Our ranking journalists just can’t explain What Susan Rice Actually Said!


Blind scribes keep groping the elephant: At some point, we’ve all heard the famous tale about the blind men and the elephant.

The world’s foremost authority on folk tales describes the famous old story this way:
WIKIPEDIA: The story of the blind men and an elephant originated in Indian subcontinent from where it has widely diffused. It has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies. At various times it has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, the behavior of experts in fields where there is a deficit or inaccessibility of information, the need for communication, and respect for different perspectives.
Whatever! We’ve been thinking of those famous blind men when we watch our major journalists try to explain What Susan Rice Actually Said.

Last night, on NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell gave the task another try. Did Mitchell get the elephant right?
MITCHELL (11/27/12): The U.N. ambassador hasn’t even been nominated to be secretary of state but, today, she volunteered for a grilling in the Senate. Her critics were not satisfied.

MCCAIN (videotape): We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get.

GRAHAM (videotape): The bottom line, I’m more disturbed now than I was before.

MITCHELL: Rice acknowledged today she was wrong on a key fact, when she went on five Sunday morning programs and said Benghazi was a copycat attack.

RICE (videotape): What happened in Benghazi was, in fact, it was initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo.

MITCHELL: Today, Rice acknowledged there was no protest in Benghazi, but she blamed the CIA as she did last week.
Andrea Mitchell is fully sighted. But try as she might, she seems completely unable to limn this particular elephant.

Did Susan Rice really go on five Sunday shows and “say Benghazi was a copycat attack?” Sadly, no—that’s not what she said. For perhaps the ten millionth time, this is the transcript from Meet the Press, the show to which Mitchell referred:
RICE (9/16/12): ...But putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was, in fact, initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo—almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.

What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons, which, unfortunately, are readily available in post-revolutionary Libya, and that escalated into a much more violent episode.

Obviously, that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation...
Pitiful, isn’t it? In reality, Rice said that the initial demonstration was “almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo.” She didn’t say that about the attack itself, which transpired when “extremist elements” arrived on the scene with “heavy weapons,” creating “a much more violent episode.”

By now, U.S. intelligence seems to hold that there was no protest at the consulate before the deadly attack. But the intelligence assessment given to Rice did say that a demonstration occurred. For that obvious reason, so did Rice, on four of those Sunday programs. (She wasn't asked about Benghazi on CNN. When you see journos discussing five shows, they haven't examined the transcripts.)

But even now, ten weeks later, Mitchell can’t seem to form an accurate account of What Rice Actually Said. Assuming good faith, this particular (sighted) journalist just doesn’t seem up to the task.

And by the way: If you can’t hear the difference between those accounts, you aren’t up to the task of perform this function either.

Again and again, you see the remarkable lack of intellectual skill within our mainstream press corps. This is what the Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe writes in this morning’s front-page news report:
O’KEEFE (11/28/12): For several weeks, Rice has defended herself against allegations that she knowingly misled the public about the assault during a series of appearances on Sunday political talk shows five days afterward. She said repeatedly then that a spontaneous demonstration led to the violence, a claim later debunked by intelligence officials and reports from the ground.
Is that an accurate paraphrase? Quite plainly, Rice did say, on those Sunday shows, that a spontaneous demonstration preceded the violence. But did she say it led to the violence?

We would say no, she did not. And if you can’t hear the difference between those dueling accounts, this task is over your head, just as it has persistently seemed to exceed O’Keefe’s capacity.

What did Rice actually say that day? In this morning’s New York Times, Mark Landler offers a rare double paraphrase! We get Landler’s account of Rice’s account of What Rice Actually Said:
LANDLER (1/28/12): In a statement after the meeting, Ms. Rice said she incorrectly described the attack in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, as a spontaneous protest gone awry rather than a premeditated terrorist attack. But she said she based her remarks on the intelligence then available—intelligence that changed over time.

“Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in the process,” said Ms. Rice, who was accompanied at the 10 a.m. meeting by the acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Michael J. Morell.
Is that what Rice said on September 16? Did she describe the deadly attack as a spontaneous protest gone awry? In our view, that is a horrible paraphrase of What Rice Really Said. Beyond that, you’ll note that Landler doesn’t even quote what Rice said in yesterday's statement. Instead, he gives us his own paraphrased account of what Rice said she said!

Again and again, the most striking characteristic of our upper-end journalists is their lack of intellectual skill. As those sighted men and women have struggled to describe that elephant, they have persistently failed to explain What Rice Actually Said. As recently as yesterday morning, CNN still wasn’t sure if Rice had said that she was giving preliminary information. At that point, the failure of journalistic skill at CNN was total.

As we noted yesterday, Rice plainly said, again and again, that her information was preliminary. That brings us to Maureen Dowd’s latest hapless attempt to discuss What Rice Actually Said.

Dowd is one of the emptiest people in this broken-souled guild. For that reason, she is regarded by the guild as one of its brightest stars.

In this morning’s column, Dowd quotes an array of nit-picked complaints by Susan Collins, the Republican senator from Maine. Incredibly but inevitably, this is the first complaint cited, with Dowd betraying no earthly sense of how crazy this complaint is:
DOWD (11/28/12): Collins drew up a list of questions to ask Rice at their one-on-one hourlong meeting slated for Wednesday. She wants Rice to explain how she could promote a story “with such certitude” about a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Muslim video that was so at odds with the classified information to which the ambassador had access.
Did Rice promote her account of the deadly attack with some form of “certitude?” Again and again and again and again, she stressed the fact that her assessment was preliminary. But all over Fox, crackpots instantly started complaining about the “100 percent certitude” Rice had expressed in telling her story. (Liz Cheney, September 17.)

In right-wing swamps, this upside-down talking-point persists to this very day. In typical fashion, Dowd rushed today to type the krazy klaim up.

The mainstream press corps has behaved this way for a very long time. Career liberals have very rarely complained.

This was routine in the Clinton-Gore years. The silence our "leaders" brought to those slanders has come back to haunt us today.

Why is Susan Collins behaving this way: Susan Collins has never been a nut. Why is she acting like a nut in Dowd’s new column, with Dowd buying every cashew?

Just a guess:

Collins is up for re-election in 2014. As a long-standing moderate Republican, she remains highly vulnerable to challenge in a primary. (Her moderate colleague, Olympia Snowe, retired from the senate this year, thereby avoiding a challenge.)

Presumably, Lindsey Graham is currently acting like a nut for the same reason. Graham and Collins may be planning to agree to some sort of budget deal. If you plan to engage in such heresy, a modern Republican has to engage in some visible craziness as a form of balance.

It’s known as romancing the base. This morning, Dowd bought every word.

This talking-point emerged quickly: Back in September, the crackpots quickly began to complain about Rice’s “total certitude.”

In fact, Rice had stressed, again and again, that she was only offering a current best assessment—that the investigation continued. She said it and said it and said it again.

So what? Instantly, the crackpots were saying things like this:
CHENEY (9/17/12): Well, I think that Steve is right when he talks about the importance of looking at the overall policy here. You know, my sense of what happened in Libya—I watched Ambassador Rice yesterday say with 100 percent certitude that this was all because of the movie, and I found that to be preposterous.
That was Liz Cheney, on Fox. Speaking with the hapless Erin Burnett on CNN, Rep. Mike Rogers was pimping the same line:
BURNETT (9/17/12): As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, do you believe her?

ROGERS: I'm not sure I believe her or not. I disagree with her clearly. All the information I see from the Department of Defense and our intelligence agencies, they're recommending at what something they call, Erin, a moderate degree of confidence, which is not solid, that they think it was a spontaneous event. But there is lots of other information, some classified, some public, some open source, when you put it all together, when I look at the information, I mean it had indirect fire, artillery type fire from mortars. They had direct unit action. It was coordinated in a way that was very unusual. They repulsed a quick reaction force that came to the facility and then you look at other bits of information that we had including some that your reporter reported on that, hey, they were getting information that these extremists, some coming from other countries were coming around and they were having a very difficult time—


ROGERS: —that all doesn't make sense to me. That certainly looks like it was a planned and coordinated event. Now, none of us know for sure, to be fair, but to say for sure and for certain that this was a spontaneous event I just can't get it.

BURNETT: You don't see it.

ROGERS: No, I can't see it.
By that Friday, Kirsten Powers was pimping this same bullshit on Special Report:
POWERS (9/21/12): Look, the administration is either lying or is dangerously clueless and it is not getting covered by the media. And I think that is the point that David is trying to make. You can't have a political impact if people don't know about it. They are not held accountable. The president said in interview you put up we don't want to speculate about this. They did more than speculate. They said definitively what happened. They sent out Ambassador Rice to tell us all the stories that didn't make sense. That's why they stayed clueless because we all watched that and thought, “Nobody believes this is what happened. Nobody believes it was spontaneous, that there are reports showing otherwise.”
Rice had stressed, again and again, that this was preliminary information. Even today, the appalling Dowd is willing to type the opposite line.


  1. The trouble is that Rice said too much for a single column. So, any column discussing her words picks out at most a portion of what she said -- a portion that supposedly represents a fair paraphrase of her entire presentation. This point is true of Bob's post. Rice said more than what he quoted.

    The entire transcript is here
    Consider this Rice quote:

    But let’s remember what has transpired over the last several days. This is a response to a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world. Obviously, our view is that there is absolutely no excuse for violence and that-- what has happened is condemnable, but this is a-- a spontaneous reaction to a video, and it’s not dissimilar but, perhaps, on a slightly larger scale than what we have seen in the past with The Satanic Verses with the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

    I've highlighted the word "this", because I think it's somewhat ambiguous. Does "this" mean only the demonstrations or does it include all the violence? Perhaps this ambiguity is what separates Bob from those he crticizes. He interpreted "this" in the former way, while others took the latter interpretation.

    1. Quaker in a BasementNovember 28, 2012 at 1:21 PM

      "But let’s remember what has transpired over the last several days. This is a response to a hateful and offensive video..."

      The attack on the Benghazi consulate did not "transpire over several days," so plainly "this" can't refer only to Benghazi.

    2. Quaker in a BasementNovember 28, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      Here's the question that Rice was answering:

      In Egypt, of course, the protests outside the U.S. embassy there that Egyptian officials were slow to put down. This weekend in Pakistan, protests as well there. More anti-American rage. Also protests against the drone strikes. In Yemen, you also had arrests and some deaths outside of our U.S. embassy there. How much longer can Americans expect to see these troubling images and these protests go forward?

    3. Cleverly done. You could have a career on Fox!

      You left out the question she was replying to. Since you went to the transcript to find it, I assume you did that deliberately.

  2. But David, she clearly mentioned heavy weapons! Heavy weapons!

  3. Quaker in a BasementNovember 28, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Additionally, the folks who just can't seem to figure our what Rice actually said also want to pretend she went on all those Sunday shows to talk about Benghazi and nothing else.

    In fact, there were protests all across the Arab world during the week leading up to the Benghazi attack. Interviewers asked Rice about these protests and she gave them answers. And guess what? These protests really were motivated by the movie!

    Now, in long hindsight, Rice's critics want to pretend she talked about only Benghazi and all that movie talk was just made up.

  4. From yesterday's statement by Ambassador Rice: "In the course of the meeting, we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi."

    No protest or demonstration in Benghazi. Hmmm. So even though the other tribe thought what Rice said was untrue back when she said it in September and now Rice herself says it was untrue, the other tribe is still wrong, wrong, wrong? Hmmm.

    Since the whole TDH apology for Rice is based on the finer points of whether certain events "preceded" or "led" to other events, the fact that the former events didn't happen at all seems worrisome, no?

    At what point do you say, dang, these guys and gals were just grasping at anything to duck the blame for this Benghazi disaster?

    1. I would say, perhaps when something vaguely suggests that these guys and gals were just grasping at anything to duck the blame for the Benghazi disaster. I notice, my very, very lame friend, you ignore Somerby's irrefutable, central point, Rice stressed that everything She was saying was based on the information they had then, less than a week after the killings.
      That said, if Rice was not just throwing McCain a bone, it does not to be explained why the C.I.A., The New York Times, and The Washington Post all thought there were protests when Rice now says there were none.

    2. They spun a story about a demonstration in Benghazi. It was embellished with a narrative about how opportunistic extremists hijacked the demonstrations.

      Now they admit there were no demonstrations. Where did Obama and Rice get their initial info? Do they have new information? Is that FBI investigation getting results? Can't the CIA tell the difference between a demonstration and an assault with heavy weapons? It's not like they don't have a presence there--they had a whole annex just about a mile away.

      "It's not the crime, it's the cover-up" should be on banners hanging in every White House.

    3. "They spun a story"

      "Now they admit there were no demonstrations"

      "Admit." Hilarious!!

      But the bottom line is: All you have to hang your hat on is that the intelligence assessment now is that the intelligence assessment then was wrong about whether there was a protest in Benghazi before the attack.

      You're far from having shown any "cover-up" -- You haven't even shown any "spun" or "embellished," you whiny GOP troll handjob.

    4. http://usun.state.gov/briefing/statements/201072.htm

      That's what "admit" looks like.

      They don't teach it in school but you should know that when an ambassador says things like "the intelligence assessment has evolved," it means the same as "that statement is no longer operative."

      It's my belief that Susan Rice is vastly preferable to John Bolton as UN ambassador--but that doesn't mean she wouldn't spin events to re-elect the President and secure herself a brighter future.

    5. "to re-elect the President"

      So sorry for you and yours, but Romney was never in spitting distance of the Presidency.

      Again, your "spin" and "cover-up" remain sadly lacking in evidence. We wait, expecting your usual.

      Back to the drawing board? -- or just more of your bullshit postings?

      The latter, I'm sure.

  5. The Arizona Republic was just as bad, supporting McCain and Kyl this way:

    "The White house knew the truth and opted to go public with a partial version of it. Which is to say not the truth at all."

    McCain really has no logical reason to launch an inquisition, but hey, who needs logic?

    Lame duck Kyl has no reason whatsoever. All he is doing is giving a sop to a colleague for old time's sake.

    Kyl's 3 key questions:

    Why weren't the warnings about the need for security heeded?

    Why weren't the request for help during the terrorist attack answered?

    And (drum roll) And why did the administration think it had to cover up all of the things that occurred before by putting out a narrative that will turn out to be absolutely false?

    Why bother investigating since we already know the narrative will turn out to be absolutely false?

    Kyl, some might remember, made the famous claim that abortion was 90% of Planned Parenthood's business, then walked it back with "His remark was not intended to be a factual statement."

  6. Dowd states: Collins wants to know Rice’s basis for saying on ABC that the attacks were “a direct result of a heinous and offensive video.”

    Oh dear, that sounds like, ummm, certitude.

    And, no, though disappeared by TDH, that quote is in no way out of context.

    1. Christ, what a liar you are!

      The context is indeed missing, and contradicts directly your lie that Rice said that about "the attacks."

      The missing context you have falsified is the immediately preceding question and earlier part of Rice's answer -- which quite plainly is about the protests "this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region" and NOT about the Benghazi attack at all.

    2. Whatever..
      since you can mind-read and know that "in Benghazi" could only mean protests (that didn't happen) and not anything else that happened (or didn't happen) "in Benghazi," you win the TDH fanboy of the day award.

    3. Quaker in a BasementNovember 28, 2012 at 7:45 PM

      Anon2, you're something of a prize-winner yourself:

      "Here's a quote that's NOT out of context!

      "It IS out of context?


    4. Yeah whatever...
      anon 3:06 didn't bother to link or cite any meaningfully different context, but only said that when Rice specifically cites Benghazi, she only refers to certain parts of the events that took place in Benghazi--and not the ones that everyone is upset about but, rather the ones that it turns out didn't happen. how anon 3:06 achieves this freaky mind-meld with Rice is left unmentioned. so it doesn't seem worth any effort to rebut.
      maybe anon 306 didn't give more context because Rice did not say "protests" as he implies, but "what transpired." here's a link to Rice's interview and the relevant bit starts around 4:09 into it.


      If you said to someone "hey, you want to know what transpired in Benghazi?" would you be referring only to the protests (that didn't happen) or would you be referring to the attacks on the US consulate and other buildings resulting in the deaths of the ambassador and 3 others?

    5. If you said to someone "hey, you want to know what transpired in Benghazi?"

      Unfortunately, you utter sack of lying shit, that isn't what anyone said.

      They said: "this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region."

      If you said, as Rice actually did, "this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region" would you be referring not to Cairo, not to other parts of the region, but only to Benghazi?

      No, that doesn't make any sense.

      You'd be referring to something that was happening "this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region."

      But some liars like Mister-2:31-4:04-10:48, will continue to pretend that when you refer to events that happened "this week in Cairo, in Benghazi, in many other parts of the region," you must be referring only to one specific event in Benghazi.

      That's what makes them liars, you know!

  7. "Lack of intellectual skill" is giving them a lot ! The so called journalists dealing with the Benghazi attack are as dumb as barnyard cows. Example : Bob Schieffer with Sen. McCain on consecutive Sundays.

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