The return of Benghazi parsing: We liberals went to bed last night hearing that nothing had happened.
We had been misinformed. A couple of Secretary Clinton’s emails have produced the return of Benghazi parsing. This will revive an earlier question:
Do we the people know how to read? Do we know how to reason at all?
If you want to parse Benghazi, you have to keep a few basic points in mind. These three are quite basic:
Don’t buy that false contradiction: Let’s state a fairly obvious fact. There’s no reason why a “terrorist group” might not stage a “terrorist attack” in response to a perceived religious insult.
Right from the start, Republicans have tried to create the impression that a contradiction lurks there—that no self-respecting terrorist group would ever stage such an attack.
That claim doesn’t seem to make sense. But so what? Given the way our “press corps” works, Republicans have been very successful selling this false contradiction.
They’re out there selling it again. Our “journalists” will be strongly inclined to buy it.
Don’t purchase that bad paraphrase: What did Susan Rice actually say on those Sunday programs?
Right from the start, Republicans have been very successful selling a false paraphrase. They’re out there selling this turkey again.
So far, we the liberals haven’t come close to having sufficient skill to reject this false representation. Truthfully, we just aren’t very sharp. We prove this again and again.
What did Susan Rice actually say? She didn’t say that the killing attack was staged by a bunch of protestors. Nor did she say that the “extremists with heavy weapons” who waged the killing attack did so because of the videotape.
Here’s what she said on Face the Nation. Will we liberals ever be smart enough to insist on accurate paraphrase?
RICE (9/16/12): Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with [Libyan president Magariaf], there is an investigation that the United States government will launch, led by the FBI that has begun...Rice stressed the fact that she wasn’t offering a definitive conclusion as to what had occurred. But she didn’t even speculate about the motivation of the “extremist elements...with heavy weapons” who launched the killing attack.
So we’ll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions. But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what—
It began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video.
But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post-revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.
SCHIEFFER: But you do not agree with [Magariaf] that this was something that had been plotted out several months ago?
RICE: We do not—we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.
SCHIEFFER: Do you agree or disagree with him that al Qaeda had some part in this?
RICE: Well, we’ll have to find that out. I mean, I think it’s clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself, I think is one of the things we'll have to determine.
She didn’t deny that they might be terrorists. They might even be “al Qaeda itself,” she specifically told Bob Schieffer. She didn't even seem to brook the idea that they might have been mere protestors.
Right from the start, dissembling pols like John McCain began pretending that Rice had said that a bunch of protestors had somehow staged the killing attack. He mocked the idea that protestors staged a demonstration armed with heavy weapons.
That simply isn’t what she said. But “journalists” bought that paraphrase whole, and they'll be buying it now.
Don’t buy that version of what Clinton said: What did Secretary Clinton actually say in her public statement on September 12?
For the full text, click here. This chunk was being winnowed down at yesterday’s eleven-hour terrier attack, in which it seemed that someone had put a bit of speed in the Alpo:
CLINTON (9/12/12): The friendship between our countries, born out of shared struggle, will not be another casualty of this attack. A free and stable Libya is still in America’s interest and security, and we will not turn our back on that, nor will we rest until those responsible for these attacks are found and brought to justice. We are working closely with the Libyan authorities to move swiftly and surely. We are also working with partners around the world to safeguard other American embassies, consulates, and citizens.Clinton said she didn’t know the precise motivations of the attackers. When she said that “some have sought to justify this vicious behavior…as a response to inflammatory material on the Internet,” she was making an accurate statement. She was also speaking of Libya and Cairo together.
There will be more time later to reflect, but today, we have work to do. There is no higher priority than protecting our men and women wherever they serve.
We are working to determine the precise motivations and methods of those who carried out this assault. Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear—there is no justification for this, none. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith. And as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.
A certain terrier kept simplifying this statement at yesterday’s dog show. One Democratic congressman, Smith or Schiff, was actually skillful enough to note that “some have sought” is not the same thing as “I believe.”
Most journalists won’t be that sharp.
Why did Clinton tell the Egyptian president that the attack wasn’t a response to the video? We can’t answer that. Nor do we know if that was as accurate statement.
But information was changing fast in the first days post-attack. As far as we know, neither Clinton nor Rice made any sort of definitive public statement about the motivation.
The liberal world let Susan Rice get eaten alive in 2012. This was especially true on MSNBC, where the cable stars kept their traps shut for months—except for Hayes’ initial reaction, in which he bought the GOP’s line.
The usual suspects will be dissembling this weekend. Our “journalists” will be strongly inclined to buy their familiar lines.
Will liberals be skillful enough to resist? We’ve never been that sharp in the past. Why should it be different now?