Department and other senior administration officials asking that references to terror groups and prior warnings be deleted, according to department emails.

    The latest disclosures Friday raised new questions about whether the Obama administration tried to play down any terrorist factor in the attack on a diplomatic compound just weeks before the November presidential election.

    1. D in C, I appreciate your letting me into your Kafkaesque world day and day out

      AC / MA

    2. Huffington Post is not a single source. It has lots of authors and commentators saying a variety of things, some of which are their own opinions not necessarily reporting of any kind. When you cite something from Huffington Post, please also state who there said whatever you are citing.

      No matter who said this, the last paragraph makes no sense. Who would think that ordinary protestors would have the heavy weapons obviously used in the attack (and referenced by Rice)? Since it is clear that this was not an ordinary protest, how can the Obama administration hide the terrorist factor? Since this is obvious to all, it makes no sense to assume the Obama Administration was trying to hide it. The issue is that they didn't want to say exactly which terrorist group was involved, perhaps because they didn't know or perhaps for strategic reasons related to anti-terrorism efforts (not Obama's political goals).

  2. Well, one thing we know for sure. The fact that this continuing saga could compromise CIA secret operations will in no way deter the vandals running the Republican party. We already know that they would unhesitatingly out a CIA agent if they thought it would further their political goals.

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  4. It seems to me that this particular "secret operation" has long since been compromised. Glen Kessler wrote:

    from the State Department perspective, this was an attack on a CIA operation, perhaps by the very people the CIA was battling,

    Kessler suggests that our enemies who attacked the Consulate knew that it was being used against them by the CIA. The people who didn't know this were the American voters.

    1. Do you seriously believe the American people do not know that the CIA runs secret operations out of our diplomatic agencies in foreign countries?

      Beyond that, we do not need to know the specifics of any of these operations. That's why our government imposes secrecy on many of its operations. I find it odd that conservatives would want to undermine CIA operations by insisting on their disclosure. It seems to be against our country's national security interests to disclose secret CIA operations that way.

    2. The American people need to know two areas, not just about Benghazi, but about any issue like this:

      1. Has the Administration been honest or was there a cover-up? Remember Watergate was a 3rd rate burglary. It was the cover-up that led to Nixon's impeachment.

      2. How effective is the CIA? The American people need to know what we're getting from that agency in return for their huge budget.

    3. DAinCA, I'm always amused when right-wingers have a sad because they think that the judgment of history is that Watergate was only a "third-rate burglary," an offense of so little note that Nixon would have finished out this term in triumph if only he hadn't decided to cover up what didn't need covering up.

      But this is only the judgment of Ron Zeigler, Nixon flack and apologist even after his stint as press secretary. So, sadly, no. It's necessary to remember what an actual disgrace Watergate was, independent of the proximate causes of Nixon's fate. And for goodness sakes, can't you get the simplest fact right? Richard Nixon wasn't impeached; he resigned.

      We know what Nixon tried to cover up, but I can't even tell what Obama is supposed to be covering up. That administration officials used the word "extremists" in emails when Republicans want the word "terrorists"? That the administration incorrectly thought the attack was due to an anti-Islam video?

      How effective is the CIA? Hard to tell. Given the thirteen attacks on US diplomatic compounds resulting in dozens of deaths during the previous administration, I'm gonna guess the CIA isn't that effective. But it's just a guess: the CIA will tell you that you never hear about their myriad successes. How exactly will the inquiries into Benghazi answer this question?

  5. Tom Pickering -- co-chairman of the State Department's Accountability Review Board on the Benghazi attacks last year, did its work well, said: " I think the notion of, quote, a cover-up has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it."

    It's a safe bet that he'll never appear on Fox.

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  7. The Daily Howler's contention that the fruits of last week's hearings will be a continued focus on this idiotic "story." This seems possible but dubious: it's either going to be a Vince Foster or a Whitewater, but baring a now unthinkable shock: it ain't no Monica. This is Republican Kill Politics, basically all they have left from the days of McCarthy. People like David in Ca. and Bill O"Reilly will continue to lie, that's what they do, they're liars.

    The mainstream will continue to play along, but carefully. Yes, they did learn a thing or two from Whitewater, as we can see by The Times reaction to this hokum. This suggests what we have here is less Water, than Travel, gate.

    Thinking Americans are long over such "scandals" and creepy weirdos like David in Ca.

    1. Greg, you drive me crazy, but "creepy weirdos like David in Ca" is made of 110% WIN!

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  13. Republicans were praying for an "October Surprise", and they were sure this was it.
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