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“Waiting For The Media’s Benghazi Mea Culpa”: The Press Sponsored The GOP Charade For Years

Talk about a wild pendulum swing.

After relentlessly attacking and mocking presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for much of 2015, often depicting her as a hapless and phony pol, the Beltway press wrecking ball dramatically reversed direction last week when pundits and reporters announced the Democratic frontrunner had performed valiantly in front the Benghazi Select Committee.

I’ve been watching Clinton press coverage, on and off, for close to two decades, and I honestly cannot remember a time when the Beltway press corps — so often suspicious and openly critical of Hillary Clinton — was so united in its praise for her and so contemptuous of her partisan pursuers:

Benghazi Has Become A Political Trap From Which Republicans Cannot Escape [Vox]

The Benghazi Hearings Sham [Slate]

The Benghazi Hearing Farce [Time]

Hillary Had A Lovely Benghazi Day [Daily Beast]

Benghazi Bust [Washington Examiner]

The GOP’s Unfortunate Benghazi Hearing [Washington Post]

Benghazi Committee Gives Hillary Clinton Presidential Platform [ABC News]

Trey Gowdy Just Elected Hillary Clinton President [Rolling Stone]

On and on and on it went, as the rave reviews for Clinton poured in and the Republican catcalls mounted. (Committee chairman Trey Gowdy must be seeing those headlines in his sleep by now.)

I’m in heated agreement with virtually all of the analysis that found fault with the Benghazi witch hunt. (“What, exactly, is the point of this committee?”) Indeed, much of the biting commentary echoes Benghazi points Media Matters has been making for three years. But my question now is this: What took the press so long, and when will the press pause and reflect on the central role it played in producing the GOP witch hunt?

I don’t want to punish good behavior by criticizing the press for now accurately portraying the Benghazi pursuit as a fraud. (That’s why I recently urged the media to break up with the Benghazi committee.) But it might be nice amidst the avalanche of Benghazi Is Bogus pronouncements if folks in the press took time to admit the media’s part in the unfortunate charade.

To hear many pundits and observers describe the Benghazi collapse, Republicans — and Republicans only — are to blame, and they’re the ones who overplayed the pseudoscandal and tried to hype it as a blockbuster.

Much of the press is presenting a view from above: Here’s what Republicans did and here’s why it failed. Missing from the analysis is, ‘Here’s how the press helped facilitate the Republican failure for many, many years.’ The media want to pretend they haven’t been players in this drama.

Sorry, that’s not quite right. For years, Republicans often found willing partners in the Beltway press who were also eager and willing to overplay Benghazi and play it as a blockbuster scandal. The press cannot, and should not, simply whitewash the very important role it played, even though that muddles the media’s preferred storyline of How Republicans Botched Benghazi.

I realize that immediately examining the media’s role in this story might not be a priority for editors and producers. But I also realize what’s likely to happen is this window of opportunity for self-reflection will soon close and the press will once again fail to hold itself accountable for its often reckless behavior in marketing a bogus Republican-fueled “scandal.”

Here’s a concrete example: Lara Logan and her completely flawed Benghazi report that aired on 60 Minutes in 2013. Preparing the unsound report, Logan reportedly met behind the scenes with one of the GOP’s most vociferous Benghazi crusaders, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) According to a report in New York magazine, Graham helped shape the CBS Benghazi story. When the 60 Minutes segment aired, he immediately cheered it on, calling it a “death blow” to the White House and announced he’d block every White House appointee until he got more answers about Benghazi.

Then when huge holes began to appear in the story, as one of Logan sources was revealed as a fraud, “Logan called Graham and asked for help,” New York reported. (Note to reporters: When your sources have to make stuff up about Benghazi, it’s a pretty good indication the ‘scandal’ is lacking.)

It’s true that Logan’s example was an extreme one. But the press is kidding itself if it’s going to pretend Republicans didn’t recruit lots and lots of journalists to help tell the GOP’s preferred Benghazi ‘scandal’ story over the last three years.

Thankfully, some prominent journalists have recently shone a spotlighting on the press’ Benghazi failings. “The real losers here are the reporters and centrist pundits who let themselves be played, month after month, by Trey Gowdy and company,” wrote The New York Times’Paul Krugman.

Today, there’s broad media consensus that the Benghazi Select Committee is wasteful and unnecessary. But that was utterly predictable last year when the eighth investigation was formed. At the time, many in the press brushed aside Democratic objections. (Try to imagine the media response if Democrats had demanded eight separate 9/11 commissions under President George W. Bush.)

Why the nonchalance? Because the press, I’m guessing, liked the idea of a standing Congressional committee to chase Clinton, to possibly wreak havoc on her campaign, and to leak gotcha stories to eager reporters.

By raising so few doubts about the absurdity of creating yet another Benghazi inquisition last year, the press helped fuel the charade that unfolded last week. It’s time to own up to the unpleasant truth.

 

By: Eric Boelert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America, October 26, 2015

October 28, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Journalism | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Tonic For Progressive Economics”: Why Trudeau Matters More Than Gowdy

Which major event last week should have an important impact on the 2016 presidential election?

No, it’s not Hillary Clinton’s nine hours of testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. She walked away with a smile, and for good reason.

Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), succeeded brilliantly in confirming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) burst of honesty: that the whole exercise always had bringing down Clinton’s poll numbers as one of its central purposes. Only right-wingers already convinced of her perfidy thought otherwise. She emerged stronger than she started by staying calm, cool and confident in the face of repeated provocations.

The consequential event occurred three days earlier. The Liberal Party landslide and the triumph of Justin Trudeau in Canada’s election last Monday was a tonic for progressive economics and a cautionary tale for parties on the center-left lacking the courage of their convictions. Trudeau proved that voters understand the difference between profligacy and necessary public investment.

The outcome also carried a warning for conservative politicians in diverse societies who court a backlash against religious and ethnic minorities. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper played this card (around the issue of whether Muslim women could wear the niqab veil at their swearing-in as citizens), and it backfired badly.

Trudeau is the rare politician who came right out and promised to run deficits. They will be relatively modest — about 10 billion Canadian dollars (about $7.6 billion) annually over three years — with the goal of rebuilding Canada’s infrastructure. The Liberals popularized the term “infrastructure deficit,” and voters — particularly in rapidly growing urban areas — agreed that a time of low interest rates was exactly the moment to invest in the future. The hefty swing the Liberals’ way in Canada’s metropolitan areas helped power their sweep.

Already, conservatives in the United States are making the case that Trudeau will regret abandoning the fiscally cautious policies of the earlier Liberal governments headed by Jean Chrétien and then by Paul Martin. The Chretien-Martin Liberals were a middle-of-the-road lot who dominated Canadian politics from 1993 until 2006. Their budgetary prudence gave Canada nine straight surpluses.

But there’s a problem with this argument: None other than the fiscally responsible Martin himself endorsed the emphasis on investment. “You should be investing to pay for the kinds of things that are going to give your children a better life,” Martin said in defense of Trudeau. “And that’s what infrastructure is, what education is, it’s what research and development is.”

After the election, I spoke with Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal who won overwhelmingly in her Toronto district (and with whom I recently served on a think tank project on economic policy). She made the essential point: “It’s really important that people not approach economic policy as ideology or with quasi-religious convictions,” Freeland said. “Economic policy is about the facts and the circumstances.” A weakening Canadian economy strengthened the case for Trudeau’s approach.

In breaking the ideology of austerity, the Liberals, a traditionally centrist party, boxed in their main competitors for the anti-Harper vote. The New Democrats, known as the NDP, are usually to the Liberals’ left. But like the British Labour Party and social democratic parties elsewhere, the NDP under its leader, Tom Mulcair, felt that abandoning fiscal prudence would make the party look irresponsible to swing voters.

It was the wrong call, and Trudeau, who started the 11-week campaign running third, behind Harper and Mulcair, turned himself into the candidate of “real change,” which the Liberals embraced as their slogan. For good measure, Trudeau was unabashed in offering other proposals to push against growing inequality: a tax plan that would pay for a middle-class tax cut by raising taxes on those earning more than 200,000 Canadian dollars (about $152,000) a year, and a substantial increase in the child benefit for the poorest Canadians.

Paul Wells, one of Canada’s premier political journalists, observed in his post-election wrap-up in Maclean’s magazine that Trudeau “had to go big, or the Canadian voter would send him home.” By going big, Trudeau’s new home will soon be 24 Sussex Drive, the Canadian White House, where he lived when his dad, Pierre, was prime minister.

It’s true that the political and fiscal situations of Canada and the United States are different. But progressive politicians in the United States and elsewhere would do well to learn that if they let orthodoxies paralyze them, they will have little to say to voters who, as Trudeau declared on election night, are tired of the twin ideas that they “should be satisfied with less” and that “better just isn’t possible.”

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 25, 2015

October 26, 2015 Posted by | Austerity, Canada, Justin Trudeau | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“But Everybody Swears He’s Running”: Biden 2016; A Bad Idea Gets Worse

Gossip started flying over the weekend that Joe Biden is about to say something. On Monday, CNBC tweeted: “Joe Biden to announce whether he is running for president in 2016 or not in the next 48 hours, sources tell @NBCNews.”

So there we are. The big moment is nigh. Generally speaking, insiders think he’s getting in. The folks in Clintonland certainly seem to think he’s getting in.

I don’t, however, know a single person I’m aware of who wants Biden to get in. And I’ve been asking. Journalists, activist types, policy wonks, political operatives—among them, the consensus is that he let all this dangle a little too long and that he doesn’t really bring anything to the table that isn’t already on offer from the existing candidates.

A Biden candidacy was always a bad idea, in part for reasons I wrote about back in early August: no real rationale, no major policy differences with Hillary Clinton, he’ll just end up attacking her trustworthiness if he wants to get anywhere.

In the 10 weeks that have passed since I wrote that column, it’s only become a worse idea. First of all, Biden’s polling performance isn’t so hot. He’s third, behind Clinton and Sanders. He’s been pretty steady for the last two months, at 15 to 20 percent. So it’s not as if he’s lost ground, but the general assumption in politics is that once a person announces, he slips a bit in the polls because he goes from being a neat hypothetical idea to someone whose warts the electorate actually begins to contemplate (and whom the press begins to scrutinize). He’s also third in Iowa, and a pretty distant third in New Hampshire. Oh, and third in South Carolina, too,  25 or 30 points behind Clinton. Polls can change of course, they often do. But there’s no obvious reason to think they’re going to change much here, for such a known quantity as Joe.

The second reason it’s become a worse idea is that Clinton seems to have stabilized. She topped everybody’s expectations in the debate. She showed life, zest for battle. (She’s a high-energy person!) She regained the lead over Sanders in New Hampshire—well, according to one poll anyway. And the Benghazi committee—oh Lord, what a pathetic clattering of jackdaws (yes, it’s a thing). Did you notice what a really, really, really bad weekend those people had? Andrea Mitchell schooled GOP committee member Mike Pompeo on Meet the Press. And the CIA shot down Trey Gowdy’s latest allegations about Clinton supposedly pushing out classified material.

But it’s even worse than that: As Mike Isikoff reported at Yahoo! News, Gowdy inadvertently revealed the identity of a “human intelligence” source in Libya whose name he (wrongly) accused Clinton of putting out there. An auto-goal of slapstick proportions. That committee should disband itself out of embarrassment.

But it won’t, and Clinton has to testify there Thursday. Maybe they’ll cross her up somehow, maybe Gowdy is sitting on some Clinton email where she wrote “Osama bin Laden had a point” or something, and it’ll all come crashing down on her. But, you know, probably not. She’ll probably do fine, and if she does, this cloud will also start to lift.

And finally, well, it still seems to me like a bad idea because he’s grieving, and that will need a lot of time. I shouldn’t presume to tell another (a parent, no less) how to process his grief, but man, it seems impossible that he’s operating at 100 percent, and to run for president, whatever else you are, you pretty much need to be that.

But everybody swears he’s running.

It’s hard to imagine why. Yeah, yeah, because Clinton might implode in scandal, and then he’s positioned to be The One the Party Turns To. But isn’t he already that? Yes. I mean, Bernie — you know as well as I do, the party is not going to turn to him in such an event. The immediate response of the party bigwigs in the event of a Clinton collapse would be “Dear God, we have to find someone who can beat Sanders,” and that person would be Biden. Some folks would want Elizabeth Warren (there remains no indication she has the remotest interest in being president). You’d hear a few John Kerrys. Maybe from Oakland would emanate a Draft Jerry Brown movement. But basically Biden is the guy—now, today. There’s that old concept in royal familydom of “the heir and the spare.” Biden is the spare. Already acknowledged. Doesn’t need to get in.

So why would he? Sure, his son’s dying wish, and his belief (which he must harbor) that he would actually be a better president than Clinton or any of the rest of them. But does he really see a path to victory—that is to say, to beating a non-imploding Clinton? That just doesn’t seem possible. What seems more possible instead is that a Biden-Clinton contest ignites a gender war inside the Democratic Party.

No, the smart play is for Biden to give a big speech saying how painful all this has been for him, how he respects all the candidates but Hillary Clinton in particular has been a great friend and is an amazing lady, and he’s going to sit it out. And if he does that right, he locks down his status as the spare even more. He goes out a hero. He has everyone’s gratitude and esteem.

But everybody swears he’s running.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 19, 2015

October 21, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Punish Their Own For Speaking The Truth”: Sometimes, The Biggest Sin You Can Commit In D.C. Is To Tell The Truth

“A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth — some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” — journalist Michael Kinsley

So another Republican congressman has come forward to admit that his party’s Benghazi obsession is little more than an undisguised effort to damage the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner.

In a radio interview on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) defended his colleague, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who had acknowledged that obvious truth as well.

“Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth. This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual: Hillary Clinton,” said Hanna.

Well, of course. Anyone who has been paying the slightest attention already knows that the unending series of Benghazi “investigations” began as a way to embarrass the administration of President Barack Obama, including his then-secretary of state. When Clinton announced her presidential campaign, the investigations began to center on her (and are now more focused on her use of a private email server).

If you only dimly recall the origin of the GOP battle cry “Remember Benghazi!” it started with a tragedy. On Sept. 11, 2012, Christopher Stevens, then U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans were killed in separate assaults by Islamic jihadists on U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.

The incident deserved a thorough probe to see whether there was anything that could have been done to prevent the deaths of diplomatic personnel in the future: Was security too lax? Intelligence ignored? The area too dangerous for diplomats?

But in the days after the deaths, it became clear that leading Republicans were much more interested in scoring their own attacks on Democratic targets than investigating the “Battle of Benghazi,” as it has been called. For one thing, they focused on such superficial and unimportant details as whether Susan Rice, then the president’s national security adviser, had clearly described the assault as “terrorism” or merely extremism. It’s not at all clear what difference that makes, but that line of attack derailed any shot she had at succeeding Clinton as secretary of state.

With that, Republicans were emboldened. And they haven’t given up their efforts to sink some notable Democrat with even a tenuous link to Libya and its national security implications.

They’ve not had any luck so far. After seven congressional and two executive-branch investigations, there has been no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, malfeasance or cover-up. The last was an exhaustive probe conducted by the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee; it found no evidence that either the U.S. military or the CIA had acted improperly. There was no delay in sending a military rescue team, as many conservatives have insisted.

So there was no genuine surprise at what McCarthy told Fox News in a September interview:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping,” McCarthy told Sean Hannity.

Still, he paid dearly for the slip. Criticized by Republican leaders for dropping the gauzy veil over their nakedly partisan smear campaign, he was forced to abandon his plan to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the house.

McCarthy was supposed to keep up the pretense that the House Select Committee on Benghazi is conducting a high-minded probe free of partisan tilt. And that pretense continues. Clinton will appear before the committee later this month.

If there is any better example of the excessive and stultifying partisanship that has laid waste to Washington, it’s hard to know what that may be. After all, it can hardly be considered shocking that an American diplomat was killed in a dangerous country full of Islamic militants. Tragic, gut-wrenching, awful, yes. Shocking, no.

Still, the GOP’s listing and rudderless Benghazi ship — white whale on the horizon — sails on.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, October 17, 2015

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, House Intelligence Committee, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“One Reason To Think It May Be True”: Is #Benghazi The Real Motive Behind Jason Chaffetz’s Bid For House Speaker?

Notable among Rep. Trey Gowdy’s many egregious abuses of power as chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi was his manic grilling of witness Sidney Blumenthal about Media Matters for America – which had everything to do with politics and Hillary Clinton and nothing to do with the tragic events of September 11, 2012.

As Gowdy’s pal Jason Chaffetz mounts a rump campaign for House Speaker against inadvertent truth-blurter Kevin McCarthy, that episode behind closed doors on Capitol Hill may have fresh significance. As he acknowledged in yesterday’s Washington Post, Gowdy remains furious with McCarthy for his now-infamous boast to Sean Hannity about the political motivations behind the committee’s long, expensive, redundant “investigation” (at least the eighth probe of the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three American colleagues in Benghazi):

“I heard from him at 6 a.m. the next morning…How many times can somebody apologize? Yes, he’s apologized as many times as a human can apologize. It doesn’t change it. It doesn’t fix it…

“Kevin is a friend, which makes the disappointment, frankly, even more bitter. If faith tells you to forgive somebody…It’s tough.”

Perhaps Gowdy is unable to forgive the blabbermouth McCarthy for ruining his charade – and perhaps he and his friend Chaffetz now think McCarthy is not quite bright enough to lead the House.

In that vein, it is worth nothing that according to my sources, Gowdy asked Blumenthal dozens of specific questions about a series of Media Matters posts that embarrassed Chaffetz in 2012 — one of which called attention to the hypocrisy of the Utah Republican for attacking Clinton and President Obama on Benghazi when he had voted to cut funding for embassy security. (Politico reported this line of questioning last June, but only mentioned the chairman by name once.)

Anxious to learn who wrote those mean posts about Chaffetz, Gowdy asked Blumenthal why he had called attention to them in an email to Clinton, and much more – even though none of those protected First Amendment activities bore the slightest relevance to the supposed concerns of the committee he chairs.

So is Chaffetz now running against McCarthy to avenge the infuriated Gowdy? He has denied it emphatically, which is only another reason to think it may be true.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, October 7, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | House Select Committee on Benghazi, Jason Chaffetz, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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