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.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.
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.
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.As Kessler notes, that’s what the CIA said it believed even before other agencies suggested changes to the talking points.
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.
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.