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Obama’s Benghazi Problem Won’t Be Going Away Any Time Soon

Benghazi 3

The revelation yesterday about the significant changes made to talking points drafted in the wake of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi last September has placed the White House in a very difficult political position and is generating negative reactions even from corners that would ordinarily be defending the Obama Administration:

WASHINGTON — A long-simmering dispute over the White House’s account of the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, flared up on Friday, with a disclosure of e-mails that show the White House was more deeply involved in revising talking points about the attack than officials have previously acknowledged.

The e-mails, which the administration turned over to Congress, show the White House coordinating an intensive process with the State Department, the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and other agencies to obtain the final version of the talking points, used by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, in television appearances after the attack.

The State Department, in particular, pushed to remove references to Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Sharia, the Libyan militant group suspected of carrying out the attack as well as warnings about other potential terrorist threats from the C.I.A., which drafted the initial talking points.

Ms. Rice was later harshly criticized as having misled the public about the nature of the attack in her television appearances. For Republicans and other critics, the talking points have become a potent symbol of the Obama administration’s mishandling of the incident, even if they constitute only a part of the broader issues, from embassy security to intelligence gathering, that were raised by the attack.

The e-mails — initially disclosed in a report last month by House Republicans that was expanded on by The Weekly Standard, the conservative magazine, and on Friday in further detail by ABC News — had the White House scrambling to provide an explanation.

Early in the afternoon, it summoned reporters for a briefing by legal and political advisers who, under the ground rules, could not be identified. In that session, the White House asserted that the talking points were not modified for political reasons and noted that they had originally been prepared at the request of Congress. They said frequent, even exhaustive revision of talking points was routine at the White House.

Officials stuck to their contention that the only wording change the White House made was to change the description of the Benghazi annex from a consulate to a diplomatic post. Indeed, the e-mails do not reveal major new details about the attack or other discrepancies in the administration’s evolving account of it.

But when the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, arrived for his on-camera briefing later in the day, he was questioned repeatedly on whether he or the administration deliberately misled reporters last fall about the changes in the talking points.

Mr. Carney expressed no regrets and asserted that the C.I.A. rewrote the talking points, although the e-mails made clear that happened only after other agencies, including the State Department, weighed in.

“I do stand by that,” Mr. Carney said of his statement that the White House changed only a word or two to make clear the diplomatic post in Benghazi was not referred to as a consulate. “White House involvement in the talking points was very limited and nonsubstantive.”

But in at least one briefing last fall, Mr. Carney said both the White House and the State Department collectively made just one change, in contradiction to the e-mails that show much more substantive revisions proposed by the State Department.

“The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two, of these two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility,’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate,” Mr. Carney said on Nov. 28.

Mr. Carney said the reason changes were made was to make sure the talking points did not go further than what was definitively known at the time. He accused the Republicans of waging a partisan attack on the White House. “There’s an ongoing effort to make something political out of this,” he said.

Signalling the potential trouble that lies ahead for the White House, journalists are reacting critically to the news about the revisions that were made to the talking points and the Administration’s attempts to explain what was going on in those days in mid-September 2012. National Journal‘s Ron Fournier, for example, argues that the incident has the potential to damage the long term credibility of the Administration:

The White House has long maintained that the talking points were drafted almost exclusively by the CIA, a claim that gave cover to both President Obama and his potential successor, [then Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton. “Those talking points originated from the intelligence community,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in November, adding that the only editing by the White House or the State Department was to change the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility.”  The emails prove him wrong. Significant edits to the talking points were discussed at the White House the day before Rice’s appearance on five Sunday shows, said the official familiar with Nuland’s thinking, who added that she did not attend the meeting.  As I wrote yesterday (“Why Benghazi is a Blow to Obama and Clinton”), Obama has earned the trust of most Americans but credibility is a fragile thing.

In The New Yorker, hardly a bastion of conservative thought, Alex Koppleman argues much the same thing and points out that the very fact that the talking points were so heavily edited is at the heart of why the White House now finds itself in such a difficult position:

Democrats will argue that the editing process wasn’t motivated by a desire to protect Obama’s record on fighting Al Qaeda in the run-up to the 2012 election. They have a point; based on what we’ve seen from Karl’s report, the process that went into creating and then changing the talking points seems to have been driven in large measure by two parts of the government—C.I.A. and State—trying to make sure the blame for the attacks and the failure to protect American personnel in Benghazi fell on the other guy.

But the mere existence of the edits—whatever the motivation for them—seriously undermines the White House’s credibility on this issue.

One way that you can see that Fournier and Koppleman are right is the fact that the story itself is actually being covered. Until now, the entire controversy surrounding the attack in Benghazi and the Administration’s response is something that was largely limited to the conservative side of the aisle. It received extensive coverage on Fox News, on talk radio, and in the conservative blogosphere, but other than the testimony that Hillary Clinton gave on the issue prior to her departure from Foggy Bottom, you didn’t see the national media covering the story much at all. Part of that, I think, is because reporters didn’t really think there was much of a story there based on the information being given to them by the Administration.  With yesterday’s  revelations, though, it’s arguably beginning to seem to these reporters that there’s more to the story than they’d been led to believe. That’s going to cause them to keep digging, and it’s going to guarantee that this story stays around for quite a bit longer. That’s why, a Chris Cillizza noted yesterday, the Benghazi story has quickly turned into a perfect political storm for Republicans:

Why?  Because, wherever you come down on the policy debate surrounding the attack, the politics of demanding more information and answers about what happened are an absolute slam dunk for Republicans seeking to show their base a willingness to hold President Obama accountable.

It’s a sort of perfect political storm for the Republican base.  And GOP politicians — particularly those with an eye on bolstering their conservative bona fides in advance of contested primaries — know it well.

(…)

The simple fact is that Republican base voters not only dislike President Obama but have a deep distrust of how his Administration handles virtually all of its business. Not only is Benghazi a confluence of both of those realities but it also involved Clinton, who is widely regarded as the frontrunner to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 if she decides to run.

Whether Benghazi has staying power as an issue all the way until average voters start paying attention to the presidential race sometime in 2015 (or early 2016) is anyone’s guess. And much depends on whether Republicans can use the accountability argument to raise broader questions about Obama’s (and, by inference, Democrats’) commitment to transparency and competence.

For the foreseeable future — at least — expect to hear a lot more about Benghazi both on Capitol Hill and in places like Iowa (where Rand Paul is visiting), New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Right now, the Obama Administration is getting a lesson in the reality of the Washington scandal. It’s true that there’s no evidence of illegality here, and the suggestions made by some, most recently Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, that the Benghazi story will somehow lead to the President’s impeachment are utterly absurd. However, political scandals aren’t just limited to things that might be potentially or actually illegal, they can also end up covering something that’s perfectly legitimate but which have an air of impropriety or which suggest that the politician in question has something to hide. The old saying in Washington, allegedly stretching back to Watergate but I’m sure it has an earlier origin than that, is that “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” The better way of putting this, I think, is that a Washington scandal can develop in two ways. The first and most obvious is when there is actual evidence of wrongdoing or illegality. Watergate falls into this scandal as does Iran-Contra since both involved situations in which actual laws were broken, or at least stretched to the very limits of credible legality. However, as we’ve seen, politicians can get in trouble for doing something that is perfectly legal. It happened to Bill Clinton, who got in trouble not because he had a rather stupid sexual relationship with a 20-something White House Intern, but because he sought to conceal that activity on numerous occasions. The same is true of former Congressman Anthony Weiner last year and Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal.

NPR makes this excellent point in their story about yesterday’s revelations:

Whether Benghazi will ever become the sort of scandal that outrages the nation as a whole remains to be seen. Much will depend on finding evidence of malicious intent to deceive on the part of the administration, as opposed to individuals following an apparently irresistible impulse to try to put the best face on a confusing and dangerous situation.

But now reporters are on the hunt for willful wrongdoing. Every email and document that comes out will be carefully scrutinized.

And, as in previous scandals, any attempt to control the story and cover tracks will look worse in hindsight, once more is known.

“There’s a process that happens when the opposition party and the media latch on to a story jointly,” Nyhan says. “That’s when a scandal story starts to take off.”

Politicians get  in trouble when they seek  to conceal something that was politically or personally embarrassing, and the facts that are coming out right now make it at least appear that this is what the Obama Administration was doing in the early days of the response to the Benghazi attack. Yesterday’s revelations about the edits made to the September talking points only tend to reinforce that idea. For better or worse, that has become the story and it’s most likely going to continue increasing the pressure on the Administration now that the mainstream press is paying attention to it. This story isn’t going to lead to Barack Obama’s impeachment, that’s just silly, but it is going to stay in the news cycle for a significant period of time now, and that’s going to put the Administration on the defensive for the foreseeable future. There will likely be more Congressional investigations and more committee hearings, and the media is going to cover them largely because there won’t be much else to cover in the coming months. Whether that ends up weakening the President politically remains to be seen, but I think it’s foolish to dismiss this as a nothing story at this point.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. wr says:

    In other words, there’s absolutely nothing here, but the Republicans are making a lot of noise and there isn’t a lot of news in the summer, so the press is going to pretend this is actually important and Doug will too.

    We’ve all been here before. And I guess you’re to be commended for holding out against the studpidity of your party before deciding it’s easier to surf on that wave than paddle against it…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 45 Thumb down 12

  2. Me Me Me says:

    “The revelation yesterday about the significant changes made to talking points drafted in the wake of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi last September has placed the White House in a very difficult political position and is generating negative reactions even from corners that would ordinarily be defending the Obama Administration:”

    Wow.

    There was no “revelation”.

    There were no changes that rise to the level of “significant”.

    We are talking about talking points – meh. I promise you, no normal person cares about talking points.

    ” placed the White House in a very difficult political position” – rank hyperbole.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 40 Thumb down 8

  3. PogueMahone says:

    Like the commenters above have related… there’s just no there there.

    Unless something a lot more damaging is revealed, this will remain nothing but right-wing political porn.

    Mr. Mataconis should re-title his piece to “Obama’s Republican Problem Won’t Be Going Away Anytime Soon.”

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  4. JWH says:

    I’m still not convinced this is going to be much of a scandal between the Washington cocktail set and the right-wing talk-radio set. So far, the main allegation is not that the White House destroyed evidence or something similarly heinous, but that it edited talking points. Is that really going to resonate with a wider audience?

    I find myself … unimpressed with it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4

  5. Me Me Me says:

    @JWH:

    the main allegation is not that the White House destroyed evidence or something similarly heinous, but that it edited talking points.

    Precisely. What is Rand Paul going to run on: a solemn pledge to never edit talking points?

    BTW, he’s campaigning in Iowa this week, saying stupid shit like “where were the Marines” and making fun of Hillary’s age.

    Dick.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 5

  6. Here’s my main problem with the hypothesis that this represents a major problem: everything we know now about the events in question we knew back in early October. There have been no new revelations (and the talking points edits simply do not qualify as a “revelation”).

    I am just not seeing the big issue here.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 4

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    @JWH:

    So far, the main allegation is not that the White House destroyed evidence or something similarly heinous, but that it edited talking points.

    A real American puts out the first draft, proofreading, polishing and editing be damned.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

  8. rudderpedals says:

    Where’s the beef?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  9. Dazedandconfused says:

    It’s Hillary’s problem, and I suspect Doug is probably going to be proved correct. Half-life approximately equal to Obama’s birth certificate problem, I reckon.

    In politics, perception IS reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  10. This story isn’t going to lead to Barack Obama’s impeachment, that’s just silly, but it is going to stay in the news cycle for a significant period of time now, and that’s going to put the Administration on the defensive for the foreseeable future.

    Yeah…..I think the Administration has nothing to worry about here. No impeachment. A few gnats buzzing about.

    In the end, I think the ultimate result of this is Hillary Clinton bowing out of considering in 2016. She’s ambitious, sure, but –earned or unearned– this will plague her every move, so is she that ambitious?

    The GOP knows they can’t beat her. So they’re setting conditions where they don’t even have to fight her. Sun Tzu would be proud.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  11. Tony W says:

    Republicans are officially out of ideas for governing….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 4

  12. Tillman says:

    Hold on, wait a sec. The editing of the talking points was cleared by multiple agencies, who all had their own take on what best summarized each agency’s role in the “Benghazi incident.” This is something that has been done since the dawn of time, with little complaint.

    So, what we have here is an example of a party politicizing a normal process in Washington for gain.

    Excuse me, Mr. Mataconis, but haven’t you written multiple posts about how more and more of our culture, including what is at worst here an example of competing bureaucracies covering their respective asses, is being politicized, and how this is a bad thing in general?

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  13. steve s says:

    Oh. My. God. Talking points were edited. Clearly this is 4 or 5 hundred times worse than watergate or Iran Contra.

    The GOP will use this, or some other meaningless bullshit, to impeach Obama.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 4

  14. Jeremy R says:

    This story isn’t going to lead to Barack Obama’s impeachment, that’s just silly, but it is going to stay in the news cycle for a significant period of time now, and that’s going to put the Administration on the defensive for the foreseeable future.

    This isn’t a change though. Benghazi-conspiracy-mongering had already so saturated the right-wing media & political landscape that it was guaranteed to be around for years. Also House republicans like Issa & Chaffetz have mastered manipulating the media, so just like they did with “Fast & Furious,” you use your oversight powers to get massive troves of documents which you then unleash your hundreds of researchers on to quote-mine for anything that can be spun as salacious. You then don’t release it all immediately, but you trickle out excerpts, over many months, to favored reporters in the media, who will print the cherry-picked excerpts and mostly go along with your spin (“this raises questions”-blah-blah) in order to preserve access (Sheryl Atkinson at CBS is a favorite of Issa’s for this). If your product is too ridiculous and is a bridge too far for more respectable outlets you then leak to Fox, or the Weekly Standard, or for the most off-the-wall BS, to Breitbart or WND.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  15. Dave Schuler says:

    Nothing material has changed but what appears to be happening is that some of the Administration’s media friends are going wobbly. When you start getting bad press at The New Yorker, MSNBC, and CBS, there’s some cause for worry.

    IMO the most likely outcome is more comments wondering about the president’s leadership. If it stops there, still not much to worry about. It’s typical second term stuff.

    The real question is how much Hillary Clinton is hurt by the continued perseveration on Benghazi. If the White House decides to throw her under the bus, we might be looking at an Andrew Cuomo run for the presidency.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  16. JWH says:

    I don’t think this will hurt Hillary appreciably in 2016. Unless there’s something more to Benghazi, it’s only going to influence the far right — folks who aren’t likely to vote for her anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  17. Andy says:

    Yes, it’s clear the GoP sees this as a two-fer, damage the present administration and damage the presumptive nominee for 2016. Politically, this was an “own goal” by the State Department – they thought that editing the talking points would protect them from criticism. Sure didn’t turn out that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. David M says:

    @Andy:

    Politically, this was an “own goal” by the State Department – they thought that editing the talking points would protect them from criticism.Sure didn’t turn out that way.

    It’s basically the CIA vs the State Department here, and given the fact it was primarily a CIA operation, why are we taking the CIA criticism of the State Dept seriously?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  19. Andy says:

    @David M: If it was “primarily a CIA operation” they why was an ambassador and 3 other State employees killed and no one (that we know of) from the CIA? And what “operation” are you talking about?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  20. wr says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): “She’s ambitious, sure, but –earned or unearned– this will plague her every move, so is she that ambitious?”

    You really think she’s not prepared for this? When Clinton was in the White House they called her a rabid lesbian murderer and her husband a serial killer and cocaine kingpin. Oh, and then they impeached him for consensual sex.

    I’d guess that unless she’s simply exhausted, this would actually move her towards running — just to tell these scumbags to shove their lying smears up their asses.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  21. wr says:

    @Tillman: “Excuse me, Mr. Mataconis, but haven’t you written multiple posts about how more and more of our culture, including what is at worst here an example of competing bureaucracies covering their respective asses, is being politicized, and how this is a bad thing in general? ”

    Yes, but that’s when Democrats do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  22. wr says:

    @Jeremy R: “House republicans like Issa & Chaffetz have mastered manipulating the media,”

    In much the same way a high-priced call girl can manipulate her john.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  23. Davebo says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Come on Steve. It’s just Doug being Doug.

    Surely you knew going in that Doug was like this?

    I don’t expect Jim to admit the obvious fact here but I’d hoped you would.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  24. al-Ameda says:

    Can’t we just skip the hearing’s kabuki and go straight to the drafting of articles of impeachment?

    Republicans probably see 3 really great scenarios here: (1) it’s great for Republican turnout in the 2014 mid term elections, (2) it damages Hillary’s 2016 presidential hopes, and (3) at a minimum they can act like it provides enough cover for possible impeachment of Obama.

    Republicans are to America what the Kardashians are to quality television programming.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  25. Latino_in_Boston says:

    You know, if the GOP spent half the time obsessing on the job crisis that they do on these bullshit scandals, the rate would be at 6% or below.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  26. anjin-san says:

    the Benghazi story has quickly turned into a perfect political storm for Republicans:

    Yea, Jenos and Doug agree on something.

    Beware Doug, of water seeking it’s own level. You are judged by the company you keep.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  27. Andre Kenji says:

    There are good questions to be asked about Benghazi, including questions about the security of diplomatic facilities all over the world(In 2011, a security guard was injured by a molotov cocktail during a demonstration in the US Consulate in Rio de Janeiro – Are there security vulnerabilities in embassies and consulates in other areas?) and about the fact that the people that killed Ambassador Stevens are still at large.

    Unfortunately, no Republican is asking these questions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  28. anjin-san says:

    Unfortunately, no Republican is asking these questions.

    Who cares? THEY CHANGED THE TALKING POINTS – clearly a crime against humanity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  29. David M says:

    @Andy:

    If it was “primarily a CIA operation” they why was an ambassador and 3 other State employees killed and no one (that we know of) from the CIA? And what “operation” are you talking about?

    The 3 other deaths were not all State Dept employees, at least 2 worked for the CIA. It’s been well documented for a long time that most people at the Benghazi location worked for the CIA, not State.

    It’s like everyone is thinking that the State Dept is the only ones covering their ass here, and the CIA reports are gospel.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  30. Spartacus says:

    Chris Cillizza wrote:

    Whether Benghazi has staying power as an issue all the way until average voters start paying attention to the presidential race sometime in 2015 (or early 2016) is anyone’s guess.

    So someone who is paid to make insightful comments about politics has no idea whether a story about talking points that were written 4 years earlier will have an impact on a presidential race 3 whole years from now?

    There’s not a single sentient person alive who reasonably believes this. The fact that this story can illicit this kind of lunacy proves how trivial this issue really is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  31. Rick Almeida says:

    If this scandal keeps up, President Obama will have a very difficult time being re-elected in 2016.

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  32. Gustopher says:

    Given that the Republicans are pushing the most outlandish crap about Benghazi that they can think of, I have a hard time believing that anything the Obama administration actually did could get through the noise.

    This “revelation” makes no difference. Even if it was important, it would make no difference.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  33. Tran says:

    What I don’t understand is how this can be bigger/worse than Watergate. Even if you believe the most negative interpretation while still being realistic, Benghazi was something that could have been prevented, the reaction to the events as they unfolded was wrong leading to 4 dead Americans, and the Administration tried to cover it up for about a week or so.

    How does this even compare to Watergate, which was a direct attack on American democracy? I just don’t get it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  34. Davebo says:

    Doug’s obsession with Benghazi is approaching critical mass and is not going away anytime soon.

    He’ll flog that horse till it’s dead and then flog it some more.

    Sure it’s silly, but it’s sort of fun to watch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  35. Lefty says:

    Obama has a “Benghazi Problem just because Lindsay Graham has the vapors??

    There is pattern, though of Republicans manufacturing scandals for Democrats, investigating the heck out of them at the exclusion of EVERYTHING we sent them to Washington to do….
    Causing the people to become sick to death of it….
    THEN engaging in REAL scandals when THEY come to power….
    When Democrats replace them, they feel that the public has no stomach for more investigations…..
    So that Republican can start manufacturing new scandals for Democrats, investigating the heck out of them…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  36. Andy says:

    @David M:

    Actually, the “operation” was part of a larger mission that included all of Libya, not just Benghazi. It was lead by the State Department with support from other agencies including the CIA. It is the biggest non-proliferation effort in US history intended to round up and account for shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and other conventional weapons of special interest – many of which went missing during the conflict.

    For more information, you can read this early 2012 briefing by Mr Andrew Shapiro, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.

    It’s like everyone is thinking that the State Dept is the only ones covering their ass here, and the CIA reports are gospel.

    Of course everyone is CYA, but it wasn’t’ the CIA that wanted the talking points watered down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. george says:

    @JWH:

    So far, the main allegation is not that the White House destroyed evidence or something similarly heinous, but that it edited talking points. Is that really going to resonate with a wider audience?

    That’s kind of where I sit too. Sounds like there are internal problems between departments, but that seems to be the normal state for decades.

    Guess the story is still developing, but at this point it seems to be pretty much normal (for any administration) screw-ups.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. jazzman says:

    The comments section of this site has turned into a liberal circle jerk. It used to be interesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

  39. @jazzman:

    The comments section of this site has turned into a liberal circle jerk. It used to be interesting.

    I take that to mean “they used to agree more with me.”

    There is a simple way to make them more interesting: say something interesting rather than being vapidly derogatory.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 3

  40. Davebo says:

    vapidly derogatory

    Oh yeah, I’m definitely stealing that one!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  41. steve says:

    @Andy- “Of course everyone is CYA, but it wasn’t’ the CIA that wanted the talking points watered down.”

    They wrote the first draft, pinning the blame on State. Of course State wanted it watered down. Suppose State wrote the first draft. Think CIA would want it changed?

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. Mike says:

    It won’t make any difference. As soon as the next America’s Got Splashing, Dancing, Talented Runway, Drag Chef Idol comes along, the public will forget.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  43. al-Ameda says:

    @jazzman:

    The comments section of this site has turned into a liberal circle jerk. It used to be interesting.

    I know, right? It’s tough when increasingly fewer and fewer people find the Republican view to be intelligent or thoughtful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  44. john personna says:

    The funny thing is that in this discussion we have no interest in the current Libyan situation. Doug’s thread on current Libya got no comments either.

    That kind of highlights that the “memers” are lost on this one. Lost in a past and a crazy narrative.

    This is Sunday though, with lots of news shows. I expect someone smart will try to get the GOP on page consistent with LIbya past and LIbya present.

    Can they?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  45. elizajane says:

    Actually, I think that Benghazi is going away almost immediately, and that the IRS-Tea Party story will take its place in the right-wing media. I consider this a huge improvement because in the IRS case, there actually was wrong-doing. Outrage is not entirely misplaced. People should be, and will be, fired over it, and all the blogs can point to a vast left-wing conspiracy to silence the right. Were this to turn out to be not the work of one rogue IRS employee but a more systematic endeavor, they would even be correct.
    Benghazi on the other hand is just a yawner to 98% of Americans. The average moderate is listening to all the fuss and thinking “You mean this is the WORST thing that the Obama administration has done? Wow, they are some competent bunch!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  46. Me Me Me says:

    @elizajane:

    there actually was wrong-doing

    State the wrong-doing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  47. Scott O says:

    @jazzman: Yeah, I miss the good old days too. Remember how Drew would talk about blow jobs and Jan would give us the latest conspiracy theories? At least we still have G A.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  48. Andy says:

    @steve: I’m not sure where you are getting that the first draft blamed State. The first draft is, in hindsight, fairly accurate, especially compared to the watered-down version.

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  49. Andy says:

    @john personna:

    I’ve noticed that topics which don’t play to partisan or ideological differences don’t get much interest from commenters here.

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  50. john personna says:

    @Andy:

    Riiiiight, but in the context of Libya, why would something dead (and boring*) have “ideological differences” while something live and potentially life-and-death not?

    That’s kind of the key, in my opinion. The administration is making changes in Libya to protect personnel, this week, and that is boring. “Statements” and “positions” months ago are … the stuff dreams are made of.

    (* – I understand that people say things are boring all the time, and sometimes they only say that in attempt to kill a non-boring issue …. but I’ll prove my boredom by making no comment, and not really caring about the “statements” and “positions.” Pfft. They are nothing to me.)

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  51. G.A.Phillips says:

    At least we still have G A.

    I only stop by once in a while to research how the liberals number one human drive is rationalization.

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  52. Anon says:

    Is this any different than Whitewater (which despite accidentally stumbling across Monica Lewisnki as part of its fishing expedition, never found any wrongdoing relating to the original stated purpose of the investigation) or from those claiming the Clintons murdered VInce Foster?

    Say what you will about those of us who hated George W. Bush, but at least we accused him of things he actually did.

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  53. Andy says:

    @john personna: It’s only “dead and boring” for some people. For others, it obviously carries a lot of interest.

    As far as changes to protect personnel, I know there is a lot better coordination between State and DoD over mission security globally because I know some of the people involved on the DoD side. The administration hasn’t put any effort into advertising the fact that it’s made changes. Why do you think that is?

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  54. john personna says:

    @Andy:

    Good lord, what a talking point. It could even work. “Obama is trying to save these people, which PROVES he didn’t care before!”

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  55. @john personna: @Andy: While I think that ideology/red meat play into it, the main thing that both the posts and comments have in common: it is stuff that sparks the desire to have an outlet for some topic that is already on people’s mind.

    Benghazi (like gun control) is that type of issue: one which people likely have strong feelings and, more importantly, that they find the opposition to be at best wrong and at worst nuts. This is a confluence of circumstances that will generate comments.

    In other words: there is a latent pool of opinion on these types of topic that flows easily into blog post and comment sections.

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  56. Caj says:

    Of course it won’t go away because iditoic Republicans keep flogging a dead horse not realizing the horse is dead!!! This is the one thing they’ve prayed for since President Obama took office. I doubt they care much about the lives lost in Benghazi as callous as that sounds. Didn’t bother them that much with all the military and civilian lives that were lost over the trumped up war in Iraq! If memory serves me well it was rather more than four!!! Can’t recall Mr Investigation Issa call for a huge investigation over that! No, this is all about that ‘gotcha’ moment as they see it! Just a sorry, pathetic party that will never accept that Obama kicked their butts not once, but twice in an election.

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  57. anjin-san says:

    The administration hasn’t put any effort into advertising the fact that it’s made changes.

    You mean – gasp! – they are doing failure analysis and trying to fix problems?

    Bastards.

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  58. al-Ameda says:

    This whole Benghazi deal just shows goes to show what happens when you (Republicans) who have dedicated the past 5 years to carpet bombing all things Obama, tell us that this time ‘we’re not kidding, it’s serious.’

    Well, just how seriously can you (Republicans) expect to be taken when the ambient Republican noise to the Benghazi Hearings is: “Reverend Wright,” “Bill Ayres,” “we still don’t know about that birth certificate,” “what about his college transcripts,” “let’s move to repeal ACA for the 33rd time,” “he wants to confiscate our guns,” “let’s obstruct all nominees to his cabinet,” and much much more.

    Yes, what happened at Benghazi was serious. It’s unfortunate that Republicans are not serious about an honest inquiry.

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  59. ElizaJane says:

    @Me Me Me:

    The IRS (or one person in Ohio employed by them) was wrong to investigate only right-wing organizations claiming tax-exempt status. They should have investigated left wing ones as well. The investigating was correct, in other words, but the targeting of a particular group was definitely wrong.

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  60. al-Ameda says:

    @G.A.Phillips:

    I only stop by once in a while to research how the liberals number one human drive is rationalization.

    Actually, for liberals an important drive is to combat Republican irrationalization.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  61. Me Me Me says:

    @ElizaJane:

    The IRS (or one person in Ohio employed by them) was wrong to investigate only right-wing organizations claiming tax-exempt status. They should have investigated left wing ones as well. The investigating was correct, in other words, but the targeting of a particular group was definitely wrong.

    OK, so originally you said:

    the IRS-Tea Party story will take its place in the right-wing media. I consider this a huge improvement because in the IRS case, there actually was wrong-doing. Outrage is not entirely misplaced.

    key words: actual. wrong-doing. outrage.

    Now you say: one person in Ohio investigated right-wing organizations without also investigating left wing organizations.

    So what I’m missing is: the actual wrong-doing that justifies outrage.

    As a reminder:
    * there was an explosion of tea-party groups pretending they were a-political. That is what the one person in Ohio was looking into. If you can claim there was a similar explosion of left-wing organizations committing the same fraud, tell us about them.
    *as soon as higher-ups found out about the targeting, they shut it down.

    So again: where is the actual wrong-doing that justifies outrage.

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  62. wr says:

    @Andy: “The administration hasn’t put any effort into advertising the fact that it’s made changes. Why do you think that is? ”

    Um, because Obama thinks protecting people is more important than running around bragging that he’s protecting people?

    Truly, this is history’s greatest monster.

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  63. ElizaJane says:

    @Me Me Me:

    You are nit-picking. I said that the outrage was not ENTIRELY misplaced. And I further said that there was wrong-doing by ONE person and (in my original post, not quoted here by you) that only if this were to be a “tip of the iceberg” kind of situation would the cries of “vast left-wing conspiracy” be justified. I continue to think that there is at least some “there, there” in the IRS case whereas basically everything about the Benghazi “scandal” is manufactured by the outrage machine.

    Unless you find no problem in targeting the political groups on only one side of the spectrum for investigation by the government? Because I think that is clearly wrong.

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  64. Tyrell says:

    Obama has a lot of foreign problems to worry about for the next four yesrs: Syria, Iran, North Korea. This will continously take his time and energy away from issues here at home. Hopefully the Russians won’t start acting up like they did from the 40′s – 70′s, running trying to take everything over. (Hungary, Poland, Czech, East Germany, East Berlin, Cuba) They can’t be trusted.

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  65. @Davebo: :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  66. Me Me Me says:

    @ElizaJane:

    Unless you find no problem in targeting the political groups on only one side of the spectrum for investigation by the government? Because I think that is clearly wrong.

    I repeat: there was an explosion of tea party groups fraudulently claiming to be apolitical. Is that difficult to understand?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  67. Surreal American says:

    @Tyrell:

    Would this be the same Russia that had engaged in a considerable military effort to hold on to Chechnya?

    Note to self: Do not ask Tyrell or any other wingnut for foreign policy advice.

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  68. Andy says:

    @john personna: Yeah, that’s why I think the administration isn’t talking about it. They spun the initial reporting and they keep hoping the story goes away. Hasn’t worked out to well.

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  69. bill says:

    @john personna: well, we don’t get much oil outta them and aside from helping them out so they could turn on us there’s nothing about libya that we really should care about- it’s europes problem as far as i care.

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  70. jukeboxgrad says:

    andy:

    I’m not sure where you are getting that the first draft blamed State.

    Link:

    Foggy Bottom’s spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, a former Cheney aide, quashed a we-told-you-so paragraph written by the C.I.A. that said the spy agency had “produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to Al Qaeda in Benghazi and eastern Libya,” and had warned about five other attacks “against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British ambassador’s convoy.”

    I’m pretty sure this is the first time in recorded history that government agencies argued with each other about who should get blamed for something.

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  71. john personna says:

    @bill:

    It has been my view from the beginning that we supported the rebels because our allies, who had supported us in OUR recent foreign adventures, asked us. That is not a terrible reason.

    On the other hand “Libya should fail because Obama” is pretty horrible logic.

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  72. bill says:

    the most ominous part;

    Early in the afternoon, it summoned reporters for a briefing by legal and political advisers who, under the ground rules, could not be identified.

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  73. Andy says:

    @jukeboxgrad: The talking points did not contain any “we told you so” paragraph, which is what we are discussing. I was responded to steve who said, “They wrote the first draft, pinning the blame on State. Of course State wanted it watered down.” The first draft, IMO, did not blame anything on State.

    @john personna:

    It has been my view from the beginning that we supported the rebels because our allies, who had supported us in OUR recent foreign adventures, asked us. That is not a terrible reason.

    I wasn’t a supporter of the war in Libya, but I agree with you that supporting our allies is a good thing.

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  74. jukeboxgrad says:

    The first draft, IMO, did not blame anything on State.

    The most relevant text (with regard to this matter of CIA blaming State) wasn’t exactly in the first draft. It was in the third draft. In that version, CIA added this (link):

    On 10 September we warned of social media reports calling for a demonstration in front of the Embassy and that jihadists were threatening to break into the Embassy. …The Agency has produced numerous pieces on the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya. These noted that, since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests …

    (A portion of that last sentence also appeared in the first version.) English translation: ‘we gave them plenty of warnings, so blame State, not us.’

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  75. G.A.Phillips says:

    Actually, for liberals an important drive is to combat Republican irrationalization.

    lol, Benghazi, Obama and company fabricated a a story about a video and a gathering of protesters because of it. Then lied to the American people for months about it being why they let us get hit on 9/11.I know it was because of an election, and it maybe because of them arming our enemy and you act like it is no big deal.

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  76. G.A.Phillips says:

    A long-simmering dispute over the White House’s account of the deadly assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi

    lol,Dudes they LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    L I E D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  77. kenezen says:

    @wr:

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  78. kenezen says:

    Like the vast majority of Press, Congressional hearings and White House, The main point of Benghazi remains cloaked very conveniently in obscurity! We discuss past event and fail to pursue current events!

    We have 30 Benghazi survivors who were for a time contained by the terrorists! How are they? Were they tortured or abused? Where are they? Why aren’t they allowed to speak? For seven months we’ve had heroes sequestered away? Where are their civil rights? Why are they not allowed to have to have freedom to be free. To speak! Is this the Soviet Union or America? Would a republican President be able to keep 30 citizens who went through hell locked UP?

    The Press would be going crazy! This is sad! I’m ashamed of both parties for being so focused on what’s done and not even trying to find out about the health, welfare and freedom for our citizens.

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