Well-known genius prepared to “acknowledge” that he knew all along: No one who watches the press corps closely can escape the sneaking suspicion that they can’t be human life-forms.
Case in point: Barbara Starr’s report to Anderson Cooper about what Petraeus was going to testify today. Starr appeared with Cooper last night, Thursday night, in the 8 o’clock hour.
What follows was Starr's sneak preview of Petraeus’ upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees concerning the Benghazi attack.
She said the following with a straight face, confusing heretical Cooper:
STARR (11/15/12): Well, good evening, Anderson. That's right, I've spoken to a source who is directly familiar with Petraeus' thinking, what he's planning to try and say on Capitol Hill tomorrow. He wants to testify. He wants to clear up any, what he believes are misrepresentations of what he has said in the past and what he thinks really happened in Benghazi.Could any human make that up? According to Starr, the great Petraeus wanted to “acknowledge” that he knew quite quickly, immediately afterwards, that Ansar al-Sharia was responsible for the Benghazi attack.
First up, this source says that Petraeus will acknowledge that he knew quite quickly, immediately afterwards, that it was Ansar al-Sharia, that Libyan al Qaeda sympathizer group, that was responsible for it. But they had some conflicting information. He also had some 20 reports that it might have been related to that riot that broke out in Cairo just before the attack regarding that anti-Islamic film.
There had been rioting in Egypt and of course this is the contradictory thread of the narrative here, that it was riots that, in Egypt, that led to the attack on the embassy in Libya, on the consulate in Libya. So he's going to talk about having these two threads of information, but his sense right from the start that it was a terrorist attack by Ansar al-Sharia. A pretty murky group, a pretty loose collection of characters.
According to Starr, Petraeus was willing to “acknowledge” this fact. To his credit, Cooper was puzzled by the great man’s greatness:
COOPER (continuing directly): So—this is really interesting to me. So just to be clear, your source is saying General Petraeus knew almost immediately or felt that it was a terrorist attack, knew the group involved, even though he told members of Congress three days after the attack that it could have been spontaneous and there's also this—the statement made by the director of National Intelligence, on the DNI, the end of October, who put out a statement saying—you know, in the wake of criticism of Ambassador Rice—saying that early reports, you know, indicated it might have been linked to—you know, might have been a spontaneous demonstration and Ambassador Rice went out on Sunday saying—you know, five days after, saying it was possibly—early reports were spontaneous demonstration had been hijacked then by other groups.Cooper still didn't quite "get it." Almost immediately, Petraeus knew it was Ansar al-Sharia—but that sort of isn’t what he said in real time! And it sort of isn’t what he briefed Susan Rice to say.
So if he had a gut feeling or knew— I don't get why the DNI would have put out that statement if Petraeus was saying it was a terror attack or felt it was.
Don’t worry! In the case of greatness like this, the life-forms can always explain. Starr helped Cooper understand.
Finally, Cooper surrendered:
STARR (continuing directly): Well, here's what we're looking at. We're looking at two threads of intelligence. One is, who was responsible? The second one, what was their motivation? And the sense is that these two threads of intelligence began to cross. You could have had these Ansar al-Sharia people start this trouble and they could have supposedly been motivated by the riots and the video but what we know now is Petraeus feels at some point the CIA was able to largely disprove that the video played a central role.Starr’s explanation was clear as mud. But of one thing, there could be no real doubt:
The problem is the timing. They didn't disprove those 20 reports until after he briefed Congress.
COOPER: OK. Barbara Starr reporting at the Pentagon, appreciate that. Fascinating stuff tonight. We'll see what he says exactly tomorrow.
Petraeus had understood all along! He would even “acknowledge” that fact when he testified, she explained to the floundering Cooper.
Greatness like this can be hard to fathom. We cheered Starr for the patience she showed, giving Cooper two bites at the apple.
Breaking! For Kevin Drum's report on what Petraeus said, you know what to do: Just click here.