LAND OF SCRIPT: What should Schieffer do?


Epilogue—Inventing the script about Rice: It’s stunning to see the way our upper-end, elite “journalism” works.

The higher up the ladder one goes, the more pathetic the conduct becomes. The more the work is tied to script in this, our nation of script.

The more a star’s “journalistic” disasters will be enabled by silence.

In September 2012, a powerful script took shape about the attack in Benghazi. In last Sunday’s New York Times, David Kirkpatrick debunked two key parts of that script, while leaving Susan Rice lodged beneath the bus.

Kirkpatrick named some major Republicans who had misstated facts in obedience to the Benghazi script. He ignored the major media stars who played key roles in this matter.

No major figure behaved more incompetently than CBS News’ Bob Schieffer. No one spread more bogus information or slandered Rice more intently.

Needless to say, Schieffer has gotten a free ride about his ridiculous conduct. In a 7300-word report, Kirkpatrick didn’t mention his name, or that of any journalist.

That said, let’s be frank! Under prevailing rules of the guild, Kirkpatrick wouldn’t have mentioned Schieffer if his report had run 73 million words.

Mainstream reporters don’t discuss powerful players like Schieffer. Liberal writers and TV stars won’t discuss such players either.

Here at this site, we described Schieffer’s ridiculous conduct in real time, in considerable detail. As we await his return to Face the Nation, let’s review his conduct again.

On September 16, 2012, Ambassador Rice appeared on all five Sunday morning shows, including Face the Nation. Immediately before her segment, Schieffer interviewed Mohamed Yussef Magariaf, who served as the president of the Libyan National Congress from August 2012 through May 2013.

Assuming Kirkpatrick’s report is correct, Magariaf was misinformed about the Benghazi attack, or he was being less than frank with Schieffer. As Schieffer has probably heard at some point, public officials sometimes behave in such ways, even those from Libya.

Here’s what Magariaf told Schieffer that day. We’ll summarize below:
SCHIEFFER (9/16/12): How many people have now been arrested, Mr. President?

MAGARIAF: Oh, a few score, I think, the number has reached about 50.

SCHIEFFER: About 50 people have been arrested. And who are these people? You have said they were connected to al Qaeda. Are they all foreigners?

MAGARIAF: A few of them are.

SCHIEFFER: And who are the others?

MAGARIAF: The others are affiliates and maybe sympathizers.

SCHIEFFER: Where do you think the foreigners are from, Mr. President?

MAGARIAF: They entered Libya from different directions, and some of them definitely from Mali and Algeria.


SCHIEFFER: Was this a long-planned attack, as far as you know? Or what do you know about that?

MAGARIAF: The way these perpetrators acted and moved, I think we—and their choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration—I think we have no, this leaves us with no doubt, that this was preplanned, predetermined.

SCHIEFFER: And you believe that this was the work of al Qaeda, and you believe that it was led by foreigners. Is that what you’re telling us?

MAGARIAF: It was planned— Definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival.
Concerning several key points, Schieffer failed to obtain definitive statements from Magariaf. But Magariaf said or implied these things:

He said or implied that the attack was the work of al Qaeda; that it had been preplanned for months; and that the date of September 11 had been part of that plan.

From that point on, for the rest of the year, it never seemed to enter Schieffer’s head that any of this could be wrong. Several months later (see below), he was still assuming the accuracy of Magariaf’s claims.

And he was still assailing Rice for what came next.

What came next? Ambassador Rice was brought on the air immediately after Magariaf. As she of course should have done, she withheld judgment about the accuracy of Magariaf’s claims, which hadn’t been part of her brief and seem to have been wrong.

Below, you see what Rice told Schieffer. Two warnings:

John McCain would be Schieffer’s next guest. And Schieffer’s subsequent accounts of what Rice said would be highly inventive:
SCHIEFFER: And joining us now, Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador—our U.N. ambassador. Madam Ambassador, he says that this is something that has been in the planning stages for months. I understand you had been saying that you think it was spontaneous? Are we not on the same page here?

RICE: Well, Bob, let me tell you what we understand to be the assessment at present. First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the president, there is an investigation that the United States government will launch, led by the FBI that has begun.

SCHIEFFER: But they are not there yet.

RICE: They are not on the ground yet, but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we’ll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions.

But based on the best information we have to date, what our assessment is as of the present is in fact what—

It began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy sparked by this hateful video.

But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi, we believe that it looks like extremist elements, individuals, joined in that effort with heavy weapons of the sort that are, unfortunately, readily now available in Libya post- revolution. And that it spun from there into something much, much more violent.

SCHIEFFER: But you do not agree with him that this was something that had been plotted out several months ago?

RICE: We do not— We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.

SCHIEFFER: Do you agree or disagree with him 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.
Let’s summarize these remarks, which Schieffer and McCain would instantly reinvent.

Poor Rice! She warned Schieffer, several times, that she had no “definitive” assessment to give him. She warned him that she was only giving “the assessment as of the present,” “based on the best information we have to date.”

Offering such disclaimers to our upper-end “journalists” is a bit like teaching Latin to chipmunks. Your comments will be over their heads; they won’t understand what you’re saying.

After making these futile disclaimers, Rice gave Schieffer the current best assessment of what had occurred.

She told a two-part story. According to the best current assessment, the events that evening started with a spontaneous demonstration. But soon after that, “extremist elements” armed with “heavy weapons” joined in that effort, and it “spun from there into something much, much more violent.”

That isn’t hard to follow. According to Rice, a demonstration was occurring. And then, extremists arrived with heavy weapons and the killing began.

Schieffer asked if this event had been preplanned for months, as Magariaf had said. Rice said we did not “have information at present” that led to such a conclusion.

Schieffer asked if the attack was somehow the work of al Qaeda, as Magariaf had said. Rice said it might have been the work of “al Qaeda itself,” but that we still didn’t know:

“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.”

That isn’t hard to follow. According to Rice, the Benghazi attack might have been the work of “al Qaeda itself!” As any sentient being can see, that’s what Rice told Schieffer.

At this point, Schieffer interviewed McCain. Instantly, McCain began to reinvent what Rice had just said.

Rice’s two-part story was quickly collapsed to just one part. In McCain’s skillful hands, a perfectly logical narrative suddenly made no sense.

That said, the first act of reinvention came from Schieffer himself. In a slightly more rational world, this would seem like a major embarrassment:
SCHIEFFER: And joining us now for his take on all this, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain.

Senator, you’ve got to help me out here. The president of Libya says that this was something that had been in the works for two months, this attack. He blames it on al Qaeda. Susan Rice says that the State Department thinks it is some sort of a spontaneous event. What do you make of it?

MCCAIN: Most people don’t bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to a demonstration. That was an act of terror. And for anyone to disagree with that fundamental fact I think is really ignoring the facts.

Now, how long it was planned and who was involved, but there was no doubt there were extremists and there’s no doubt they were using heavy weapons and they used pretty good tactics—indirect fire, direct fire, and obviously they were successful.


SCHIEFFER: Why do you think— Is there something more going on here than a difference of opinion when the administration spokesman today says that she believes and the administration believes this was just a spontaneous act?

MCCAIN: How spontaneous is a demonstration when people bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons and have a very tactically successful military operation?
Grumpily, McCain complained that there was “no doubt there were extremists and there’s no doubt they were using heavy weapons.” Schieffer didn’t seem to notice, but that’s what Rice had just said.

According to Schieffer, Rice had just said that “she believes and the administration believes this was just a spontaneous act.” That isn’t what Rice had just said.

Alas! Rice had told a two-part story to one of our millionaire journalists. As modern history has made very clear, two-part stories are too complex for people like Schieffer to follow.

Instantly, McCain piled on, mocking the idea that people who stage “spontaneous demonstrations” would bring heavy weapons to such an event. That simply isn’t what Rice had said. But Schieffer didn’t notice.

Alas! From this moment on, McCain’s burlesque of Rice’s account would be part of the Benghazi script. For months, Rice would be mocked for having said that people staging a “spontaneous demonstration” had somehow been carrying rocket-propelled grenades.

Everyone laughed at this months-long burlesque. Worthless “journalists” like Schieffer enabled this rolling clown show.

Let’s be fair to Schieffer! In real time, he may not have understood Rice’s two-part story. He may not have fully heard her when she attributed the violence to “extremists” armed with heavy weapons who may have been “al Qaeda itself.”

Perhaps he didn’t fully hear her when she spoke in real time. But by November 18, the multimillionaire TV star had had a full two months to review what Rice had said.

Alas! Two months later, on November 18, Schieffer was still pushing script. McCain appeared on Face the Nation that day. Here’s how their exchange about Libya started:
SCHIEFFER (11/18/12): Let’s talk a little bit about Libya. You were talking a lot about that. You and the president really kind of had a little set-to last week over the situation in Libya because you said once again that you would oppose the nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of state.

A lot of people in the administration say she is the odds-on favorite to replace Hillary Clinton. Because of her performance on television after it the Benghazi attacks when she said it was the result of spontaneous demonstrations in Egypt, and not, and was not a terrorist attack, are you standing fast on that?

MCCAIN: Well, she has a lot of explaining to do. And I’m curious why she has not repudiated those remarks. On this show, the Libyan national president, obviously, said it was al Qaeda.

Bob, this goes back to the beginning, this, quote, "light footprint" policy of this presidency...
As he continued, McCain misstated the substance of remarks by both Rice and Obama. His bungled logic and bogus facts flew past Schieffer’s notice.

As for Schieffer, he was busily pimping script. Pitifully, this is what he said to his next guest, Senator Durbin:
SCHIEFFER: Well, we— I would point out just one thing. She came on, on this broadcast immediately after the president of Libya, who said flatly this was the work of terrorists, some of them from Mali, others outside the country.

And Secretary Rice stuck to her, stuck to her story, as it were, and said, no, our best information is, it was a result, a reaction to those demonstrations that were happening in Egypt.

I guess what I would ask you, Senator, do you honestly believe as an ambassador, one of our key ambassadors, to the United Nations, that all Secretary Rice would have known about this was what somebody gave her in a set of talking points to be on television?
Two months earlier, in response to his direct question, Rice told Schieffer that the attackers might have been “al Qaeda itself.”

Two months later, in thrall to script, Schieffer was still pretending that she had said something quite different.

He still seemed outraged that Rice had refused to agree with Magariaf right on the spot. Only in a land of script can such manifest nonsense be presented by leading “journalists” on a nation’s most famous “news” programs.

Only in a land of scam do “liberals” sit still for such conduct. But we live in a land of scam, as well as a land of script.

According to Kirkpatrick, the Benghazi attack wasn’t the work of al Qaeda. In his report, he named major Republicans who pushed bogus facts about the attack as part of the Benghazi script.

But Kirkpatrick let people like Schieffer go unmentioned. And he continued to misparaphrase, and even misquote, what Rice had actually said.

Only in a nation of scam would liberal bloggers and liberal writers sit by and watch this happen. But that’s what they did all through the fall of 2012. That’s what they did this past week.

Tomorrow, Schieffer returns to Face the Nation. In the wake of Kirkpatrick’s report, he should address his past remarks, which were sad, inept, pathetic.

It’s very unlikely that he will do that. And no one at MSBNC will say a word about it, any more than they did in real time, when they all ran off and hid in the woods.

Darlings, they’re very much in the bag when it comes to ridiculous work by the rest of the guild. They kept their mouths shut in 2012, and they’re keeping their mouths shut today—even the upright Rachel Maddow, who plays liberal viewers in much the same way Sean Hannity plays his tribe.

They’re being paid millions, just like Schieffer. Distinguished players of such high rank do not rat out a colleague like Schieffer, master of script about Rice.

Darlings! It simply isn’t done! Millions of bucks are at stake!

For extra credit: When you read Kirkpatrick’s report, did you notice his failure to mention any journalists?

We liberals still don’t think that way! It helps explain how we get scammed.


  1. Good one Bob. Thanks,

  2. I just saw a statistic that 69.3% of the vets who commit suicide are over age 50. When you see this issue discussed in the media, the implication is that the high suicide rate is among those serving in Iraq or Afghanistan and maybe the result of poorly treated PTSD. In the light of this statistical detail it seems more likely these are vets of other wars who are perhaps having difficulty finding work, paying bills, or who have had their services reduced due to austerity. The suicide rate among older people is higher generally, not just among vets, and I believe this casualty of the war against the deficit has not been receiving much attention, because people are not connecting the dots between these various statistics. Those who are not having their unemployment extended are mostly in this older age group because those are the people who do not find work again, once they lose their jobs.

  3. Of course, this brouhaha isn't about Susan Rice or Barack Obama in 2012.
    It's all about Hillary Clinton in 2016.
    The script must me polished, embellished, an most importantly REPEATED until October 2016.

  4. Hi!

    I was trolling this website continuously regarding Benghazi from September 2012, pushing inane bullshit about Rice -- and about Somerby.

    I'm still around, but afraid to revisit my illogic and stupidity on this particular subject right now (for good reason!).

    Anyhow, just wanted to say hello. Keep reading the archives, kids!

    1. Here are Kirkpatrick's administration sources:

      “said an Obama administration official who visited in the months before the attack;

      officials briefed on the investigation and the intelligence said;

      said one American diplomat in Libya at the time;

      said one Western diplomat who was in Benghazi not long before the attack;

      according to American officials who have viewed the security camera footage;

      according to officials who have seen the video footage;

      according to several officials briefed on the [intercepted] call;
      people briefed on American intelligence say;

      officials said”

      No administration critics were cited at any point in the article.

      TDH conclusion: Poor Susan Rice can't get her message out.


    2. Rice's sources are better than Kirkpatrick's.

    3. NEW illogic and stupidity! Hooray!

      "TDH conclusion: Poor Susan Rice can't get her message out."

      Trolling -- FTW!

    4. Using caps and calling people stupid and yelling FTW. That's what this blog is all about, I guess.

      Obviously no reply to my comments about Kirkpatrick's sources within the administration or the complete lack of input from non-administration sources.

      Let's see, who is in the administration currently that has viewed the security footage and has been briefed on intercepted Libyan phone calls and has an interest in seeing the anti-Islam video dredged up as a cause for the Benghazi attack...gee, that's a poser.

      If my summary of the TDH conclusion isn't accurate, then what is the conclusion?

    5. Your summary, "Poor Susan Rice can't get her message out," is not a reasonable precis of Somerby's column.

      Nothing much follows from that, except that you aren't worth listening to.

      A better summary: Bob Schieffer was quite full of shit on Benghazi, which would be newsworthy in a saner world.

  5. Clearly Schieffer should apply for the vacancy created by Andy Rooney's sudden departure from 60 Minutes. Then they can give the Sunday show to Logan.

  6. "That said, let’s be frank! Under prevailing rules of the guild, Kirkpatrick wouldn’t have mentioned Schieffer if his report had run 73 million words. "

    Surely that's a typo and"Schieffer" should read "Clinton," because it can't be an accident that the Secretary of State was not mentioned in the article.

    1. In a perfect world, Kirkpatrick would have noted that this was a manufactured ploy to tarnish Clinton and Obama and that there was no substance to any of the concerns raised by partisans. In a perfect world, the left should have vigorously defended Rice too. But we live in a world of trolls and tribes.

    2. In your perfect world, the political opposition does not criticize or investigate even the most implausible claims of the government. Further, in your perfect world, the left vigorously defends murky events at heretofore secret CIA bases. Oh, and I guess the left also must defend the right of an administration to attempt to stonewall the press by sending out a spokesperson who only issues CIA-approved and State Dept approved "talking points."
      Yeah, just perfect.

    3. "the left vigorously defends murky events at heretofore secret CIA bases"

      What makes Trollmes a douchebag troll?

      This sort of strawman characterization of those with whom he supposes he can argue.

      Sad little man. Someday maybe he'll do the right thing...

    4. More insults and no arguments. How in a "perfect world" would the left defend Rice when the main defense is that she didn't know anything and didn't assert anything and just spoke from the talking points?
      Where is the strawman? That's just the plain, sad truth of Somerby's 15 month lame game of "gotcha" with anyone who paraphrases or even quotes Rice.

  7. Bob Schieffer has been on a downward trajectory for years. He has really devolved into a mouthpiece for the corporate media and Washington power brokers. He recently had a show talking about Edward Snowden and he made it very clear that journalistic objectivity be damned, he'd be perfectly willing to pull the rope to open the trap door on Snowden's gallows. Remember, Schieffer is also the guy who plays golf with Bush and criticized Gore for dressing like a "farmer."

    1. Just for my own edification, what was the pinnacle of Schieffer's journalistic career? From what great heights has he fallen?

  8. "According to the prevailing script, al Qaeda had staged a pre-planned attack—and that silly video played no role in what occurred. Rice had been lying to the public when she refused to concur!

    No journalist pushed that script as dumbly or as quickly as Schieffer did. This Sunday, Schieffer returns to Face the Nation. He should explain why he did the things he did."

    Somerby 12/31/13

    Based on the evidence presented in this post, I would say Somerby paraphrased Schieffer as badly as he thinks Kirkpatrick paraphrased Rice.