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.How weird! According to Republicans, the talking points were an outrageous scam—a cover-up designed to hide what happened at Benghazi.
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.
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?Why has Rice been left for dead while Nuland is still being backed by Republicans? “Politics looms above all,” Landler says.
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.”
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.Huh! According to Landler, Nuland’s visit to Capitol Hill “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.
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.