Post still can't paraphrase Rice: We had planned to focus today on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), the controversial screening test for cognitive impairment which American president Donald J. Trump was recently said to have aced.
The controversial test was first allowed in this country under terms of President Clinton's Nafta agreement. In an attempt to show that Americans had nothing to fear from the new exam, Clinton instantly took the test, achieving a perfect score of 30 while playing hearts with his daughter Chelsea, speaking to three people on the phone, enjoying a full meal from McDonald's and making Newt Gingrich cry.
In a bow to our friends in the north, Clinton was also watching a minor league hockey game on his phone while reading Anne of Green Gables aloud to a group of French-speaking children. Clinton's skill at multitasking thus passed into White House lore.
President Obama later received a score of 29 on the MoCA, missing one of the test's easiest questions—the one which asks if there actually are "red" and "blue" states after all.
By the time President Trump entered office, it was emerging as a norm; it was widely assumed that every president would (1) reveal his tax returns and (2) submit to the MoCA. It's widely believed that Trump moved to end the Nafta agreement in the mistaken belief that this would make it illegal for him to take the foreign exam.
At any rate, we'd planned to discuss the MoCA today. Unfortunately, a report in the Washington Post drives home a familiar point—we the people can't have nice things, just as Paula said.
We refer to this news report about Susan Rice. More specifically, we refer to the claim that Candidate Biden might select Rice as his running-mate.
The ability to paraphrase is one of the most basic of all journalistic skills. With that in mind, we were struck by the fact that the Washington Post still can't produce an accurate account of what Susan Rice said about the Benghazi attacks back in 2012:
SULLIVAN AND DEYOUNG (7/25/20): Rice, 55, would not be a typical pick. Not only has she never been elected—she has never run for office. Her son has voiced strong public support for President Trump. And she has faced criticism for her initial comments on the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, for which Republicans made her a leading target of a vitriolic and long-running investigation they are eager to reprise. Once well-positioned to be Obama’s second secretary of state, Rice withdrew from consideration after the uproar over her remarks.Did Rice initially characterize the Benghazi episode "as a spontaneous response to an inflammatory anti-Muslim video rather than an attack?"
“Biden is opening the door and placing Benghazi on the kitchen table if he picks Susan E. Rice,” said Dan Eberhart, an oil industry executive and GOP donor. “Expect Republicans to feast.”
Several top Democrats dismissed Republicans’ ability to damage her with the Benghazi episode, which Rice, adhering to early intelligence community guidance, initially characterized as a spontaneous response to an inflammatory anti-Muslim video rather than an attack. “That was then and this is now,” said former Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid. “I think it has about as much traction as an ice-skating rink.”
Actually no, she didn't. That simply isn't an accurate account of what she actually said.
The backstory here is amazingly easy to verify. The backstory goes like this:
That inaccurate account of what Rice said was instantly produced by John McCain and Bob Schieffer on Sunday, September 16, 2012 on the CBS show, Face the Nation. McCain and Schieffer produced that inaccurate account of what Rice said immediately after Rice appeared on the CBS program.
The account was inaccurate, but it came from two Insider Establishment gods. For that reason, the inaccurate account was instantly memorized and repeated all over the upper-end press corps.
To this day, the Washington Post still can't provide an accurate account of what Rice actually said.
What did Rice say on Face the Nation that day, and on three other Sunday programs? (She wasn't asked about Benghazi on CNN's State of the Union.)
Actually, Rise said this:
After saying a hundred times that her information was preliminary, Rice said the events in Benghazi had started with a spontaneous protest about a crackpot YouTube video. (Such protests had been occurring all across the region.)
That was the first thing Rice said. She then told the important part of the story, saying that a group of armed militants had then arrived at the scene, and that it was those armed militants who staged the deadly attacks.
In real time, McCain and Schieffer misstated what Rice had just said. Instantly, they began claiming that she had said that the spontaneous protesters had launched the deadly attacks.
That simply wasn't what Rice had said, but it made for a good burlesque. The establishment legends ridiculed Rice for supposedly having said that a bunch of peaceful protesters suddenly produced the heavy weapons with which the deadly attacks were carried out.
According to McCain, it was crazy to think that spontaneous protesters would be holding the kinds of armaments employed in the attacks. That plainly isn't what Rice had said, but it was wonderful Storyline.
McCain, of course, was known in the press as history's greatest truth-teller. Schieffer was a genial fellow whose younger brother, Tom Schieffer, had co-owned the Texas Rangers with former President George W. Bush and had later been named the U.S. ambassador to Japan.
McCain and Schieffer were establishment gods. For that reason, everyone in the mainstream press corps memorized what they had said and began repeating it in every possible setting.
On MSNBC, Chris Hayes explicitly took the side of this misrepresentation. Running off and hiding in her lavish TV/hot tub building, Rachel Maddow completely failed to address this topic until very late in the fall.
As people like Maddow refused to speak, punishing myths about Benghazi, and about Rice, entered the upper-end mainstream.
The punishing myths about Benghazi helped defeat Candidate Clinton in 2016. The punishing myths about Rice put the kibosh on her chance to be secretary of state, and may help decide Biden's choice of a running-mate.
This morning, we see that the Washington Post still can't produce an accurate account of what Rice said on the Sunday programs that day. Let's offer a wider context:
Stating the obvious, the ability to produce reasonable paraphrase is one of journalism's most fundamental skills. But it's as we've told you again and again:
Counterintuitive though it may seem, our upper-end journalists possess almost no analytical or journalistic skills. They tend to be skilled at reproduction of Storyline, and at virtually nothing else.
Coverage of Campaign 2000 was built upon twenty straight months of bogus mainstream paraphrase. Today, people are dead all over Iraq because our mainstream journalists wouldn't stop doing that.
Twelve years later, much of the Benghazi legend grew out of an instant bogus paraphrase produced by McCain and Schieffer. The tyros had misparaphrased Rice, but they were a pair of establishment gods. For that reason, journalists scurried to repeat the inaccurate things they had said.
Getting back to the MoCA:
It's now widely believed that President Trump may have paid Dr. Birx to take the MoCA for him.
Initially, it was rumored that Trump had paid Vice President Pence to take the exam. As evidence mounted suggesting that Trump had actually passed the test, this rumor began to lose currency.
Trump has claimed that he achieved a perfect score of 30. Some mental health experts improbably claim that he may be thinking of the score he achieved the last time he tried to take the SAT for himself.
That said, Dr. Ronny Jackson seems to have vouched for the claim that Trump achieved a 30. Skeptics note that Jackson is now best known in medical circles as the doctor who claimed that President Trump weighs less than 400 pounds.
(TMZ is reporting that Jackson will join Dr. Harold Bornstein in a forthcoming Bravo "reality" show, True Physicians of the Trump Tower, Hotels and Golf Courses. The pilot will focus on Trump's ability to repeat strings of as many as five different words. Previously, he had displayed mastery of such shorter strings as "Crooked Hillary," "Lock her up" and "What does Vladimir want?")
The embattled president recently claimed that the United States has the lowest Covid-19 mortality rate in the world.
This latest claim wasn't merely wrong. This claim was demonstrably crazy.
Chris Wallace didn't notice or mention this fact. Which part of "virtually no journalistic skills at all" don't we understand yet?
No, that isn't what Susan Rice said—but to this day, the Washington Post can't still get it right. With the help of highly credentialed experts, we offer this as an anthropology lesson—a basic lesson which is simply too strange for lunkheads like us to ingest.