And the New York Times skips the main point: In yesterday’s New York Times, Mark Landler describes the congressional fact-finding trip which allegedly inspired the GOP’s obsession with Benghazi.
Landler records one striking statement by the Republican congressman in question. And he completely fails to explore his story’s main point.
According to Landler, the current GOP obsession dates to an eight-hour trip to Tripoli last October. Rep. Jason Chaffetz made the “whirlwind trip” on October 7. According to Landler, Chaffetz “wanted answers on what he believed was an increasingly spurious account by the Obama administration of what happened in Benghazi the night of Sept. 11.”
We have no way of knowing what Chaffetz wanted or believed. Meanwhile, Landler focuses on the way Chaffetz gave the slip to Jeremy Freeman, a State Department lawyer who was assigned to accompany him on the trip.
Landler tells an intriguing tale. At one point, he quotes Chaffetz making a striking comment:
LANDLER (5/14/13): Once on the ground, Mr. Chaffetz and General Ham took part in a group meeting with the embassy’s staff that began with an overview of the political situation in Libya. After a few minutes, Mr. Chaffetz interrupted, saying he was there to talk about Benghazi.Chaffetz didn’t just give Freeman the slip. Rather remarkably, he described Freeman to the New York Times as “some yahoo from the State Department.”
“I wanted to ‘walk and talk,’ ” he said, saying at one point he clambered into a building turret to talk to an embassy guard.
Embassy officials, who had been advised not to talk without Mr. Freeman present, were wary, according to a person who was in the room. When Mr. Chaffetz walked to an adjacent C.I.A. annex for a classified briefing, Mr. Freeman was excluded by the agency, which said he did not have the proper security clearance.
Mr. Chaffetz said he did not have Mr. Freeman barred from any meetings, but added, “I didn’t want to limit the information I was going to get because some yahoo from the State Department didn’t have the proper clearance.” State Department officials insisted that Mr. Freeman had the clearance he needed.
Even the most trivial attempts at courtesy seem to have gone by the board. But in our view, so has Landler’s sense of what’s really at stake in this story.
According to Landler, this was the trip which established the GOP’s deep concern about Benghazi. “That’s where my passion for this story really grew,” Chaffetz is quoted saying. “What we were hearing, and what we were seeing were two different things.”
Fascinating! On this whirlwind fact-finding trip, Chaffetz decided that something really was rotten in Libya. But what did he see or hear on this trip that led him to that conclusion?
Landler never says! We’re given a cloak-and-dagger tale in which a congressman gived the slip to a meddlesome lawyer. But at no point is Chaffetz asked to explain what troubled him in Libya.
What did he see or hear? What was he told? Landler never asks!
This has gone on for the past several decades, starting (let’s say) with the pseudo-scandal known as Whitewater. Major news orgs work quite hard. They try not to ask too many questions about these pseudo-scandals.
If the GOP creates such a scandal, the Times won’t look behind the curtain. The Times will entertain us with hair-raising tales, but the paper won’t ask the real questions.
What troubled Congressman Chaffetz in Libya? What did he see? What was he told? In Obama’s words, is there really a there there?
What convinced Rep. Chaffetz that there was trouble in Tripoli city? In a practice which dates back decades, the New York Times knew not to ask!
Are we back to the “Clinton Rules?” Last Sunday, that's what Maureen Dowd said. Under those famous old rules of the road, big scandals don’t have to make sense!