Part 3—Rachel just isn’t that sharp: With how much skill has The One True Channel analyzed the Benghazi nonsense?
Has this channel been willing to fight?
Alas! Consider the “analysis” which emerged last Wednesday night, May 15, when Michael Isikoff appeared with Rachel Maddow. A bit of background:
Five days earlier, on May 10, ABC’s Jonathan Karl had released twelve versions of the talking points which were crafted last September concerning the Benghazi attack. On May 14, it had been revealed that Karl misquoted one of the e-mails which helped shape those talking points.
On this very day, May 15, a large trove of those e-mails had been released by the White House.
By May 15, journalists had had five full days to consider the evolution of the talking points. But how sad! When Maddow asked Isikoff for his views, this is the way he started:
MADDOW (5/15/13): Joining us now is Michael Isikoff, NBC News investigative correspondent. He has been going through these newly released e-mails since they came out tonight.That was a very strange, very dumb start. To watch this whole segment, click here.
Mike, thanks for being with us again...What did you learn from these e-mails that might further explain the scandal or at least the politicization of this scandal?
ISIKOFF: Well, I learned that there actually is a scandal and I think the scandal is all these relatively high-level national security officials spent hours on end exchanging e-mails in order to produce what turned out to be complete bureaucratic mush. I mean, why these talking points were even being written in the first place, and why a committee was doing it, seems inexplicable when you actually look through it.
In fact, my favorite e-mail was from Jacob Sullivan, who’s head of policy planning at the State Department, who in the middle of this writes, "I do not understand the nature of this exercise." I think that kind of reflects anybody reading this.
In fact, everyone knows “why these talking points were even being written in the first place.” They were written so members of Congress could have an official account of what they could say about the attack without misstating the basic facts and without compromising security interests.
Everybody knows that! But for some reason, Isikoff chose to clown at the start of this session. And as he continued, he gave a deeply clueless, Fox-tinged account of what occurred as the talking points were developed:
ISIKOFF (continuing directly): Look, there is no smoking gun, to say the least. In fact, there’s almost an antismoking gun, which is the e-mail from the general counsel of the CIA, who at one point explicitly writes, "I know there's a hurry to get this, but we need to hold it long enough to ascertain whether providing it"—this is the original talking points, which did have information about al Qaeda, which did talk about Libya being awash in weapons and that, this being likely an attack by extremists—but whether providing it conflicts with the expressed instructions from national security staff, DOJ, FBI, that in light of the criminal investigation, we are not to generate statements with assessments as to who did this.“At the end of the day, it all gets taken out, we’re left with the mush where Susan Rice says almost nothing,” the vacuous fellow went on to say. In this manner, Isikoff gave a profoundly dumb synopsis of this whole procedure.
So that’s coming from the original counsel of the CIA. And that sort of sets the ball in motion in terms of scrubbing out all relevant details about who was behind the attack from the talking points.
In the highlighted sections above, this unhelpful fellow lamented the loss of all the “information” in the original talking points, “which did have information about al Qaeda, which did talk about Libya being awash in weapons and that, this being likely an attack by extremists.” He shook his head about the way all those “relevant details” got “scrubbed” from the talking points.
Isikoff was simply wrong on one point. In fact, the final version of the talking points did talk about the “extremists” who had staged the attack. Rice used that same term on the Sunday shows, where she repeatedly said that “extremists with heavy weapons” came to the scene and staged the killing attack.
(On those programs, Rice also referred, again and again, to the fact that Libya was awash in weapons.)
Isikoff was quickly wrong about one of his three basic points. That said, his terminal dumbness was revealed in the rest of that passage. To all appearances, it hadn’t occurred to this investigative correspondent that some of that “information” in the first version of the points may not have “information” at all—or that some of the “relevant details” in the original talking points may have been wrong.
Isikoff had read the text of the original version. Sadly, the obvious problems with this text didn’t seem to have registered:
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.Even Isikoff didn’t complain about the dumping of the claim about Ansar al-Sharia—a claim which was stupidly based on “initial press reporting.” That said, it hadn’t occurred to Isikoff that the same lower-level CIA hacks who included that absurd attribution had also penned that passage about al Qaeda.
The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.
Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that its leadership did not order the attacks, but it did not deny that some of its members were involved.
Did the CIA really “know” that some of the extremists in question had “ties to al Qaeda,” whatever that fuzzy statement might mean? It didn’t seem to have occurred to Isikoff that this initial claim may have been premature too.
It didn’t seem to occur to Isikoff that some of those original “details” may have been premature, unfounded, possibly wrong! Perhaps for that reason, he chose to adopt a mocking, Fox-tinged line about what had happened.
Mockingly, Isikoff described a process by which “information” and “relevant details” were “scrubbed” from the original text. He complained that Rice was left with “mush,” although she articulated two of the three specific points whose absence he lamented.
Duh! As Isikoff kept mocking the process which edited down the original version, he didn’t consider an obvious possibility: The process may have improved the points by removing premature claims!
Instead, Isikoff rolled his eyes, as if on Fox, at the somewhat comical way these agencies “scrubb[ed] out all relevant details,” thereby leaving Rice with “bureaucratic mush.”
Isikoff had had five days to consider the original talking points. Despite this, it hadn’t entered his thick head that the original version may have been ill considered. He laughed as if he were on Fox, mocking the way the bureaucrats left Rice with a puddle of mush.
Rachel had also had five days to consider those talking points. But so what? As the interview ended, Our Own Rhodes Scholar was just as clueless as her useless guest, whose mockery of the bureaucrats she adopted as her own:
ISIKOFF: At the end of the day, it all gets taken out, we`re left with the mush where Susan Rice says almost nothing and then sort of piece of resistance, which is David Petraeus’ e-mail, reading it, seeing all the stuff about the CIA warnings and then writing, "No mention of the cable to Cairo either? Frankly, I just as soon not use this”—this is about the talking points. And then, "No, but it’s NSS’ call”—that’s National Security Staff—“to be sure. You know, regardless, thanks for the great work." I’m not quite sure what the great work was there.For the record, Rachel didn’t just appreciate Isikoff’s take. As she closed, she adopted his take as her own.
But bottom line is there’s no indication of partisan political motive for scrubbing this because of the election. There is plenty of evidence of this bureaucratic tussle between the State Department and the CIA, and that’s, at the end of the day, what we’re left with.
MADDOW: What I realized is, all of my fantasies built up from all of my years of watching spy movies and reading spy novels about how exciting it must be working as a top-level spy, actually, I don’t want that at all. It sounds like bureaucratic nonsense.
ISIKOFF: You don’t want to be a part of this e-mail chain.
MADDOW: Well, I don’t understand the nature of this exercise. Exactly how I felt reading it.
Michael Isikoff, NBC News investigative correspondent. Mike, thanks very much. Really appreciate your take on this.
Can we talk? As this sad exchange unfolded, the liberal world was being served by two TV stars whose names were Dumb and Dumber. What might Our Own Rhodes Scholar have said when Isikoff rolled his eyes at the “bureaucratic tussle?”
She could have spoken like a person who is angry after all these years of inane right-wing messaging. She could have spoken like a person who wants to fight back against this constant bullroar:
WHAT MADDOW COULD HAVE SAID: You call this a bureaucratic tussle and you act like it was just a big silly mess. But isn’t it possible that the State Department served an important purpose by removing premature claims from the talking points? In the original proposal, the CIA attributed one important claim to “initial press reporting.” Wasn’t it a good thing when that claim got “scrubbed,” as you put it?Rachel could have said something like that. Instead, she parroted Isikoff’s Fox-tinged line as she dumbly signed off. This was a bunch of dumb stupid shit, “bureaucratic nonsense.”
Multimillionaires can be like that!
We hate to break the news, but Our Own Rhodes Scholar just isn’t all that sharp a great deal of the time. She’s very good at clowning around, thus teaching us how to adore her more fully. She’s amazingly good at pretending that she always corrects her mistakes.
But five days after The Twelve Versions appeared, it still hadn’t occurred to Maddow that the removal of those claims may have improved the talking points by making them less inaccurate. This hadn’t occurred to her on her own—and it seemed her useless staff hadn’t suggested it to her.
And no, it didn’t take a clairvoyant to see this possibility. Because Chris Hayes is less of a clown than Rachel, he had imagined this possibility five days earlier, on the very day when The Twelve Versions were revealed:
HAYES (5/10/13): But what was so fascinating is— You say in the fog of terrorism you don’t know what’s going on. What happens in the course of these talking points is they go from more information to less information, and I could see myself making the judgment that, yes, when there is real confusion about what’s true, say less rather than more because you’re going to have to defend what you say.Duh! On that very first night, it had already occurred to Hayes that the talking points may have been improved when some premature claims were removed. Sadly, he was talking to Eli Lake, a full-blown Mooney hack who had been booked on his program. For that reason, viewers were instantly treated to push-back in which the removal of those claims was said to be a form of “sugar-coating.”
In large part, MSNBC is perpetrating a con on the liberal world. We’re constantly told that the channel’s hosts are just extremely smart. Why, we even have our own professor! Just like on Gilligan’s Island!
But how smart were Maddow and Isikoff this night? The overpaid pair had had eight months to get their heads straight about this gong-show. By last Wednesday, they had had five days to examine The Twelve Versions.
But when they met last Wednesday night, they recited dumb, Fox-tinged lines about those ridiculous bureaucrats who had scrubbed the talking points of all that information. Most of this would have played quite well on Fox. Maddow was too dumb to know this.
That said, Maddow didn’t do much better when she went after Jonathan Karl, whose name she kept failing to mention.
Tomorrow: Maddow on Karl