Did Susan Rice say something wrong?

TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2014

The work of the three blind mice: Did Susan Rice say something wrong when she did those Sunday shows and discussed the attack on Benghazi?

We would say that she did not, and we’d say it loudly. Good luck getting major career journalists to state such an unapproved point!

Rice did make one factual error that day. After saying, about three hundred times, that her information was provisional, she said a demonstration had been occurring in Benghazi before “extremists armed with heavy weapons” arrived at the scene and “hijacked events.”

By now, everyone agrees that there was no pre-existing demonstration. The extremists simply arrived at the scene and launched the killing attack.

But it was clear, from Rice’s account, that the presumed demonstrators didn’t launch the killing attack. The killing attack was launched by those extremists armed with heavy weapons. They might have been “al Qaeda affiliates,” she told Bob Schieffer, or even “al Qaeda itself.”

Those are the things Rice actually said on those Sunday programs. To review excerpts from Face the Nation, just see yesterday’s post.

But alas! Our national discourse rarely turns on the things officials say. Much more often, our discourse turns on the things officials are said to have said.

As we noted yesterday, Rice was instantly misparaphrased in the most ridiculous ways. The truth about what she actually said has never re-emerged.

None of the church mice are willing to say that John McCain created a pitiful, bogus tale about what she actually said. For the three most recent examples, just check out Hirsh, Cohen and Robinson.

At Politico magazine, Michael Hirsh largely took the administration’s side in his recent report about Benghazi. And yet, in accord with Hard Pundit Law, he felt he had to say this:
HIRSH (5/4/14):[I]t’s fair to ask why Clinton seemed to be too busy to deal with new threats in a critical region or appear herself on TV to discuss the murder of a U.S. ambassador. Sure, we know that Hillary hates doing the Sunday talk shows, but so what? She bore far more responsibility for Benghazi than the unlucky person the administration sent out in her stead, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, whose shaky performance deep-sixed her own Foggy Bottom ambitions.
Really? What was “shaky” about Rice’s performance that day? Eventually, Hirsh managed to offer this pseudo-explanation, even as he took the administration’s side in the debate:
HIRSH: It doesn’t seem to matter that the gradually emerging story about Benghazi has, if anything, only seemed to back the administration’s original account of the violence against Stevens and the other Americans. Recall that the central issue for the critics was—and is—whether the “talking points” mainly drafted by the CIA and provided to Susan Rice for her appearances on the Sunday talk shows accurately reflected what the U.S. intelligence community knew at the time, or whether the administration knowingly misrepresented this intelligence. Accurately summing up the CIA talking points, Rice had said in her TV interviews that the administration believed that the attacks were to some degree spontaneous, partly motivated by demonstrations in Cairo and other cities against a U.S.-made video lampooning the Prophet Mohammad. Still, Rice noted that “extremist elements” might have taken part—again reflecting the intelligence community’s contemporaneous assessment (though Rice might have emphasized the video more than the talking points warranted).

The balance of evidence today, according to intelligence officials and corroborating news reports, is that the terrible events of Sept. 12, 2012, pretty much played out in the way Rice said back then. Authorities still believe that extremist groups opportunistically exploited the anti-American demonstrations in the region to launch the attacks. True, intelligence officials did get one major thing wrong. It took a week or so after Rice’s TV appearances to clarify, for certain, that there had been no protests in Benghazi itself before the assault on the compound—and that, as the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement on Sept. 28, two weeks after Rice appeared, “it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists.”
“Rice might have emphasized the video more than the talking points warranted?” That was the best Hirsh could do—and even this claim went unsupported.

Even as he offered this statement, he noted that the events at Benghazi actually did “pretty much play out in the way Rice said back then.” If Hirsh was going to say such things, why did he refer, near the start of his piece, to Rice’s “shaky performance,” which “deep-sixed her own Foggy Bottom ambitions?”

Simple! That was done in accord with Hard Pundit Law! At this point, a scribe is required to say that!

In this morning’s Washington Post, Richard Cohen and Gene Robinson pound away at the GOP for the ongoing Benghazi bullroar. Our assignment, if you can stomach the chore:

Read their columns to see the way they keep stepping around the bull about Rice. The word for fiery fellows like this would have to be weak, lazy, soft.

To this day, no one is willing to say that Saint McCain invented a tale, hackishly helped by Schieffer. You simply will not see that said. Hard Pundit Law doesn’t allow it.

Once someone has been left for dead, careerists never challenge the script. Rice was left for dead long ago. If you doubt that, read the three kings!

Rice’s statements were baldly misparaphrased. Even today, some twenty months later, no one is willing to state that fact or name those two famous names.


  1. Reprising this morning's unanaswered comment about yesterday's post....

    OMB (Question for fans of the OTB)

    BOB sez: "Have you ever seen a major journalist or major news org criticize McCain for what he said and did?"

    What McCain said and did occurred on a press program on September 16, 2012. What he said or did was prompted by and advanced by Bob Schieffer of CBS on that program, according to BOB.

    When did BOB first criticize McCain or Scheiffer?

    1. I don't know when Somerby first criticized McCain and Scheiffer in this matter. If you're really interested I'm sure you can find out with a few minutes of googling. Here's the earliest reference I found after two tries with the search engine, The Daily Howler from MONDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2012:

      Schieffer allows McCain to dissemble again!

      ...Yesterday morning, John McCain appeared on Face the Nation.

      Need we say much more?

      Bob Schieffer did the enabling as McCain continued to misrepresent what Ambassador Rice and President Obama said about Benghazi. It was the Same Old Bogus Story, pimped with Schieffer’s permission...

    2. Yes CMike. Yes indeed. Six weeks after Rice had appeared on the same show as McCain BOB began laying the blame on them.

      And at that point BOB had already predicted weeks before that Maddow was not going to say anything about other reporters he blamed before getting around to fingering McCain and Scheiffer.

      And before his prediction BOB was already ignoring (disappearing?) what Maddow had presented about Behghazi on her program even before Rice made her appearance on all the talk shows on September.16.

      Long before BOB was willing to admit there was "one factual" error in Rice's presentation and days before Rice made the error, Maddow had correctly presented reports
      saying witnesses claimed there was no spontaneous demonstration outside the consulate the night of the attack.


      BOB has been damning Maddow for not attacking McCain and others when Maddow in fact presented evidence from the beginning which showed the CIA and Rice's rendition of their talking points were wrong. In advance.

      BOB. A real piece of work. All night long.


    3. KZ - How dumb is you man?? How. Dumb. Is. You??????

    4. So dumb 10:50 that we have added a brand new comment below for your reading and knee jerk response pleasure.


    5. Maybe you just young.

    6. KZ has a long way to go. He should start by reading On Writing Well.

  2. "Rice did make one factual error that day."

  3. "After saying, about three hundred times, that her information was provisional, she said a demonstration had been occurring in Benghazi before “extremists armed with heavy weapons” arrived at the scene and “hijacked events.”

    And the more important lesson? We should expect more from high government officials than "provisional information." What a ridiculous euphemism, Somerby.

    Or were you partying hard through the '60s with your "SDS" friends that you missed all the "provisional information" we got about that war?

    1. Anon, you are deliberately misinterpreting the phrase.
      Rice delivered an early CIA report about what information could be gleaned, in a very short time, about an attack on American personnel during a period of civil unrest.
      And there WERE demonstrations in Tripoli because of the Youtube trailer.

      What the Army and Pentagon claimed about Viet Nam were frequently flat out lies.

      BTW. Friends of the SDS didn't believe McNamara or LBJ. They didn't wait for Daniel Ellsberg.

    2. Bob can finally admit she spoke a "factual error." And you still can't?

      This "best information she had at the time" excuse is laughable. As KZ pointed out above, Rachel Maddow was reporting -- using media accounts -- that this was a planned and coordinated attack by a heavily armed militia. Even the day after the attack, Obama was calling it an "act of terror."

      Admitting that Rice made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows with spin and talking points instead of facts isn't the same thing as saying the Republicans aren't scandal-crazy and have any basis at all for ginning this one up into something far from what it is.

      At the same time, our leaders no matter who have to be held accountable for what they tell the people. And Susan Rice made the rounds of national TV with a story the Obama campaign wanted to tell.

      Now, before we get to far, as a campaign issue, it ended when Romney did his famous face plant. It should have ended that very night, with the compound still burning, with his famous "apologize to terrorists" press conference based on a tweet from the Cairo embassy where violent demonstrations against the video were held.

      And it certainly should have ended as a much broader foreign policy failure when the people of Benghazi took to the streets to protest the terrorist militia and mourn the murder of Chris Stevens and the Americans in the compound.

      BTW, if Bob were blogging in 1967 and using the same argument he poses here, he'd be saying that McNamara and LBJ simply escalated the war based on the best information they had available at the time from the military leaders on the ground.

  4. Rice is a real live person with career aspirations, attempting to do a job to the best of her ability. That she became a political football in ways that torpedoed her aspirations is an unfair aspect of this whole situation. I still do not see why no one defended her and why she was left to twist in the wind the way she was. On a human level, that stinks.

    1. Are you talking about the person who was appointed National Security Advisor -- the chief advisor to the President on national security matters? What are the terrible consequences has she faced for her role in the whole Benghazi affair--a slightly smaller promotion?

      What would have been "fair" in your eyes?

    2. Fair would have been the administration defending her and appointing her despite the conservative uproar, which was not her fault. But Obama always throws inconvenient people under the bus.

    3. Being National Security Advisor is not "under the bus." It's the opposite of that.

  5. The entire Republican "Smoking Gun" from the Judicial Watch FOI report is a single recommendation among many by Ben Rhodes, the current deputy national security adviser for strategic communication:
    "To underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."


    Th-Th-Th-That's all, folks!

    1. That's all fine and good Porky. But that said, TDH is concerned about press coverage of facts, not the substance of the facts themselves.


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  7. After demonstrations began in Cairo, the administration condemned the anti-Islam video. Then extremists attacked in Benghazi. Mitt Romney falsely said the the condemnation of the video was the administration's response to Benghazi. This lie was the beginning of GOP Benghazi hysteria.

    Romney should be blamed at least as much as McCain and Schiefer.

  8. Well, if Bob can say the same thing over and over again, than
    I can too. The hearings are absolutely consistent with the bind the
    Republican party finds itself in: having nothing to offer voters south
    of the top of the interest accruing class, they play scandal politics.
    It's bad for the country but it's fun, and seems to pan out for them
    from time to time. As for Rice, you can put this in the "invented the
    internet" file: you can spend the rest of your life correcting people
    who know it's bullshit anyway, or move on.


    (One Blind Blogger)

    Yesterday BOB wrote about the shameful press corps coverage of Benghazi for about the 300th time. He said this:


    "As we noted yesterday, Rice was instantly misparaphrased in the most ridiculous ways. The truth about what she actually said has never re-emerged.

    None of the church mice are willing to say that John McCain created a pitiful, bogus tale about what she actually said."

    So how good was BOB's coverage of this critical press event in real time?


    "What was Romney talking about!" Howler Headline

    BOB was worried about coverage of which "apology" Romney accused the Obama administration of making to appease Muslims after Benghazi. Romney's biggest foreign policy mistake was treated as a question of press coverage confusion.


    The day after Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday talk shows stating what was "instantly misparaphrased" OTB preached thusly to his rubes:



    Alec Wagner is a bad girl who is paid too much.


    David Brooks is a fop on education and health care.

    The next day the rubes prayed over these sermonettes:



    BOB raked Gail Collins over the coals for badmouthing Texas tests.



    BOB launched his defense of Romeny and attack on liberals for the 47% statement! It went on for a while before BOB ever got the scent of the McCain-Schieffer pitiful, bogus tale in his little rodent nostrils.

    "For our money, professional liberals overdid the outrage on last evening’s TV shows. We're not sure how voters may react to the statements made by Romney. On the bright side, the fury and outrage made us liberals feel extremely good."

    Now, doesn't that bit of historical BOB fury and outrage make you BOfans feel extremely good?


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