Part 4—Creates an embarrassing mess: For eight solid months, the career liberal world let Susan Rice twist in the wind—and through her, Barack Obama.
All manner of bullroar concerning Benghazi was pimped all over the nation. But on The One True Liberal Channel, the children said nothing. Except for Brother Hayes, who initially fell for the con!
Before we’re done, we’ll speculate about the reasons behind this refusal to fight. But last Wednesday evening, May 15, in the 9 PM hour, Rachel Maddow finally tried to fight back against the Benghazi bullroar.
When she did, her hopeless fail gave us a look at the standards and practices of our post-journalistic elite.
Maddow attacked a bungled report by ABC’s Jonathan Karl. When she did, her errors were substantially worse than Karl’s own errors had been.
Her cluelessness was apparent, as always. Essentially, she brought forth a con.
Let’s start with the report which provoked Maddow’s ire. We refer to Jonathan Karl’s semi-bungled report on Friday, May 10.
Karl’s report appeared on the site of ABC News. It contained one embarrassing error—and some typical amateurism.
That said, the overall thrust of Karl’s report was largely correct. It would have created a bit of a stir even without the embarrassing error which spawned so much later discussion.
What did Karl say in his flawed report? He offered detailed information about the changes which were made to the Benghazi talking points. In the process, he debunked an erroneous claim which had been made by the White House.
What were Karl’s basic claims? Below, you see the first four paragraphs of his report, along with ABC’s headline. Despite his embarrassing error, we’d have to say that his basic claims were correct:
KARL (5/10/13): Exclusive: Benghazi Talking Points Underwent 12 Revisions, Scrubbed of Terror ReferenceFor starters, let’s discuss the semi-comical amateurism:
When it became clear last fall that the CIA’s now discredited Benghazi talking points were flawed, the White House said repeatedly the documents were put together almost entirely by the intelligence community, but White House documents reviewed by Congress suggest a different story.
ABC News has obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows the Sunday after that attack.
White House emails reviewed by ABC News suggest the edits were made with extensive input from the State Department. The edits included requests from the State Department that references to the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Sharia be deleted as well references to CIA warnings about terrorist threats in Benghazi in the months preceding the attack.
That would appear to directly contradict what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said about the talking points in November.
According to Karl, ABC News had obtained twelve different versions of the now-famous talking points. This would mean that the points had undergone eleven revisions, not the twelve announced in that headline.
Within the text, ABC offered a link which said this: “Read the Full Benghazi Talking Point Revisions.” If you click that link, you go this document, which seems to show eleven versions of the talking points, not the twelve Karl claims.
Adding to the air of confusion, the eleven versions of the points contain some language which is crossed out, with other language written in red. At no point does ABC explain what this hodge-podge means, although smart bunnies, forced to waste time, can probably figure it out.
Whatever! Karl did provide a record of the ways the talking points changed over time. Beyond that, it’s hard to dispute his central claims:
It’s true! The State Department was quite active in the revision process. (We’re glad they were.) And this does contradict a claim by Jay Carney, the hapless White House spokesman.
Later on May 10, Carney made this unfortunate problem worse, fumbling through a gruesome presser in which he responded to obvious questions with extended filibusters, incoherently refusing to acknowledge his previous misstatements.
For ourselves, we’d note a problem with the tone and the apparent presumptions of Karl’s report. Throughout his report, Karl seems to assume that nefarious motives were involved in the changes made to the points, especially in the elimination of specific references to Ansar al-Sharia and al Qaeda. It didn’t seem to have entered his head that these references may have been premature—that there may have been principled reasons for removing such claims.
That said, the basic assertions in Karl’s report seem to be accurate. The talking points did go through a bunch of revisions. And the State Department was actively involved in the process. But uh-oh! In paragraph 16 of his 19-graf effort, Karl made an embarrassing error. He seemed to quote an e-mail which had played a part in this process:
KARL: In an email dated 9/14/12 at 9:34 p.m.—three days after the attack and two days before Ambassador Rice appeared on the Sunday shows—Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote an email saying the State Department’s concerns needed to be addressed.Uh-oh! Four days later, on May 14, CNN’s Jake Tapper reported that this apparent quotation was inaccurate. The actual text of that e-mail from Rhodes was in fact somewhat different.
“We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.”
After that meeting, which took place Saturday morning at the White House, the CIA drafted the final version of the talking points—deleting all references to al Qaeda and to the security warnings in Benghazi prior to the attack.
(Karl then spent the next several days casting himself in the Carney role. He offered evasive, semi-coherent accounts of how he made this embarrassing error.)
Karl had made a groaning mistake, but the basic thrust of his report was accurate. And uh-oh! When Maddow tried to attack Karl’s work—if possible, without naming his name—we'd have to say that her own journalistic effort was at least several times worse.
In our view, her angry bungling was quite extensive, much more extensive than Karl’s.
Maddow’s assault on Karl began on Wednesday, May 15. Maddow started her program this night by making this absurd announcement: “The whole Benghazi scandal, the months-long scandal, kind of went away today.” She then clowned around for a minute or so, helping us learn to adore her more fully:
MADDOW (5/15/13): Also, there was a mystery toddler today in Washington. Watch this. Watch for the toddler.To watch Maddow train you to love her more fully, just click here. You will be watching the start of last Wednesday’s program.
[Utterly pointless video clip from a congressional hearing]
MADDOW: Hey, who’s the toddler? [Laughing]
North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt, who did have questions for the attorney general, but who most of all will be remembered as the guy who brought the adorable toddler, who’s apparently named Nico, into the middle of the Washington maelstrom today.
[Waving to toddler, adopting baby voice] Hi, Nico!
God bless him.
All right! So that was my favorite moment of the day in what was an unbelievably packed news day.
In the middle of that May 15 show, Maddow devoted a 12-minute segment to Karl’s report. By now, it was clear that Karl had made that embarrassing error. In response, Maddow made dozens of errors, both in this 12-minute segment and in a subsequent segment on Friday, May 17.
How many ways did Maddow err in these lengthy reports? Aside from the absurd political judgments she voiced, she grossly misstated what Karl had claimed in the heart of his report.
For a sampling of Maddow’s incompetence, consider the array of groaners in just this one short passage. Instead of naming Karl, Maddow keeps referring to ABC News:
MADDOW (5/15/13): According to ABC News, the White House, in that e-mail, that they quoted, clearly planned to massage the story about Benghazi at the direction of the State Department. The White House had been saying that the talking points came primarily from the intelligence community. ABC News said, “No, no, we’ve got the smoking gun.” Evidence that it was not true, was not from the intelligence community, it was the White House. They quoted this White House e-mail.In that passage, Maddow asserted the strange idea that the Benghazi story hadn’t taken off “in the real news” until May 10. This bizarre belief may explain why Maddow said and did nothing all last fall as Susan Rice, night after night, was turned into a pariah, as crazy ideas spread.
And so that’s what happened on Friday. That was what finally caused the Benghazi story to take off in the real news after months of it living only on the conspiratorial right.
And it turns out that ABC News [report] that finally blew this story open for them and made it a mainstream story, that ABC article turns out was totally wrong. ABC blew it. Turns out they weren’t actually quoting White House e-mails at all.
Beyond that, Maddow told viewers that Karl’s report had turned out to be “totally wrong.” That was pleasing, but stupid and bogus.
Most offensively, Maddow aggressively misstated what Karl's report actually said. Did Karl really charge that the White House “clearly planned to massage the story about Benghazi at the direction of the State Department?”
We’re sorry, but no, he didn’t say that. That just isn’t in his report.
Quite accurately, Karl’s report said that the State Department was involved in revising the talking points. It didn’t demonize the White House, or feature its supposed role, in the way Maddow ascribed to Karl in her pleasing reports.
Basically, Maddow was making that up. This is something she tends to do at moments of tribal fury.
Go ahead! Read Karl’s report, then watch the tapes from those two cable programs as Maddow pretends to describe it. Karl doesn’t stress the role which was allegedly played by the White House. More precisely, he doesn’t make the demonistic claim about White House intentions which Maddow describes in the passage we’ve posted.
Repeatedly, Karl stresses the role of the State Department and its spokesperson, Victoria Nuland. He correctly notes that State was active in the process which revised the talking points.
In our view, Karl fails to consider the possibility we think we see in the exchanges which revised the points. He fails to consider the possibility that Nuland was making smart, well-founded suggestions about the presence of premature claims in the talking points.
As we read the e-mail exchanges, we see Nuland repeatedly making sound suggestions. For ourselves, we’re glad that Nuland and State were active in this process.
That said, Maddow was basically making it up in the passage we’ve quoted above, where she has Karl accusing the White House of “clearly plann[ing] to massage the story about Benghazi at the direction of the State Department.” And when she returned to this topic on May 17, her misstatements were grander and wilder.
Maddow made an array of claims that night which were unfounded or simply false. On that evening, she aired an absurd imitation of journalism:
She continued to pimp the idea that Karl had aggressively demonized the White House. She played a short clip of Karl on the air, pulling his statement out of context. (In context, the statement in question was unobjectionable.) And repeatedly, she claimed that Karl’s error was caused by “a big lie” in which “Republican congressional offices shopped a false dossier as if it was White House’s e-mails.”
That was a very colorful charge. But there was no sign that Maddow could document or explain the process by which Karl made his error.
By Friday night, Maddow was basically making it up. Just consider the puzzling passage in which she put the finger on those Republican staffers.
From the pseudo-liberal perspective, Maddow tells a pleasing story in the passage which follows. Having said that, please note the puzzling quote from “NBC” with which she supports her tale:
MADDOW (5/17/13): The most interesting question in all of this turns out to be: “Well, if ABC was not quoting real White House e-mails—they said they were quoting real White House e-mails; they were not—what were they quoting?”Did Karl buy something hook, line and sinker? In fact, he only quoted one e-mail incorrectly in the report “which went totally wrong.”
And now, it turns out we can piece that together from all of the other news agencies trying to reverse-engineer this disaster, this false story that went totally wrong this week. What is now apparent is that the same cooked-up, false account of something that was supposedly said and done by White House officials in the aftermath of Benghazi, that false account was written by what various reporters describe as congressional and Republican sources.
Hey, I think I found the actual scandal! This is how NBC put it: “Congressional sources discussed with NBC News a report compiled by House Republicans that examines a series of e-mails concerning when and how talking points were crafted about the Benghazi attacks.”
That itself, “congressional sources discussed with news agencies a report compiled by House Republicans,” that kind of sourcing itself is not a scandal. This becomes a scandal when we learn subsequently that that report that was given to reporters was a false report. It made up something that the White House supposedly did, that the White House did not do.
And they shot that false report to ABC News and ABC News bought it hook, line and sinker. They published it as an exclusive. And all the Beltway media, and all the national media and everybody in politics jumped, because now this finally seemed like a scandal.
That said, note the quotation from “NBC” which let Maddow present a demonized tale about the “big lie” in which “Republican congressional offices shopped a false dossier as if it was the White House’s e-mails.”
That demonized tale could be true, of course. But what is Maddow’s evidence?
Somewhat strangely, Maddow quotes “NBC” saying this: “Congressional sources discussed with NBC News a report compiled by House Republicans that examines a series of e-mails concerning when and how talking points were crafted about the Benghazi attacks.”
But when did “NBC” say that? And to what specific “report” was NBC referring?
Maddow doesn’t say! For ourselves, we can find no record of anyone ever having made the statement in question. There is no record in the Nexis files of that statement having been made, nor can we find a record through Google. At MaddowBlog, the staff provides a bunch of citations for claims made on the May 17 show, as they do for every program. But there is no attempt to explain where that alleged quotation comes from.
Question: Does NBC News possess a report in which bogus quotations were peddled by House Republicans? If so, that’s a major story. If NBC has such a report, why hasn’t NBC published it?
Why hasn’t Maddow done so?
Questions like these may not enter our heads when we thrill to the latest pleasing tale from this latest fraud. And by the way: You'll note that her quoted statement makes no reference to any e-mails in that report being bogus. For ourselves, we get the strangest sense that Rachel has made something up.
How did Karl come to make his error? We’d have to say the question remains unresolved. Maddow could have cited this amazingly hazy report by CBS’ Major Garrett, which at least asserts that “Republicans” leaked “quotes” from two emails on May 10, “quotes” which turned out to be wrong.
That said, Garrett’s report was absurdly hazy. He didn’t explain how he knew that the passages in question were meant to be “quotes” rather than summaries or paraphrases. Beyond that, he can’t know what was said to Karl about these passages, if Karl got his bogus quotation from this same source. (Unlike Maddow, Garrett doesn't pretend to explain how Karl made his mistake.)
Meanwhile, one of the two bogus “quotes” Garrett cites—the one he says was attributed to Nuland—makes Nuland sound more innocent than her actual statement did. If this was a Republican hatchet job, it was one of the weakest attempts in the party’s long history.
Just for the record: It was on May 10 that Garrett’s colleague, Sharyll Attkisson, published her own gong-show report about the points, which also included inaccurate quotations. In that case, CBS came up with a highly implausible explanation for how this mistake was made.
Alas! Watching our “journalists” assemble news reports is like watching sausage being made by people who don’t know how to make sausage. That said, Maddow is one of the people who can’t make sausage, as she made clear last week.
In her pair of reports, Maddow made many more errors than Karl, and Karl's work was awful enough. Her reports constitute an embarrassing scam, an inane imitation of journalism. For eight long months, she refused to fight. When she finally decided to try, she pretty much made her shit up.
This leaves one question unanswered:
Why didn’t Maddow try to fight until May 15? What explains the refusal to fight which started last September?
Over at The One True Channel, the children keep refusing to fight. Before we’re done, we’ll speculate about the reasons for this naughty behavior.
What’s in a name: On May 15, the analysts were shocked.
“Rabbi! Rabbi!” the youngsters exclaimed. “Rachel is criticizing a major news org by name!”
It was true! Rachel was challenging ABC News, the sort of thing she never does. It was left to us to explain the ways of the world.
On that May 15 program, Rachel did a 12-minute segment about Karl’s plainly fiendish report. But she never mentioned his name, not even once!
By May 17, Rachel was really angry. Her follow-up segment ran twenty minutes. Even then, she mentioned Karl’s name only once. And how weird! According to Nexis, no other MSNBC host mentioned his name all week!
“Professional courtesy,” we told the young analysts, watching their faces fall. “They don’t embarrass him by name. When they screw up at some later date, he won’t embarrass them.”
This is the way the hustlers play. We the rubes may not notice.