Up with Nuland, down with Rice!

FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2013

The Times doesn’t want to explain it: Yesterday morning, without saying so, the New York Times described the nature of the con.

At stake are the fates of two women—Susan Rice and Victoria Nuland. Each has been involved in the flap about the Benghazi talking points.

Nuland helped create the points. Rice merely conveyed what the talking points said when she appeared on TV.

In our view, Nuland played the more active role. But how strange! In yesterday's Times, Mark Landler describes the differential treatment dished to these two women:
LANDLER (5/30/13): Ms. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations and the favorite to be President Obama’s next national security adviser, continues to be criticized by Senate Republicans for going on Sunday news programs a few days after the attacks to deliver the talking points, which later proved to be inaccurate. But the e-mails reinforced her lack of involvement in the drafting process.

Ms. Nuland, a former State Department spokeswoman nominated by Mr. Obama to be an assistant secretary of state, was backed by some of the same Republicans, even though the e-mails show she pushed to edit the talking points—a process critics say was calculated to airbrush the White House’s account of the attacks for political reasons.
How weird! According to Republicans, the talking points were an outrageous scam—a cover-up designed to hide what happened at Benghazi.

But how strange! The person who helped create the points is still being backed by Republicans! The person who merely reported what the points said has largely been left for dead.

(Does Rice “continue to be criticized by Senate Republicans?” Landler was putting it mildly! Recently, Lindsey Graham said he wanted Rice to be subpoenaed, making it sound like he really meant that he wanted her drawn-and-quartered.)

According to Landler, Rice is Goofus and Nuland is Gallant! But Landler can never quite bring himself to explain why this is the case. In this passage, he tries to explain, or at least pretends:
LANDLER (continuing directly): What accounts for the different treatment?

There are several factors, according to administration and Congressional officials, from personal relationships to the difference between a behind-the-scenes bureaucrat and a political ally who becomes the public face of the White House. But politics looms above all.

“Susan Rice was exposed because at a critical moment, she was out there with a narrative about President Obama’s foreign policy that the Republicans couldn’t abide,” said Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“Toria was buried in the internal bureaucratic ticktock,” Mr. Miller said, using Ms. Nuland’s nickname. “She is also someone who has very good contacts across the aisle, and around Washington. Susan fits the Republican anti-Obama narrative; Toria does not.”
Why has Rice been left for dead while Nuland is still being backed by Republicans? “Politics looms above all,” Landler says.

But as soon as he offers this explanation, Landler seems to start hemming and hawing. He seems unable to translate this claim into clear, direct English.

Why has politics hurt Rice but left Nuland unscathed? Instantly, Landler quotes an expert who offers a rather hazy explanation.

Nuland “was buried in the internal bureaucratic ticktock,” this expert says, referring to her by her nickname. He seems to be speaking some version of English as a second language for people trapped inside think tanks.

Was Nuland buried in the ticktock? Miller fails to explain why Republicans would care about that, once they saw that she helped create the vile cover-up which sent Rice to the dungeon—the vile cover-up about which they have screeched so loud and so long.

Does Landler even want to explain what has happened here? Anyone who reads the whole piece can perhaps discern what has occurred: Rice is part of the Democratic/Obama world, while Nuland comes from the world of the Republican center-right. Rather than find a way to say that, Landler fumbles about in the dark, playing it dumb about the divergent treatment:
LANDLER: Ms. Rice and Ms. Nuland both went to Capitol Hill to explain their role. Ms. Rice’s visit, in which she was accompanied by the C.I.A.’s acting director at the time, Michael J. Morell, did not mollify the senators. Ms. Nuland’s more recent visit seems to have been more successful.

“She told me her pushback was to try to protect the State Department from, in her view, unfair blame,” Mr. Graham said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. Asked how that differed from criticism that the administration had scrubbed the talking points, he said: “That’s a good question. She’s going to have to explain the role she played.”

But Mr. Graham drew a distinction between being involved in drafting talking points—“protecting your bureaucratic turf,” as he put it—and delivering an account to the American people.
Huh! According to Landler, Nuland’s visit to Capitol Hill “seems to have been more successful!”

When Landler asks Graham why that is, he gets yet another mumblemouthed explanation. Apparently, drafting a cover-up is less offensive than being selected as the person who has to report what it says. Or at least, that’s what Graham said. So Landler typed it up!

Let’s be clear: We don’t think either Rice or Nuland did anything wrong in this matter. As best we can tell, Nuland suggested sensible changes to the proposed talking points. Rice gave a coherent account of what was known to have happened, constantly warning that she was relaying a preliminary assessment.

They surely didn’t do anything worth discussing nine months later.

Anyone with an ounce of sense knows what happened here. Rice has been thrown down the stairs by the GOP, mainly as a way of harming Obama and pre-harming Hillary Clinton, who may run for the White House.

Judging by appearances, Landler didn’t want to say that. Midway through this worthwhile project, we’ll guess that the Times got scared.

As such, Landler’s report helps us see two things: The phoniness in the way the GOP has savaged Rice, and the fear the New York Times feels when faced with such slimy events.

Howard Dean discovers America!

FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2013

We don’t think we’ve ever heard statements like this: Last night, we heard a type of discussion we don’t think we’ve ever heard.

Well—we’ve never heard it from liberals. If you tune to Fox or to Rush, you hear this type of discussion all day long, then all night.

Howard Dean was chatting with Lawrence on The Last Word. To his credit, Lawrence started the transgressive discussion.

Lawrence noted the apparent dumbness of a recent statement by Ted Cruz. Eventually, he said what follows to Dean.

A new world was about to be discovered:
O’DONNELL (5/30/13): Governor, the way the media treats something like that, a comment like that—and I just want to compare it to this moment you had and the presidential campaign where the media came down on you and tried to crush you, because of the volume you chose to speak at over a noisy crowd. Not the words you were saying, simply the volume chosen in a noisy crowd. The media decided this man can’t be president.
Say what? Since when do liberals talk that way about the mainstream press?

Answer: Career liberals never say things like that, but Dean took the ball and he ran. You never hear Democrats say things like this. This represents a very unusual moment:
DEAN (continuing directly): I actually don’t think that’s true. I think the reason they went after me is I was taking on the media, as well.

My campaign, when you look back on it, was really a fight against the Democratic Party for not standing up for who they are. And it was a fight against the media for the B.S. they sell every day as—which passes for the truth.

And we’re having a big fight with the media now. And I believe in the First Amendment. I think the media position on the A.P. stuff is right. But I love watching the media squeal and be sanctimonious because they`re the most thin-skinned people you could possibly imagine.

O’DONNELL: Absolutely.
Was Candidate Dean really “taking on the media?” We don’t exactly remember that, though it may be true in some sense.

But good lord! When have Democrats ever engaged in a discussion like this? In that exchange, a major Democrat and a liberal TV star openly trash the mainstream press, not the people at Fox.

Dean said they sell B.S. every day. He said they’re sanctimonious and hugely thin-skinned. He also said they went after him when he was a Democratic candidate for the White House.

It’s extremely rare to see a major Democrat and a liberal talker discuss the mainstream press corps that way. Republicans and conservatives do this all day long, of course.

Our big stars are much more polite.

As Dean and O’Donnell continued, so did their blatant misconduct. We’re not sure we’ve ever seen an exchange like this:
DEAN (continuing directly): And now, they’re a player, they’ve got to see what it’s like to be on the other side. I hope they remember this after they get done. But that’s— You know, I got taken down because the volume was too high or whatever it was. But I pissed off the establishment, and that’s what happens when you piss off the establishment.

(Chuckling) I also made a lot of mistakes in my campaign.

O’DONNELL: Well, you know—long time ago. Howard Dean and Ari Melber, thank you both for joining me tonight.
We’d have to say that Ari didn't exactly jump in on this.

Were we hallucinating last night? If not, we actually saw a major Democrat say he got taken down by the mainstream press because he pissed off the establishment. Have you ever seen a major Democrat say anything like that?

We don’t know if those claims are true about the Dean campaign. But that’s plainly what occurred to Clinton, Gore and Clinton before him.

Plainly, Candidate Gore got taken down by the mainstream press because the establishment got pissed off (apparently about Bill Clinton's ten unnatural sex acts). No historical event could be any plainer.

But for fifteen years, it has been impossible to get a Democrat or a career liberal journalist to make that plainly accurate statement. Simply put, the American public isn’t allowed to know that this occurred.

With Gore, of course, the stakes were higher, since he was the presumptive and actual nominee. But have you ever seen a major Democrat talk the way Dean did?

Over the past twenty years, citizens have persistently been kept from hearing such talk. Over those many airbrushed years, have you noticed that fact?

WHO IS SHARYL ATTKISSON: Caller in Wonderland!

FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2013

Part 5—Where claims don’t have to make sense: On Sunday, May 12, Sharyl Attkisson took part in a 42-minute interview segment on C-Span’s Washington Journal.

To watch the full session, click here.

Attkisson is an “investigative correspondent” for CBS News. The highly telegenic TV performer has been a major on-air presence at CBS since 1993.

Instantly, Attkisson began making claims about the attack in Benghazi—claims which didn’t seem to make a great deal of sense. Her statements displayed the Wonderland logic routinely displayed on the Fox News Channel as hosts and guests insist that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have staged an outrageous cover-up about that deadly attack.

Susan Rice did too! Everybody knows this!

Instantly, Attkisson began pounding away, advancing GOP-inflected narratives marked by their tortured logic and their flight from basic facts. At several points, she even journeyed beyond the fractured logic established and licensed by Fox.

But so what? Seven minutes into the session, an irate caller from Minneapolis rejected Attkisson’s pitch.

The caller seemed sure that Attkisson had been pushing the liberal agenda concerning Benghazi. As she spoke, she too displayed the Wonderland logic which has come to define the way this topic gets discussed:
CALLER (5/12/13): I can’t believe it says “investigative correspondent.” You know, this story should have been investigated and no one but the press and liberals believed that nonsense about the video. I can’t, I can’t believe that you’re just now talking about it. You avoided this story like the plague because you wanted Obama to get reelected. This story came out in September. And also, no one is talking about the fact that this poor man—
At this point, host Steve Scully broke in to say that Attkisson has been “one of the very first to report some of these inconsistences.”

The caller wasn’t mollified. “But I mean the station too. The station,” she said, before getting interrupted again. It wasn’t clear if she meant CBS or C-Span itself.

So it goes in a modern world which runs by Wonderland logic. The caller was wildly off base about Attkisson’s approach to this topic, but she was sure that she understood everybody’s motives. That said, we especially note the caller’s complaint concerning “that nonsense about the video,” the nonsense which no one believed except the press and liberals.

Again, this is what the caller said in this phone call from Wonderland:

No one but the press and liberals believed that nonsense about the video.

No one but the press and liberals believed that nonsense about the video! Because we live in a post-rational world, no one asked the caller to explain what specific “nonsense” she meant.

What particular nonsense did the caller have in mind? What particular nonsense had those misguided people believed? No one asked the caller to explain or clarify this point. Instead, Scully insisted that Attkisson and C-Span were on the level—and Attkisson gave a short speech saying that CBS had always been “very aggressive” in its pursuit of this story.

So it goes as a killing attack gets discussed in an upside-down land.

The caller was angry because the press had “believed that nonsense about the video.” In saying that, she voiced one part of the illogical shorthand which now surrounds Benghazi.

This Wonderland logic involves a great many curious claims: Any action by terrorist groups must have been preplanned. No Islamic terrorist could ever be angered by an anti-Muslim video. If an action is spontaneous, that means it wasn’t done by terrorists...

In Wonderland, the list of illogical claims goes on and on and on. This curious logic is often joined to inaccurate claims about what various people have said about the Benghazi attack.

That said, all residents know that they must say what that caller said. They must always deride “the nonsense about the video,” perhaps without feeling the need to explain what that nonsense is.

What did the caller have in mind when she derided that nonsense? Scully didn’t ask, perhaps because this form of derision has become so common.

Indeed, we can guess what the caller meant—what she believes the nonsense about the video is. The caller lives in Wonderland, whose regional logic is on display on cable TV every night.

In the Wonderland created by Fox and McCain, everyone knows that you must deride any reference to that silly video—any reference to the insulting anti-Muslim video which came to prominence in the days before the Benghazi attack.

Everyone knows it’s crazy to think that this video could have had any connection to what occurred in Benghazi. The caller didn’t have to explain what she meant by her derisive remark. By now, everyone knows what such callers mean when they vent in this self-assured fashion.

Everyone knows that it’s crazy to think that the people who staged the Benghazi attack could have been angry about that video. Everyone knows that this ludicrous thought must be hotly rejected—denounced as a cover-up invented by Obama.

This is Wonderland-type thinking. Several reasons for that assessment follow:

At the time of the Benghazi attack, the Muslim world had gone up in flames because of that YouTube video. Major newspapers, including the conservative Washington Times, cited eyewitnesses who linked the attack in Benghazi to anger about that video.

“The attackers...claimed they were enraged by an American film that mocks the Prophet Muhammad,” the Washington Times reported on September 13.

The New York Times had reporters on the scene as the killing attack proceeded. “Interviewed at the scene on Tuesday night, many attackers and those who backed them said they were determined to defend their faith from the video's insults,” the paper reported two days later.

In Wonderland, none of that exists. None of it ever did exist. Callers are sure that no one but the press and liberals could ever have imagined that the anti-Muslim video could possibly have been connected to the killing attack.

In Wonderland, Islamic extremists don’t get mad or seek revenge when the prophet is insulted, especially in some silly video. In Wonderland, everyone knows this. Islamic extremists are much too sane to care about such things!

To what extent has this crackpot logic taken hold in Wonderland? Minutes before that irate phone call, Attkisson showed how far she was willing to wander into that curious land.

Benghazi wasn’t caused by the video, she semi-authoritatively seemed to assert. And not only that! The earlier attack on the Cairo embassy may not have been inspired by the video either!
ATTKISSON (5/12/13): Something I learned through looking at the talking point versions this week was— A question I have, I guess I should say, is: Was the Cairo attack in fact inspired by a YouTube video? We now—nobody believes, or nobody is saying, that the Benghazi attack was any longer. But if you look at the talking points before they were changed, they reference a CIA warning that went out September 10 that specifically said they had intelligence that Islamic extremists were encouraging demonstrators and jihadists to break into the embassy in Cairo as well. So if we had a heads-up of that at least the day before, as well as the Benghazi incidents, were either of these incidents really inspired by the YouTube video?
Can you follow that curious logic? If Islamic extremists encouraged the break-in at the embassy in Cairo, then that conduct couldn’t have been inspired by the video either! Only a lunatic reasons that way. Or someone deep inside Wonderland, someone who may even be seeking employment at Fox.

That caller to C-Span has heard this logic since last September. Endlessly, she hears derisive remarks about the non-existent effects of that utterly silly video.

In Wonderland, no one ever mentions the way that video roiled the Muslim world. And people keep misstating or reinventing the various things people said about that deeply consequential video.

Example: This happened on last evening’s Hannity, where the highly reliable Peter Johnson treated Wonderland viewers to this:
JOHNSON (5/30/13): Sean, the president, on September 25, at the United Nations, led the United States and the world to believe that this was a spontaneous attack that occurred because of an anti-Muslim video. That's what he was hinting at the United Nations 14 days later, two weeks later. Jay Carney, on September 19, talked about a video. On September 14 [sic], Ambassador Rice made up this notion about a video.


Why did the president sometimes say, “No, I said it was a terror attack,” and then two weeks later at the United Nations talks about a video and condemns this anti-Muslim video that had nothing to do with this attack?
Why did Obama (and Clinton) “condemn this anti-Muslim video?” Duh. Because the video had been roiling the Muslim world, whether it was the motive behind the Benghazi attack or not.

(As far as we know, that question has not been settled, despite what Attkisson said.)

What did Obama actually say at the United Nations? He discussed “what we saw play out in the last two weeks, where a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world” (our emphasis). He didn’t specifically say what motivated the Benghazi attackers. He condemned the violence around the Muslim world, specifically saying this:

“There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.”

Just for the record, the embassy to which he referred was the embassy in Cairo. Silly Obama was still pretending that the storming of the embassy was occasioned by the insulting video, despite the dose of Wonderland logic Attkisson unveiled this month.

Let’s return to that C-Span viewer, who seemed to be calling from a station deep inside Wonderland.

For the past eight months, such citizens have been aggressively disinformed about all sorts of basic facts. They’ve also been treated to many doses of full-blown Wonderland logic. And uh-oh:

As this Wonderland was created on Fox, the liberal world stood quietly by. Career liberals behaved this same way during the Clinton-Gore years, when all sorts of bogus stories, widely recited, changed the course of world history.

That caller has heard a ton of crap from people like Peter Johnson. She has been exposed to very few attempts to challenge bogus facts or to untangle Wonderland logic.

Lawrence and Rachel haven’t tried to fight for that caller’s heart and mind. As was true in the Clinton-Gore years, these fiery liberals stood silently by as this Wonderland was created.

Career liberal leaders refuse to fight. All next week, from a neutral site, we will attempt to ask why.

Michelle Obama ate roasted sea bass!

THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2013

Clear proof that the Times is mad: At the New York Times, the news division is officially angry at Obama, presumably because he doesn’t respect the press. (What else do these hacks care about?)

You can tell the Times is mad from the highlighted text in this thoroughly woeful report:
SHEAR AND BAKER (5/30/13): Perhaps it is nothing more than an accident of timing that as federal workers brace for a summer filled with unpaid furlough days, their leaders are traveling the nation and globe on trips that exude luxury.

On Wednesday, President Obama left the White House for two Chicago fund-raisers in the hope of helping Democrats retake the House in next year’s elections. The cost of flying aboard Air Force One to his hometown: $180,000 per hour.

The same day, Michelle Obama traveled to Massachusetts to lunch with rich donors who had paid up to $37,600 per ticket at the Taj Boston Hotel. The meal included roasted Chilean sea bass with a fricassee of asparagus.
Trust us: When they start printing the snooty-sounding menus, it means that they are trying to harm the politician in question.

Politicians constantly appear at dinners with snooty-sounding menus. When reporters cut-and-paste those menus, it means that the pol is a target. (For other examples, see below.)

Shear and Baker tend to be hacks, especially Baker. But the children are so angry at Naughty Obama now that they even stooped to this:
SHEAR AND BAKER: Almost by definition, Mr. Obama lives a life foreign to most Americans, with the big white house and the ushers and chefs and the airplane fueled and ready to go. When he wants a weekend away, he can fly to Florida to golf with Tiger Woods. When his daughters take spring break, they head to Aspen to ski. He winters in Hawaii and summers on Martha’s Vineyard.
When they stoop to the point of sliming the daughters, you know the Times is mad.

(How dare those ratty kids go on spring break? Who do those kids think they are?)

Watching the way these stumblebums work is truly an education. Long ago, Aristotle declared that we humans are “the rational animal.” When Shear and Baker start sliming the daughters and printing the menus, we can see that his judgment was wrong.

In their final paragraph, Shear and Baker finally quote a Republican who admits that attacks of this kind are really a big pile of bullshit. That said, when the Shears and the Bakers start printing this crap, you know that the children are mad.

When Candidate Gore dined on quail: In March of 2000, Candidate Gore offered to eschew "soft money" if Candidate Bush would do the same. But Candidate Bush rejected the offer, and Gore was now out raising funds.

At the New York Times, this of course meant that Candidate Gore was a hypocrite. As part of the punishment, Katharine Seelye and her posse began to publish the fancy menus from Gore’s fund-raising events.

Bush was attending swish dinners too, but his events were closed to the press corps. At the Times, that fact was published just once.

The children kept printing the fancy menus from Gore’s outrageously fancy meals, without noting that they had been barred from Bush’s fancier soirees. And alas! When they didn’t print the menus from Gore’s events, they described the Miros and Chagalls on the walls.

Seelye rarely failed to signal that Gore was really all about money, just like the crooked Bill Clinton before him. Pathetically, this was her opening paragraph from one of Gore's fund-raisers:
SEEELYE (4/17/00): The sweet scent of jasmine wafted up the leafy hillsides, the lights of Los Angeles twinkled below, and the cash register ca-CHINGed until it was stuffed with $2.8 million.
Gore’s fund-raising dinners were repeatedly mentioned; Bush’s events were disappeared. What follows is the only occasion when intrepid reporter Frank Bruni discussed a Bush dinner in any detail.

To state the obvious, Bruni’s tone differed vastly from Seelye’s:
BRUNI (6/20/99): At a dinner tonight at the home of John T. Chambers, the chief executive of Cisco Systems, Mr. Bush collected what campaign officials estimated to be more than $3.5 million from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs..."I don’t relish these big fund-raising events," Mr. Bush said beforehand, as his campaign plane flew west from Austin, Tex. But he was set to grin and bear several of them in a campaign week expected to be among his most lucrative.
Poor Bush! According to Bruni, the great man had to grin and bear it as he raised twice as much money as Gore. For his part, Gore was dining on “quail stuffed with squash” (among various treats) as the registers went ca-CHING in the night.

Yes, this is the way our human race actually works. For a fuller account of this heartbreaking nonsense—heartbreaking nonsense which changed the world’s history—see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/20/02.

Folk have been doing the same thing to Rice. Lawrence and Rachel won’t tell you.

One scourge of the modern progressive world!

THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2013

We just aren’t as sharp as we think: At this point, it may seem hard to believe. But Salon was once a very bright journal with high intellectual standards.

It seems to us that the decline in basic skill level at Salon has been little short of astounding. For the latest example, consider the new report which appears beneath these gloomy headlines:
Half of Americans below or near poverty line
The Census Bureau says 15 percent of the country is living in poverty, but the reality is much worse
Are half of Americans really “below or near” the poverty line?

“Near” is a highly imprecise term. We decided to take a look at this gloomy report.

We were sorry we did.

Salon’s report, by Paul Bushheit, first appeared at Alternet, where the headline is even more gloomy. (“The Real Numbers: Half of America in Poverty—and It's Creeping Upward.”)

Is half of America “in poverty?” Is half of America “below or near the poverty line?” (You’ll note that those aren’t the same claim.) At the start of his piece, Buchheit says this: “The Census Bureau has reported that 15 percent of Americans live in poverty.”

So how do we get from 15 percent to half the country being in or near poverty? Pitifully, this is the relevant part of Buchheit’s text:
3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty.

The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own figures under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50 percent, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.
There’s a term for work like that: incoherent. Nothing in that text explains or justifies the claim that half of Americans are in poverty (or below or near the poverty line).

Let’s go through that unfortunate jumble one sentence at a time:

“The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000.”

Presumably, that means that $34,000 is the median wage for “earners.” Presumably, we’re talking about individuals here, not about family income. But based on that fuzzy text, who could really say?

“To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.”

From this, we can deduce that the federal poverty line for a family of four is something less than $30,000. Of course, this doesn’t tell us how many families fall at, near or below this line.

“Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own figures under-represent the number of people in poverty.”

That may be true, but it doesn’t get us anywhere our conclusion. According to Buchheit, the Bureau says that 15 percent of Americans live in poverty. How do we get from there to half?

“Its Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50 percent, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.”

Basically, we have no idea what that means, and Buchheit makes no attempt to explain. But if we’re talking about “Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold,” then, by definition, we’re talking about people who are above the poverty line. How does this produce the claim which those headlines proclaim?

The decline in Salon’s intellectual standard has been truly remarkable. It’s stunning to think that Salon would publish this mess under that headline—or at least, it would have been stunning even a few years ago.

A bottom line is peeking out here: We liberals are nowhere near as smart as we tend to think and proclaim. We often parade about the land, acting like we are the very smart campers.

This piece is an incoherent mess. At Salon, they couldn’t tell.

Real-time reports from the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times!

THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2013

It happened in Benghazi, third and fourth accounts: What actually happened in Benghazi?

We aren’t able to tell you. But in real time, many journalists, citing eyewitnesses, said there had been a demonstration before the violent attackers arrived. They said the protesters and the attackers cited the offensive YouTube video at the cause of their actions.

To read what the Washington Times reported, just click here. For the report from the New York Times, click this.

Personally, we weren’t present in Benghazi. But below, you see part of what Greg Miller reported in the Washington Post.

Headline: “Libya consulate attack came after militants joined protesters, say witnesses, officials:”
MILLER (9/13/12): At least an hour before the assault began, a stream of cars was seen moving toward the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. By late Tuesday evening, as many as 50 heavily armed militants had gathered outside its high walls.

They joined protesters outside the consulate who were demonstrating against an American movie that they believed denigrated the prophet Muhammad. But according to one witness, the new arrivals neither chanted slogans nor carried banners.

“They said, ‘We are Muslims defending the prophet. We are defending Islam,’ ” Libyan television journalist Firas Abdelhakim said in an interview.

The gunmen soon opened fire, entered the compound and set the consulate's buildings aflame. Hours later, the compound was overrun and four Americans were dead. Among them were Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, 52, and Sean Smith, a State Department employee.

The chaotic scene was described by senior Obama administration officials, Libyan government officials and witnesses. Details about the attack were still emerging late Wednesday. Key facts remain unclear, particularly how Stevens died and how his body wound up at a Benghazi hospital.

Even as evidence was being assembled, the early indications were that the assault had been planned and the attackers had cannily taken advantage of the protest at the consulate.

"Was this a spontaneous act of violence, was this capitalizing on the opportunity posed by [a protest], or was this separate and apart from al-Qaeda?" asked Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House intelligence committee. "Any of those are possible," Schiff said, but accounts of the attack and the firepower employed "indicate something more than a spontaneous protest."


The first protesters had showed up around noon. Wanis al-Sharif, the deputy Libyan interior minister, said in an interview that the demonstrators were angered by a low-budget American film that portrayed the prophet Muhammad in a blasphemous manner. As the day wore on, Sharif said, the anger escalated and people with weapons infiltrated the crowd.

Preliminary reports speculated that the violence grew spontaneously out of anger over the film. But U.S. and Libyan officials cast doubt on that theory, with some suggesting that the attackers took advantage of the diversion created by protesters.
Miller quoted one eyewitness who “said the incident was not a protest.” But as in the Washington Times, the Washington Post quoted witnesses and one Libyan official who described a protest about the offensive video.

A similar account appeared in the Los Angeles Times. This was part of Ned Parker’s lengthy front-page report:
PARKER (9/13/12): Witnesses in Benghazi said a small crowd gathered Tuesday night outside the consulate, a villa in a walled compound, to protest the anti-Muslim video, which was disseminated online by Morris Sadek, an Egyptian Christian activist in suburban Washington, D.C. Some in the crowd had learned of the protest through Facebook. Others had heard of the video from Libyan students abroad or seen TV images of the Cairo protest.

About 10 p.m., Abdel Monem Monem, a former advisor to the leader of the rebels' transitional government, went to check and found about 50 people demonstrating without violence.

"It was normal. We were just showing [the Americans] not to insult our prophet Muhammad," Monem Monem said.

About 11:30 p.m., armed men drove up in about 20 cars bearing Islamic slogans. Sheik Mohamed Oraibi, a young Islamic preacher of the hard-line Salafist movement who was involved in the peaceful protest, watched as what he called "religious extremists" armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades arrived and began firing at the consulate. He said he didn't believe they were affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The compound's security guards fired into the air to try to disperse the attackers, but the attackers fired back with "ridiculous amounts of gunshots," Oraibi said.

Fire gutted the compound, according to U.S. officials, and sent U.S. personnel running for safety.
How accurate are these accounts? We have no idea, although Parker sources his report to statements by named eyewitnesses. Needless to say, that doesn't mean the statements were accurate.

For ourselves, we don’t know what happened in Benghazi that night. Nor do we think it hugely matters. When she appeared on those TV programs, Susan Rice warned her hosts, again and again, that she was giving a preliminary assessment.

(Please note: Rice didn’t say that the demonstrators staged the killing attack. She said that was done by “extremists” armed with “heavy weapons” who arrived at the scene and “hijacked events.”)

On September 14, the CIA said, in its first account of the incident, that it believed “the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate.”

The next day, taping those TV shows, Rice offered a version of that account as a preliminary assessment. As career liberals hide in the woods, she has been trashed and savaged from that day right up to this.

This is a very familiar pattern. Career liberals have behaved in this compliant way for at least the last twenty years.

On the brighter side, they’re being paid extremely good wages. The very large salaries they command may help jump-start the economy.

WHO IS SHARYL ATTKISSON: World-class hack!

THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2013

Part 4—With no fear of contradiction: What does it mean to be a hack?

One way to learn is to watch Sharyl Attkisson's May 12 C-Span appearance. To watch the full session, click here.

For twenty years, the highly telegenic “investigative correspondent” has been a major figure at CBS News. But for 42 minutes that morning, she performed like a GOP hack with regard to the scandal-mongering which has surrounded Benghazi.

What does it mean to be a hack? For 42 minutes, Attkisson challenged the motives of Democrats and defended the motives of Republicans. She offered a flowery profile of Gregory Hicks, the repellent State Department malcontent who had just become one of the oiliest witnesses in the history of Congressional hearings.

She even pretended, early and often, that she had no idea where the notion of a spontaneous protest in Benghazi had come from—and no, we aren’t making that up! In the process, she advanced every Standard Scandal Claim from the large, well-maintained right-wing pile.

How bad was her performance? Early on, about two minutes in, Attkisson offered this pitiful twofer as she spoke with C-Span’s Steve Scully. We’ve posted the first chunk before:
ATTKISSON (5/12/13): Well, I would like to know where the YouTube video attribution came from, because now we’re getting again this building body of evidence that— Really nobody on the ground that we’ve spoken to, State Department officers and diplomats and so on, ever said that they thought it was, you know, based on a protest or YouTube video. So it seems to me, you know, as I look to solve the puzzle of what happened and what was being said, it looks like somebody developed a story line very quickly, perhaps even that night right after these attacks occurred—although the bulk of the evidence suggested what we now know, that this was an act of terrorism and preplanned, it seems as though somebody decided to guide the American public’s viewpoint toward that YouTube video.

And one very specific piece of evidence on that is, when some of the family members came to see the bodies of their loved ones, you know, brought back here, at least two of the members were told by Mrs. Clinton, they say, “We’re going to get the person who made that awful video.” And I wondered at the time, why didn’t she say, “We’re going to get the terrorists who killed your son?” Or “We’re going to get the people who killed your son?” Even if a video were at play, assuming for the sake of argument, why would you be after the maker of the video more so than the people who committed the murders? But it seems like there was a story line that was being advanced.
In that first paragraph, Attkisson pretends she has no idea where the notion of a “protest or YouTube video” came from. Since no one ever thought anything like that, she suggests that someone, “perhaps even” on that first night, simply invented this crazy story about the Benghazi attack.

Presumably, Attkisson was lying. As of May 10, everyone knew where that narrative came from. It came from the CIA, in their first official account of what they believed about the Benghazi attack.

Surely, Attkisson knew that. But then, in that second paragraph, she went where the rubber meets the road, suggesting it was Hillary Clinton who invented this obvious con.

Can we talk?

If Attkisson has any smarts, she understands a simple fact: She has no reliable way of knowing what Hillary Clinton actually said to those family members on September 14, when the bodies of their loved ones were returned from Benghazi.

But so what? In this astonishing passage, Attkisson pretends she has no idea where the whole protest/YouTube story came from. And she pounds away at Clinton for the very strange things she is now said to have said.

But then, there are no Standard GOP Claims Attkisson didn’t pimp this day. Later in this remarkable session, she even recited the Standard Groaner we highlight below:
SCULLY (5/12/3): And of course the other line from that hearing, when [Gregory Hicks] said that his jaw dropped when he heard Ambassador Rice on those Sunday morning programs.

ATTKISSON: A lot of people said the same thing. They did not know of any evidence about the protests and the YouTube video. He was involved first hand, had never reported such a thing. Ambassador Stevens, in the phone call to the embassy from Benghazi to Tripoli, had never said such a thing. Hicks says he’s confident, if there had been any sort of protest, the protocol would have been for Stevens to immediately notify them and evacuate the embassy. So Hicks at least is confident that didn’t happen. So imagine their surprise when they hear Ambassador Rice saying these things.

And Hicks was also very worried about offending Libya’s leader who was on Face the Nation [on September 16] saying quite the opposite, saying what we now know to be the truth, that this was probably motivated by a terrorist attack motivated by terrorism. And he says Rule One in diplomatic circles is, you don’t contradict your host country like that. So that was considered, something I know less about, but in the diplomatic world, a big faux pas apparently, for the ambassador to be saying one thing that so strongly contradicted Libya’s leader, especially when what we were saying there was less evidence for that than what he was saying.
On the September 16 Face the Nation, a Libyan pol, Mohammed Magariaf, made a set of claims about the attack. As best we can tell, most of these claims haven’t been established even today, despite the impression a person will get from watching a hack like Attkisson.

It still isn’t clear whether Magariaf made accurate statements that day. But so what! In that passage, Attkisson furthered one of the dumbest Standard Claims from the whole GOP pile:

Susan Rice should have discarded her brief and agreed with Magariaf, right on the spot!

This notion is absurd on its face, but it’s part of the Standard Attack against Rice. At the May 8 congressional hearings, Hicks sounded like he wanted to defect and establish a cult to Magariaf, so deep was his grievance at the idea that Rice would advance the findings of U.S. intelligence rather than the self-serving claims of a little-known Libyan pol.

Hicks behaved like a clown that day; four days later, appearing on C-Span, Attkisson followed suit. And uh-oh! Later that morning, Attkisson appeared on Face the Nation, where the nonsense continued.

The hapless Bob Schieffer was in the chair, vouching for Attkisson’s obvious greatness. In this, the first Q-and-A, Attkisson peddled the piddle in a way which respected GOP pieties but may have obscured basic facts:
SCHIEFFER (5/12/13): Joining me now, CBS news investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, who hasn’t been just covering the Benghazi story, but has been out front most of the time as we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of what really happened. Sharyl, where does this go from here? What do you see happening now?

ATTKISSON: Well, I am still learning new things, including this past week we are learning new things about the way General Petraeus felt as head of the CIA when those talking points went through those huge revisions.

We saw e-mails that seemed to express deep disappointment on his part, if not aggravation, that so much material had been taken out. I wonder if he has more to say if someone were able to get him to talk.

I also wonder if a pattern is emerging, now that we have seen all mention of terrorism, Islamic extremists, al Qaeda, Ansar al Sharia removed from the talking points. Additionally there was no convening of the counter-terrorism security group by the White House that night, which is described to me as required by presidential directive. Is there a pattern of someone wanting to avoid the terrorism narrative in exchange for basically the YouTube, spontaneous demonstration narrative?
In best pseudo-journalistic fashion, Attkisson began by “wondering” what Petraeus might say if someone could “get him to talk.” Following that inglorious start, she began to obscure basic facts:

In fact, the “spontaneous demonstration narrative” was in the talking points right from the start, placed there by Petraeus’ own CIA. And just for the record, there was never a reference to “terrorism” or “terrorists” in the talking points.

For that reason, no such reference was ever removed.

An initial reference to Ansar al Sharia was indeed removed from the points. But as far as we know, the group has not been charged with sponsorship of the attack right to this day. Beyond that, one of the initial statements about the group had been factually wrong.

Should that erroneous claim have survived? Attkisson didn’t say; the useless Schieffer didn’t ask. How about the major claim, which was based on "initial press reporting?"

Meanwhile, the final version of the talking points did ascribe the attack to “extremists,” a fact which may have been obscured by Attkisson’s heartfelt complaint.

Later, Attkisson worried about a cover-up. Not that she was making this charge:
ATTKISSON: I think everyone agrees that in the security decisions, some of which may have been bad, nobody wanted anybody to get hurt. The question is what willfulness occurred once this happened in perhaps giving a different story? I’m not saying there was a cover-up, but there are questions and allegations of a cover-up. What happened in that regard?
She wasn’t charging a cover-up! Somebody else had alleged!

Attkisson’s twin performances on May 12 virtually define the term “gong show.” Two days earlier, she had made a groaning error, publishing bogus “quotations” from the emails which produced the revisions to the talking points—or at least, a groaning error was published under her name. When she denied that she made the error, she offered an explanation which, in turn, seemed to make no earthly sense.

Gaze on the wonders of Attkisson, high-ranking correspondent! After her error of May 10, her twin appearances on May 12 virtually defined the term gong show.

That said, an array of Standard Claims have emerged upon which Attkisson capably drew on these programs. Unfortunately, many of these Standard Claims don’t really seem to make sense.

But so what? Over the last eight months, these Standard Claims have been aggressively driven from the right. And as this familiar process occurred, it was enabled by another familiar process as the children on The One True Channel politely gazed off into air.

All next week, we’ll be addressing Alex Pareene’s highly relevant question: “What’s wrong with MSNBC?” As we do, we will discuss the remarkable silence this channel’s polite and useless children have brought to this eight-month attack.

That said, please understand—there’s nothing new about this:

All through the Clinton-Gore years, the big stars of the career liberal world kept their traps shut tight as mainstream and conservative power invented pseudo-scandals. In the end, those pseudo-scandals helped get Bill Clinton impeached, then sent George Bush to the White House.

This pattern is playing out again as useless children like Maddow, Hayes, Wagner simper and play for our amusement on The One True Liberal Channel. And sure enough! As Attkisson pimped her ridiculous shit, these overpaid stars looked away.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at a set of the Standard Claims about Benghazi which have emerged in the past eight months. On May 12, Attkisson drew on this list, even pretending that she didn’t know where that “spontaneous protest/YouTube video” nonsense came from.

That said, Attkisson knew that she wouldn’t hear a peep from the children at MSNBC.

Sharyl Attkisson seemed to be lying. Her counterparts at The One True Channel still haven’t said the first word.

Tomorrow: Standard Claims

Next week: On to Pareene’s worthwhile question

Real-time report from the New York Times!


It happened in Benghazi, continued: In the beginning, various people thought and said that there had been a demonstration in Benghazi before the “extremists armed with heavy weapons” arrived at the scene and “hijacked events.”

On September 14, the CIA officially said that’s what it believed. Yesterday, we showed you front-page reporting from the Washington Times which reported a similar chain of events.

To read that report, just click here.

What actually happened that night in Benghazi? We can’t tell you that! But below, you see what the New York Times reported on its front page on Thursday morning, September 13.

The piece was written by David Kirkpatrick reporting from Cairo, with more reporting by Osama Alfitory and Suleiman Ali Zway in Benghazi:
KIRKPATRICK (9/13/12): It is unclear if television images of Islamist protesters may have inspired the attack in Benghazi, which had been a hotbed of opposition to Colonel Qaddafi and remains unruly since the Libyan uprising resulted in his death. But Tuesday night, a group of armed assailants mixed with unarmed demonstrators gathered at the small compound that housed a temporary American diplomatic mission there.

The ambassador, Mr. Stevens, was visiting the city Tuesday from the United States Embassy compound in Tripoli to attend the planned opening of an American cultural center, and was staying at the mission. It is not clear if the assailants knew that the ambassador was at the mission.

Interviewed at the scene on Tuesday night, many attackers and those who backed them said they were determined to defend their faith from the video's insults. Some recalled an earlier episode when protesters in Benghazi had burned down the Italian consulate after an Italian minister had worn a T-shirt emblazoned with cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Ten people were reportedly killed in clashes with Colonel Qaddafi's police force.


Libya's deputy interior minister, Wanis al-Sharif, made somewhat contradictory and defensive-sounding statements about the attack.

He acknowledged that he had ordered the withdrawal of security forces from the scene in the early stages of the protest on Wednesday night. He said his initial instinct was to avoid inflaming the situation by risking a confrontation with people angry about the video.

He also said he had underestimated the aggression of the protesters. But he criticized the small number of guards inside the mission for shooting back in self-defense, saying their response probably further provoked the attackers.

The small number of Libyans guarding the facility, estimated at only six, did not hold out long against the attackers, who had substantial firepower, the interior minister and State Department officials said. Defending the facility would have been a ''suicide mission,'' Mr. Sharif said.

Mr. Sharif also faulted the Americans at the mission for failing to heed what he said was the Libyan government's advice to pull its personnel or beef up its security, especially in light of the recent violence in the city and the likelihood that the video would provoke protests.
Where did people get the idea that there had been a demonstration before the heavily armed extremists arrived? How did the insulting YouTube video come to be part of the story?

Last September 13, the New York Times and the Washington Times each reported a pre-existing protest, based on eyewitness accounts. According to the New York Times, “many attackers and those who backed them said they were determined to defend their faith from the video's insults.”

We don’t know what happened ourselves. That was one of the early accounts which seemed to emerge from the street.

Alex Pareene asks a very good question!


We’ll ponder his question next week: We think Alex Pareene has asked a very good question.

“What’s wrong with MSNBC?” the headline atop his piece inquires. To read Pareene’s answer, click here.

We’ll examine his question next week. In the meantime:

For starters, you may not think there’s anything wrong with MSNBC. In the main, Pareene’s question was prompted by the channel’s ratings, which have flagged substantially since last autumn, especially when compared with Fox.

A channel could have superlative programs and mediocre or lousy ratings. That wouldn’t be our analysis of MSNBC. But we’ll put that off till next week.

For now, take a look at Pareene’s piece. We think he raised a very good question about an important new institution—an important new institution which we think is largely failing to serve.

Barack Obama throws like a girl!


And quite a few other examples: According to Jonathan Alter, Barack Obama “has contempt for people who don’t do their jobs.” See our previous post.

Could that explain Obama’s alleged “disdain for the press?” We have no idea. But on the front page of today’s New York Times, we find this example of the way the press corps does its job:
SHEAR AND LEIBOVICH (5/29/13): At one point, the pair took an unannounced stroll down the Point Pleasant Boardwalk before stopping at an arcade so Mr. Obama could try to win a teddy bear by throwing a football through a tire, in a game called “Touchdown Fever.” After a few misses, Mr. Obama seemed headed for another public athletic calamity, adding to a litany that includes a string of botched basketball free throws on the White House court last month, a horrifically ugly first pitch at a Washington Nationals game in 2010 and a display of bowling incompetence in Pennsylvania during the 2008 Democratic primaries.
Barack Obama throws like a girl! That’s paragraph 3 of a front-page news report.

We’re just saying!

A few days ago, the Washington Post provided another example of the way the press corps does its job. Juliet Eilperin offered a thoughtful post, “A White House counsel known for her shoes.”

Admittedly, Eilperin’s analysis of Kathryn Ruemmler’s shoes didn’t appear in the hard-copy Post. But still!

Many folk have battered Eilperin for that embarrassing post. Just to take you to the next level, we’ll criticize Salon’s Irin Carmon a tiny tad for her reaction, which started out like this:
CARMON (5/28/13): Here is a tale of being a woman in public life in two tweets by Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin: “Read what @PhilipRucker and I wrote about Kathy Ruemmler, who went from an outsider to Obama’s chief protector.” “And then, read about Ruemmler’s fabulous shoes.”
To Carmon, Eilperin’s post shows what it’s like to “be a woman in public life.” Incomparably, we’re often frustrated by such dated, predictable work.

Eilperin’s post was sad and dumb, except as a marketing ploy aimed at more fatuous readers. But silly reports about wardrobe and hair aren’t just for women any more!

Has any public figure ever been battered for wardrobe to the extent that Candidate Gore was in 1999 and 2000? Has any discussion of wardrobe ever been more consequential?

Meanwhile, during that same era, Maureen Dowd leveled several forests discussing the meaning of Rudy Giuliani’s comb-over and Candidate Gore’s troubling bald spot. John Edwards’ deeply troubling haircut was the rage in 2004. John Kerry’s tresses got a bit of play too.

When Hillary Clinton was first lady, her hair was a constant focus. But the dumbsters of the mainstream press corps widened their scope long ago—and yes, the focus on Gore’s wardrobe and hair was the most consequential such gong-show in our political history.

Young liberals like Carmon still haven’t heard! In the politics of the pseudo-left, it’s still 1955 and the story is still very simple.

Analysis of a great man’s shoes: When Frank Bruni reported on Candidate Bush, he didn’t ignore the great man’s miraculous shoes:
BRUNI (9/14/99): When Gov. George W. Bush of Texas first hit the Presidential campaign trail in June, he wore monogrammed cowboy boots, the perfect accessory for his folksy affability and casual self-assurance.

But when he visited New Hampshire early last week, he was shod in a pair of conservative, shiny black loafers that seemed to reflect more than the pants cuffs above them. They suggested an impulse by Mr. Bush to put at least a bit of a damper on his brash irreverence, which has earned him affection but is a less certain invitation for respect.
Note to Carmon: That's the way you end up as a New York Times columnist!

That was the start of a formal news report in the hard-copy New York Times. Meanwhile, Candidate Gore was getting hammered all over the press because his boots were said to be suspiciously shiny.

Cokie and Steve were deeply troubled by those boots, like everyone else in the “press corps:”
ROBERTS AND ROBERTS (10/17/99): Look at Vice President Al Gore, after almost 23 years in public life, suddenly searching for his "authentic" self, and then finding it in cowboy boots and open-necked shirts.

Is this the same Al Gore who grew up in a fancy hotel in Washington, went to Harvard, and now lives in the vice president's mansion, a short walk from the elite prep school he attended? Somehow, we doubt that cowboy boots and polo shirts were part of the dress code at St. Alban's.
Gore’s boots were endlessly discussed, with many obvious lies being told. Gore had worn boots throughout his career. Would voters have gotten that impression from reading Steve and Cokie?

This has been going on a long time. In our low-wattage pseudo-lib world, the children haven’t been told. Reassuringly, it’s still 1955 and the stories remain very simple.

Breaking: Who is Barack Obama!


Helpfully, Alter tells Dowd: Who is Barack Obama?

We wouldn’t attempt to tell you. This morning, though, in her latest column, Maureen Dowd lets Jonathan Alter explain.

Here at THE HOWLER, we just can’t help it—we’re inclined to like Jonathan Alter. But is he missing a connection between two remarks Dowd records in this passage?
DOWD (5/29/13): Like many others in our business, Jonathan Alter says he is “on fire” about the Justice Department’s snooping on reporters and attempting to criminalize investigative journalism, including labeling the respected Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen a “co-conspirator” in a leak investigation.

Alter—whose second history of the Barack Obama era, “The Center Holds,” comes out next week—is puzzled about why a former Constitutional law professor allowed such a sinister turn.

“What is it about Obama that he so disdains us?” he muses. “Presidents always hate leaks. Ronald Reagan said ‘I’ve had it up to my keister with these leaks.’ But they usually don’t act on it. Even if Obama didn’t personally sign off, people always sense by osmosis what leaders are thinking and go in that direction. His people know that leaks offend his sense of discipline and that he likes to protect his right flank by being tough on national security.

“Kennedy had been a reporter, but Obama is not friendly with the press. And he has contempt for people who don’t do their jobs, and, when you talk to the press out of school, you’re not doing your job.”
Weird! In that second remark, Alter says Obama “has contempt for people who don’t do their jobs.”

Earlier, he wonders why Obama disdains the press corps! Is Alter missing a fairly obvious possible connection between those two remarks?

The way the pundit corps does its job: In that passage, Alter, a journalist, writes a pretty good novel.

According to Alter, “[subordinates] always sense by osmosis what leaders are thinking and go in that direction.” This is meant to justify the idea that Obama “acted on” his hatred of leaks in the matter of James Rosen, even if he didn’t “personally sign off” on the things his subordinates did.

As journalism, that’s a good novel. Subordinates “always” know what the leader is thinking. And somehow, our narrator knows this!

As journalism, that’s a novel. We’re just saying, of course.



Part 3—She just keeps pouring it on: Sharyl Attkisson, sadly intrepid, just kept pouring it on.

A less intrepid scribe might have thought that she’d had a bad week. On May 10, she had made a gruesome error, or at least a gruesome error had been published under her name.

In response, she had offered an explanation that didn’t make any sense.

Sandwiched in were crazy claims on C-Span’s May 12 Washington Journal, and even on that same day's Face the Nation. A less intrepid “journalist” might have taken her foot off the gas!

Sadly, Attkisson is fully intrepid. On May 17, she published her longest account to date of the whole Benghazi affair. In the course of her musings, Attkisson offered this grossly misleading account of where the talking points about Benghazi came from:
ATTKISSON (5/17/13): Even today, nobody will say on the record, or even off the record to CBS News, who was at the Deputies meeting on the morning of Sept. 15, where the talking points were drastically pared down for Rice's use. The approved version called the attacks "demonstrations" that "evolved" after being "spontaneously inspired" by protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. All mentions of terrorism, al Qaeda and previous warnings given by the CIA had been excised.

In the view of some involved in the process at high levels, "spontaneous" was the wrong word for administration officials to use publicly when describing the attacks, because they say it didn't translate well and it was taken out of context.

It's unclear where the story about the Benghazi attacks growing from a protest or demonstration originated or how it gained such prominence in the Obama administration's initial narrative. One source involved in the Benghazi response insists it wasn't until the State Department debriefed the five surviving U.S. diplomatic security agents upon their return to the U.S. that Washington officials discovered there had been no protest.
You can defend every word as technically accurate. But that account is also grossly misleading, to the point of being crazy.

“It's unclear where the story about the Benghazi attacks growing from a protest or demonstration originated?” Since May 10, it had been perfectly clear where that story originated within the talking points:

It originated with the CIA, as everyone knew by now. On September 14, 2012, the agency had offered that account at the start of its first proposed account of what occurred at Benghazi.

“It's unclear...how [that story] gained such prominence in the Obama administration's initial narrative?” Presumably, that story gained prominence within the administration because it represented the CIA’s official account of what happened.

Even more fiendish was the first highlighted claim from that May 17 report:

“The approved version [of the talking points] called the attacks ‘demonstrations’ that ‘evolved’ after being ‘spontaneously inspired" by protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”

That statement is technically accurate! The final version of the points did use all that language. Of course, the first version of the talking points had said the exact same things!

Once again, Attkisson forgot to mention this fact. Deliberately or otherwise, she gave the impression that this account emerged in the final version of the talking points.

Presumably, Attkisson understood all the facts we have cited above. All versions of the talking points had been available for review for a full week before her lengthy report appeared.

Understanding that, you have your choice as to why she wrote that passage the way she did in report on May 17:

Attkisson may be dumb as a rock. Or she may have been baldly dissembling again, as seems to be her wont.

As Attkisson’s account continued, so did the GOP-scripted foolishness. But then, it would take a book to chronicle all the foolishness which has emerged in the past eight months as Attkisson has discussed, or pretended to discuss, the events at Benghazi.

It’s stunning to think that CBS News is willing to let this conduct continue. It’s stunning to think that the rest of the mainstream press corps lets this misconduct go.

Meanwhile, don’t even ask about the millionaire children at The One True Liberal Channel, who continue to hide their hands in the sand as this journalistic misconduct roils the political world. (We’ll discuss them in detail tomorrow.)

Make no mistake—Attkisson is no Sharyl-come-lately to the upside-down world of bungled reports on Benghazi. She has played the fool about this topic for many months at this point.

Consider her report last November 22 on the CBS Evening News, her network's premier news program.

As everyone knows, President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas on November 22. Beyond that, the date can now be remembered for Attkisson’s clownish report.

One day earlier, Ambassador Rice had defended her original statements about Benghazi, the statements she made on the September 16 Sunday programs. With Jeff Glor serving as substitute anchor, Attkisson appeared on the CBS Evening News to report what Rice had said.

Her report was a serial gong show. As she started, she mixed some bungled logic with the outright misstatement of fact:
ATTKISSON (11/22/12): Ambassador Rice defended her comments more than nine weeks ago in which she said the Benghazi attacks did not appear preplanned. She said that reflected the best intelligence at the time.

RICE (videotape): I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.

ATTKISSON: But intelligence officials told Congress last week they knew almost from the start that Benghazi was likely the work of terrorists, perhaps affiliated with al Qaeda.

In an appearance on Face the Nation five days after the attack, Rice gave no hint of that.

"We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned," Rice said at the time.
In that part of her report, Attkisson said something that was accurate! On the September 16 Face the Nation, Rice did make that statement to Bob Schieffer: “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.”

This was in response to a question in which Schieffer suggested that the attack may have been “plotted out several months ago.”

On the CBS Evening News, Attkisson seemed to suggest that this statement by Rice—the statement that the attack may not have been preplanned in that way—was contradicted by the initial belief of intelligence officials that the attack “was likely the work of terrorists.”

That doesn’t make sense, of course. Presumably, terrorists sometimes engage in actions which haven’t been “preplanned” at all, let alone for several months.

But ever since September 16, Lindsey Graham and John McCain had been pretending that a contradiction lurked in that statement. So had various stars on Fox.

Attkisson took their bungled logic and made it her own this night. As she did, she helped their tale along with an obvious factual howler:

“In an appearance on Face the Nation five days after the attack, Rice gave no hint” of the alleged belief that “Benghazi was likely the work of terrorists, perhaps affiliated with al Qaeda?”

Please. On the program to which Attkisson referred, Ambassador Rice had said this:
SCHIEFFER (9/16/12): Do you agree or disagree with [the Libyan president] that al Qaeda had some part in this?

RICE: Well, we’ll have to find out 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.
According to Rice, the “extremist elements” who staged the attack may have been al Qaeda affiliates—or they may have been al Qaeda itself! But so what? Nine weeks later, Attkisson went on the CBS Evening News and said that Rice “gave no hint” on Face the Nation that the attackers were “perhaps affiliated with al Qaeda!”

At this point, you get a choice:

Attkisson is a hopeless incompetent. Or she was simply lying that night on the CBS Evening News.

We’ll call it Sharyl’s Choice! At any rate, as Attkisson’s report on the CBS Evening News continued, so did her hopeless bungling:
ATTKISSON (11/22/12, continuing from above): "We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned," Rice said at the time.

Last week, former CIA Director David Petraeus told congressional panels in closed sessions that someone in the Obama administration removed references to terrorism and al Qaeda from his agency summary before it went to Rice. A source told us the edits were made by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have led the call for a special committee to investigate.

MCCAIN (videotape): I was on Face the Nation the morning she came on and told that incredible story, and right after it, the president of the Libyan National Assembly said it was al Qaeda. We know it was al Qaeda. And yet she never changed her story.

ATTKISSON: Rice also shot back against McCain’s criticisms.

RICE (videotape): I do think that some of the statements he’s made about me have been unfounded. But I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him.

ATTKISSON: Now, after Rice spoke last night, several Republicans told us they want to ask the administration what evidence they had when they originally said the Benghazi attacks started with a spontaneous mob inspired by an anti-Islam YouTube video, an idea that’s now been set aside. Jeff.

GLOR: Sharyl, thank you.
Glor is much too polite.

Question: Did Susan Rice tell “an incredible story” on the September 16 Face the Nation? On May 10, everyone learned that this “incredible story” had come straight from the CIA, though Attkisson still refuses to report this basic fact.

Way back in November, McCain already knew that. Still, he went out and postured at Rice's expense, grossly misleading the public. Meanwhile, Attkisson failed to report a basic fact which was already known:

The claim that the Benghazi attack “started with a spontaneous mob inspired by” the protests in Cairo had been in the final version of the talking points which guided Rice on those Sunday shows. This fact had been known since late October, when David Ignatius published the text of that final account.

But Attkisson failed to state this fact, even as she showed McCain savaging Rice for telling an “incredible story.”

Was that story really incredible? In fact, it was the intelligence community's official story when Rice appeared on those shows. If you watched the CBS Evening News, Attkisson failed to tell you.

You get two choices with Attkisson—with her on-air reporting back in November, with the astounding report she posted on May 17, just twelve days ago.

These are your two basic choices:

Attkisson may be grossly incompetent. Or she has simply been lying about these matters, by omission and by commission. (“Rice gave no hint of that!”)

But alas! Attkisson keeps rolling along, pimping her bullshit to the world. And CBS News refuses to fire her.

Meanwhile, as this chaos continues, Rachel and Lawrence and Hayes continue to sit there and take it. Tomorrow, we’ll ask an obvious question:

As this bullshit roils the political world, why don’t our heroes fight back?

Tomorrow: Why don’t our heroes fight back?

Real-time reports from the Washington Times!

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

It happened in Benghazi: Scripted within an inch of her life, Sharyl Attkisson was deeply confused in a recent C-Span appearance.

Attkisson just didn’t get it! She couldn’t imagine where people ever got the idea that a spontaneous demonstration had occurred in connection with the deadly Benghazi attack. Nor could she see how that stupid YouTube video ever got into the story.

It must have been a giant deception! Cooked up by Hillary Clinton! Right from the very first night!

Attkisson was either lying or she’s just crazy—you can take your pick. Her C-Span appearance occurred on May 12. Two days earlier, Jonathan Karl had released twelve versions of the Benghazi talking points. In the CIA’s first proposed version of the points, the famous agency had said this: “We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.”

The attacks were spontaneously inspired by the protest in Cairo—and that was a protest against the video! That’s where this story came from, as Attkisson surely knew.

(Question: Why would CBS News keep a “reporter” of this type on their bloated payroll?)

As of September 14 of last year, the CIA was saying it believed that the Benghazi attack was “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” But then, this belief seemed to be rather widespread in the first days after the attack.

Today, let’s see what the conservative paper, the Washington Times, was saying about the attack at this time.

The attack occurred on September 11. Two days later, in a front-page news report, Guy Taylor offered this account, in the Washington Times, of what had occurred. In part, he based his account on telephone interviews with sources in Benghazi:
TAYLOR (9/13/12): [I]n telephone interviews with The Washington Times, several residents in Benghazi said there had been two distinctly different groups involved in the assault on the U.S. diplomatic post.

The residents described a scene that began as a relatively peaceful demonstration against a film produced in the United States that had been deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.

The situation did not turn violent until a group of heavily armed militants showed up and "hijacked" the protest, the residents said. The original group of protesters was joined by a separate group of men armed with rocket-propelled-grenade launchers.

U.S. officials would not confirm or deny those reports.

"We frankly don't have a full picture of what may have been going on outside the compound walls before the firing began," said one senior Obama administration official.

Tuesday's incidents in Libya and in Egypt—where protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy, ripped down the American flag and replaced it with one commonly flown by al Qaeda—are thought to have been provoked by "Innocence of Muslims," a two-hour, U.S.-produced film that many deemed derogatory of Muhammad. Arabic-dubbed portions of the English-language film recently appeared on the social-media website YouTube.
As of September 13, that was the Washington Times’ account of what had occurred in Benghazi and Cairo.

On that same day, Ashish Kumar Sen offered a profile of Ambassador Stevens, who died in the attack. The attackers in Benghazi “claimed they were enraged by an American film that mocks the Prophet Muhammad,” Sen wrote in the Washington Times.

Similar accounts appeared in other newspapers, sometimes written by reporters who were present at the attack. Sen wrote from Washington, with contributions by Mike Elkin in Benghazi.

On September 14, Taylor continued to report on the violent reaction inside Egypt to the YouTube video clips. “News of the clips created a firestorm of public unrest in Egypt at the start of this week when a hard-line Islamic television station known as Al Nas began featuring reports and commentary about the insulting nature of the clips,” Taylor again reported.

If Attkisson goes to work for Fox News, she may find herself reading the Washington Times more often. Just to bring her ass up to speed, this is what her new favorite paper was saying, in real time, about the Benghazi attack.

Tomorrow: Eyewitness reporting

Who will inspect the inspectors general?

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

We believe Abraham Lincoln said that: Yesterday morning, we did a spit take at the bagel joint.

The cause of our lapse was a front-page report in the New York Times. Confessore and Luo reported on the way conservative groups (and others) seeking tax-exempt status were spindled and mutilated by the IRS.

We aren’t experts on this matter, but we thought the reporters began to get inside some of the paradoxes involved in this issue. We were especially struck by this pushback against Inspector General George, who has been cast in the hero role in this heavily novelized tale:
CONFESSORE AND LUO (5/27/13): A report issued this month by the Treasury Department’s inspector general, J. Russell George, found that inappropriate criteria, including groups’ policy positions, were used to flag some cases and that specialists in the I.R.S. office in Cincinnati, which reviews all tax-exemption requests, sometimes asked questions that were irrelevant to the application process.

And agency officials have acknowledged that specialists inappropriately used keywords like “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in searching through applications.

But some former I.R.S. officials disputed several of Mr. George’s conclusions, including his assertion that it was inappropriate to ask groups about their donors, or whether their leaders had plans to run for public office. While unusual, the former officials said, such questions are not prohibited if relevant to an application under consideration.

“The I.G. was as careless with terminology as the Cincinnati office was,” said Marcus S. Owens, who headed the I.R.S.’s exempt organizations division until 2000. “Half of those questions have been found to be germane in court decisions.”
Oof! Can that statement by Owens be true? Assuming that the IRS did make mistakes in this matter, did the inspector general mess this thing up on a par with the revenue gumshoes?

Of one thing we can be sure—the facts will never catch up with the politics in this easily politicized case. Our national discourse is built around novels. Facts play a minor role.

That said, Who will inspect the inspectors general? Inspectors general are a bit like whistle-blowers or fact-checkers. Those all sound like fine pursuits, until you see people attempt them.

Who will inspect the inspectors general? We believe Abraham Lincoln said that.

WHO IS SHARYL ATTKISSON: She may want your millions, mister!

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2013

Part 2—In search of employment from Fox: At this point, is CBS TV star Sharyl Attkisson pursuing employment at Fox?

We’d give at least even money. The story began on April 12, when Politico’s Dylan Byers reported that Attkisson was “in talks to leave CBS News ahead of contract.”

Sources were citing “disputes between Attkisson and network executives, including CBS Evening News executive producer Patricia Shevlin,” Byers reported. He said specifics about the dispute were not available.

On May 8, the Washington Post offered a full-length profile of Attkisson, describing her as a “persistent voice of news-media skepticism about the government's story” concerning the Benghazi attack. “Conservatives see a crusader and truth-teller,” Paul Farhi wrote, citing several prominent examples.

In a review of the Post profile, Byers fleshed out his earlier report about Attkisson’s contract negotiations. CBS News “has grown increasingly frustrated with Attkisson's Benghazi campaign,” the Politico writer now said.

One day later, Media Matter finally popped the question. Eric Hananoki wrote a full report under this headline: “Is Fox News Trying To Recruit CBS Reporter Sharyl Attkisson?”

Hananoki cited an array of major figures at Fox, including Brit Hume and Sean Hannity, who had recently praised Attkisson’s work.

Finally, on May 24, Byers brought forth his magnum opus, a full-length report about Attkisson’s heightened public profile. In this passage, Byers went where the rubber meets the road:
BYERS (5/24/13): [S]uspicions of partisanship have made Attkisson a polarizing figure within her own organization.

CBS News President David Rhodes is said to value her diligence, but there are others, most notably Pat Shevlin, the executive producer of CBS Evening News, who are wary of her motives and have even dismissed her, in private, as a partisan carrying water for Republicans.

Alternatively, some sources suggested that Shevlin’s own political bias, which they described as liberal, was to blame.

Either way, the tension has caused Attkisson to feel that she’s been marginalized at the network, sources said.
Is Attkisson “a partisan carrying water for Republicans?” As a general matter, we have no idea. That said, much of her reporting on Benghazi has been egregious, awful, horrendous. And her logical lapses and factual flights have followed the Republican party/Fox News line to a T.

To the credit of CBS News, it seems that some major figures have been troubled by the gong show Attkisson has been conducting. In part for that reason, one can’t help wondering if the highly privileged millionaire TV performer may not be auditioning for a position at Fox.

Consider an astonishing bit of recent behavior by Attkisson. On May 21, Byers reported a remarkable claim by the highly undisciplined CBS News TV star:
BYERS (5/21/13): Sharyl Attkisson, the Emmy-award winning CBS News investigative reporter, says that her personal and work computers have been compromised and are under investigation.

"I can confirm that an intrusion of my computers has been under some investigation on my end for some months but I'm not prepared to make an allegation against a specific entity today as I've been patient and methodical about this matter," Attkisson told POLITICO on Tuesday. "I need to check with my attorney and CBS to get their recommendations on info we make public."

In an earlier interview with WPHT Philadelphia, Attkisson said that though she did not know the full details of the intrustion, "there could be some relationship between these things and what's happened to James [Rosen]," the Fox News reporter who became the subject of a Justice Dept. investigation after reporting on CIA intelligence about North Korea in 2009.
“I'm not prepared to make an allegation,” Attkisson said, having already done so.

Attkisson’s conduct in this matter has been little short of astonishing. In that Philadelphia radio session, she spoke with Chris Stigall, a conservative talker. She said her home and office computers had been compromised since “at least February of 2011 and I think probably a significant period of time before that.”

At the Huffington Post, you can hear Attkisson go on for a full four minutes with Stigall, speculating about the possibility that her phones have been tapped and her e-mails have been read. “I’m trying to be methodical and careful about what I say,” Attkisson said, as she went a million miles out of her way to avoid being careful.

Have Attkisson’s computers been compromised by the federal government? Everything is possible! That said, it’s hard to know why it would take more than two years for a major news org like CBS News to analyze or resolve such a problem.

That said, Attkisson engaged in an astonishing level of speculation when she spoke with Stigall. Needless to say, the suggestion that Obama has been tapping her phones has only made her more of a hero in the pseudo-conservative world.

To watch her interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, just click here. The interview aired last Thursday.

Have Attkisson’s computers been compromised? We have no idea—but her interview on that Philadelphia radio program was little short of astounding. No news network worth its salt would want to employ a person who engaged in such lazy speculation about such a serious matter on such an extended basis. But then, lazy speculation has characterized Attkisson’s work on the Benghazi matter throughout.

In yesterday's post, we gave you a taste of the scam Attkisson staged in a recent appearance on C-Span. As the week proceeds, we will look at other things she said that day, and we’ll review some of her formal reporting on Benghazi.

It may by that Attkisson is simply incompetent. It may be that she is some sort of Republican hack.

It may be that she is seeking a job at Fox.

But Attkisson’s work on Benghazi has often been horrendous. This raises an obvious question:

How can it be that a major network figure can perform such horrible work without a word of complaint from the stars who pretend to support your interests on The One True Liberal Channel?

Attkisson has hardly been alone, but her work on Benghazi has been horrendous. Question: Where have Rachel and Lawrence been as Benghazi has become a gong-show in the past eight months? Where was the dogged Chris Hayes?

Attkisson has conducted a long-running gong-show concerning Benghazi, as is clear in that C-Span appearance. How do we explain a culture where such untrammeled nonsense goes unremarked by people who are being paid millions of dollars to advance the “liberal” side?

Tomorrow: Attkisson bungles Benghazi

Some do want your millions, mister: They say Jim Garland wrote the song, "I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister." He was a coal-miner from eastern Kentucky.

We became familiar with the song thanks to the album, Newport Broadside: Topical Songs at the Newport Folk Festival 1963.

To hear Garland sing it at Newport that year, click here, then click again.

Strongly recommended!


MONDAY, MAY 27, 2013

Part 1—Successor to Cline and Perot: Crazily, Sharyl Attkisson is a major correspondent for CBS News.

What makes Attkisson’s position at CBS News so crazy? Consider what happened on Sunday, May 12, when she sat for a 42-minute appearance on C-Span’s Washington Journal.

To watch the whole session, click this.

Host Steve Scully said he wanted to start with Benghazi, which had been in the news that week. More specifically, Scully inquired about the possible change in Hillary Clinton’s role within this long-running story.

“I want to begin with the reporting on Benghazi from Politico—m their five takeaways,” the affable C-Span superstar said, referring to this report. “And number one: Hillary Clinton is now more than just a subtext. Is that one of the story-lines from this week?”

“I think so,” Attkisson said. She said that Clinton’s press spokesman had played a “very aggressive” role in revising the talking points about Benghazi which emerged last September.

“Primarily they, as people now know, scrubbed all references to terrorism, al Qaeda and Islamic extremists out of those talking points,” Attkisson darkly said.

At this point, Scully asked a leading question about Hillary Clinton. “So what did she know about this? And the other question is, when did she know about it?”

In her response to this Watergate prompt, Attkisson showcased a bit of the fractured logic which is the reliable norm in mainstream discussions of the Benghazi attack. If Islamic terrorists urged jihadists to break into the Cairo embassy, Attkisson said, then that incident couldn’t have been inspired by that YouTube video.

You’re right—that doesn’t make sense. Terrorists can be enraged about an insulting video.

But so what? This line of reasoning has dominated right-wing “logic” concerning Benghazi for more than eight months. Now, Attkisson was advancing this logic, and she was extending it to the protests in Cairo. Now, even the protests in Cairo couldn’t have been about that video! That claim was a big con too!

If terrorists encouraged or undertook the action, it couldn’t have been about the video! Two minutes into her C-Span appearance, Attkisson was voicing this fractured right-wing logic. But this shouldn’t have been surprising.

In the prior eight months, Attkisson had become a conservative hero because of the ways she had reported on Benghazi. Some of her reporting had made perfect sense. But an amazing amount of her reporting had been built from the fractured logic which has ruled the day on Fox and in other right-wing preserves.

More on that reporting tomorrow. For today, let’s return to her May 12 C-Span session, which was now just two minutes old.

At this point, Scully asked another leading question about the way Hillary Clinton had been “parsing” the talking points. As Attkisson responded, she produced a statement which was basically crazy.

According to Attkisson, she was puzzled by a very basic point. As she spoke with the uncomplaining Scully, her puzzlement let her imagine a fiendish act of deception by the administration—apparently, by Clinton’s State Department.

This is what Attkisson said to Scully. If we assume she spoke in good faith, her statement was basically crazy:
ATTKISSON (5/12/13): Well I would like to know where the YouTube video attribution came from, because now we’re getting again this building body of evidence that— Really nobody on the ground that we’ve spoken to, State Department officers and diplomats and so on, ever said that they thought it was, you know, based on a protest or YouTube video. So it seems to me, you know, as I look to solve the puzzle of what happened and what was being said, it looks like somebody developed a story line very quickly, perhaps even that night right after these attacks occurred, although the bulk of the evidence suggested what we now know, that this was an act of terrorism and preplanned, it seems as though somebody decided to guide the American public’s viewpoint toward that YouTube video.
That is an astonishing statement. If Attkisson was being sincere, her statement was basically crazy.

Consider what the CBS star said in that astounding passage.

Two days earlier, on May 10, Jonathan Karl had released twelve versions of the famous “talking points” about the Benghazi attack. In substantial detail, Attkisson had already discussed the major revisions.

Plainly, Attkisson was quite familiar with the different versions of the talking points. But now, the seven-figure TV star made some astonishing statements:

“I would like to know where the YouTube video attribution came from,” the play-for-pay network performer told Scully. According to Attkisson, nobody had ever said that they thought the Benghazi attack “was, you know, based on a protest or YouTube video.”

Astonishing! Attkisson said she had no idea where those ideas could have come from. For that reason, she speculated that “somebody developed a story line very quickly, perhaps even that night right after these attacks occurred.”

Even though the evidence didn’t support the story line, “it seems as though somebody decided to guide the American public’s viewpoint toward that YouTube video,” Attkisson said. Based on everything else she said, it seemed the likely culprit was Clinton’s State Department.

That’s what Attkisson said to Scully and to the C-Span audience. If she wasn’t lying that day, it would seem she is crazy—insane.

Nobody said they thought the attack was based on the Cairo protest? Below, you see the very first paragraph of the very first version of the Benghazi talking points.

Attkisson had been reviewing this material for two solid days at this point. And this was the first official account, straight from the CIA:
ORIGINAL CIA TALKING POINTS (9/14/12): We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.
That was the first official account of what happened at Benghazi. The Benghazi attack had been inspired by the protest in Cairo—a protest directed against that insulting YouTube video.

The account had come straight from the CIA. The text had been in Attkisson's hands for two days, since May 10.

As Attkisson voiced her puzzlement to Scully, she had been reviewing that text for the previous two days. Now, she told the affable host that no one had ever said that the Benghazi attack “was, you know, based on a protest or YouTube video.”

She had no idea where that notion came from! She suggested that Clinton’s State Department must have dreamed it up.

Attkisson voiced all these thoughts in the first three minutes of her session with Scully. In the 39 minutes which followed, she voiced all sorts of dark suspicions about the motives of every Democrat involved in the Benghazi matter. She seemed to assume the accuracy and the good faith of every claim from every Republican’s mouth.

An RNC spokesman couldn’t have produced a more ridiculous performance. And as this remarkable session dragged on, Attkisson kept returning to her puzzlement about that one basic point:

Where in the world did they get that “story line” about the protest and the YouTube video? Who had dreamed that up?

“I’m crazy,” Patsy Cline once opined, in a very famous song. In 1992, Ross Perot adopted the song as his campaign theme song.

If Attkisson wasn’t lying this day, she seems to be crazy too. But so is a wider world which had allowed this disgraceful conduct to continue and prosper.

Rachel and Lawrence are part of that world. So are your favorite liberal bloggers. So is the rest of the “mainstream press corps,” which has spent decades looking away when “journalists” behave in this crazy manner.

Tomorrow: Last November, crazy talk on the CBS Evening News

Gregory Hicks for president: If you watch that C-Span tape, you will see Attkisson assume the worst about every Democrat in this story, while assuming the heroic good faith of everyone else on the planet. She was especially clownish in her portrait of Gregory Hicks, who kept refusing to answer his phone while Chris Stevens was under attack:
ATTKISSON: Gregory Hicks is a very devoted public servant, a lifelong career government foreign service worker, who was quite enamored of Hillary Clinton for much of his time, really respected a lot of her until all of this. He’s changed his opinion dramatically in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks because he feels like things were misrepresented and when he tried to set things straight, as you said, he was marginalized and demoted. I think he’s had a tough go of it, he’s been quietly, you know, dealing with this on his own for many months and it took a lot of courage for him to step forward because, as we always know, life is made very tough for people who step out of line and tell their stories like this.
Gregory Hicks for president!

Can we talk? Attkisson doesn’t really know if any of the lyrics to that torch song are true. Calling to mind the late Patsy Cline, she went ahead and sang it.