"Agreeing with Greta" edition: Based on our several brushes with greatness, Greta van Susteren is a nice person.
Professionally, she's a rather strange duck. Last night, with the election settled, she bent to the public will, starting her program thusly:
VAN SUSTEREN (11/7/12): Is it time? Should Senate Democrats dump their leader Senator Harry Reid? He is single-handedly blocking progress on the budget.No doubt about it! If there’s one obvious lesson from this election, it surely involves the need for Reid to go!
Whatever! Greta batted this topic around with her political panel. In her second segment, the topic changed. To adapt a phrase from the late Tim Russert, it was Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi. All over again.
We were especially struck by how nicely Michael Crowley played. This exchange helps you see how that one particular script-by-Fox has come to belong to the ages:
VAN SUSTEREN: Now that President Obama has won a second terms and the election is over, will we get the answers to what happened in Benghazi? Next week on November 15, both the House and Senate intelligence committees will hold hearings on the attack that killed four Americans. But will we get any real answers? We're back with our political panel. Michael Crowley, any significance to the hearings?Plenty of obvious questions remain about this whole affair. That said, we were struck by how nicely Crowley recited in the passage we've highlighted.
CROWLEY: Sure, this is an important story. It is an uncomfortable story for the White House. Obviously people who would like to have seen the administration feel some more heat before the election will feel this is coming after the fact.
You know, some of the things I have learned and read in the last few days in the press make me think there is less for the administration to be embarrassed about than it appeared before, at least on the question of the response. There was good reporting early in the week that they mobilized special forces and got to the Sicily and couldn't get to Benghazi in time. There were no armed drones and no AC-130 gunships.
So I really think the questions on the table are, number one, why was the compound in the annex not more—better defended in the wake of warnings that there might be threats? That might be at the doorstep of the CIA as much as the president. And then you do have this strange narrative of the White House blaming the video for a longer time than the evidence seemed to suggest.
By now, this narrative has been set in stone. It has two requisite parts: First, the pundit must say that the White House “blamed the video” for the Benghazi attack. Second, the pundit must indicate that there is something known to be weirdly wrong about that absurd idea.
But when did the White House “blame the video?” We have no idea. At one time, the pundit was expected to cite 1) Susan Rice’s TV appearances on September 16 and 2) President Obama’s subsequent address before the United Nations.
In reality, Rice never really said why those “extremist elements” armed with those “heavy weapons” came to the consulate that night. And when Obama addressed the UN, he didn’t state a view about that matter either.
But so what? Week after week, streams of pundits repeated these claims—and these claims are now set in stone. As you can see from Crowley's performance, the story has calcified to the point where pundits are no longer required to articulate these claims against Rice and Obama.
These claims are now understood.
Crowley didn’t feel he had to specify when the White House advanced the strange narrative of blaming the video. And sure enough! As the discussion continued, neither did anyone else—although everyone agreed that the White House had some big splainin' to do:
VAN SUSTEREN (continuing direction): It's before, during, and after, basically. You say, during—that was the facts that make it look a lot better than some previously thought.To this day, Greta is tortured by the bizarre "video protest story."
CROWLEY: In a couple of categories, it is looking better for the White House. There is a big question of blaming the video, I think.
YOUNGMAN: When you ask if we get answers, I certainly hope so, because I think the American people are entitled to them. I don't think this was ever going to be the election issue that some people wanted it to be. But now we are back on governance. The president certainly owes an explanation to the American people, especially with the YouTube video explanation that they used for so long. I mean, I—at this point it defies common sense why they would be saying that.
YORK: Your introduction was a little bit sad, now that the election's over, can we finally find out about Benghazi. There is certainly something to that. By the way, on the CIA, David Petraeus, head of the CIA, will testify in closed hearings here. There is another thing, the relationship between these congressional investigations and hearings and press coverage. What is going to happen—God forbid anybody leaks material. But reporters will begin to get new material that Congress has uncovered about Benghazi. It'll start appearing in the press a couple of days before the hearings and we will see more attention to it than we have seen in a while.
VAN SUSTEREN: The thing that has caught my attention is story about the videos. It doesn't make sense to me that they ran out with the video protest story. And that's where I am hung up. Why did they feel the need to come out with that story? That's where I am hung up. Just tell us. And because they won't just tell us, and there has been this sort of dodging and avoiding, and it may have been because of the election, but if they tell us and get it out there, that may end.
YORK: That's an inside-the-White House story. I don't expect you will find an answer. Congress can get answers from the State Department and the CIA. But as far as the White House and the internal deliberations, I doubt you will find it.
VAN SUSTEREN: You might have email, statements. There has been such a bizarre narrative, even the Washington Post has said that, you know, there are questions to be answered. It is—it's bizarre.
A viewer would expect Byron York to play along with this narrative. But in this case, so did mainstreamers Crowley, from Time magazine, and Sam Youngman, who hails from Reuters.
Greta was completely baffled; everyone else was baffled too. Affably agreeing with his hostess, Crowley continued to cast himself in the role of the obliging guest:
CROWLEY (continuing directly): It's a real mystery. I think people shouldn't forget that there were demonstrations near riots all over the world as a result of this video—Crowley wasn’t trying to let them off the hook! He wanted Fox viewers to know that!
VAN SUSTEREN: But not there. That's a significant point.
CROWLEY: But it was a very confusing moment in time. They were trying to figure out what was happening in a bunch of countries that looked like it was a serious threat to the embassy in Cairo. I am not trying to let them off the hook, but I do think it was a murky situation.
Question: Were those extremists with those heavy weapons angry about that idiot video? That’s what the New York Times reported in real time, then again several weeks later.
But Fox has created an alternate narrative in which 1) the White House has actively pimped this claim and 2) the notion is just completely absurd. Last night, a panel of pundits showed the world that Obama received no mandate on Tuesday—at least, no mandate which would allow them to stop behaving like well-trained caddies on Fox.