Why questioning a government official’s credentials isn’t a smear campaign

If you’re in the Senate, you’ve got a great gig. Part of your job is either confirming or denying people the President appoints to his cabinet—so he doesn’t fill his cabinet with friends or incompetents.

So when Obama named a mix of both—UN Ambassador Susan Rice for Secretary of State—some heavy questioning was in order.

Here’s what she said in the wake of the premeditated Benghazi terrorist attack in Libya, where a US Ambassador and three others were killed:

ABC This Week: it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo. In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated. We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to — or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo…

CBS Face the Nation: what began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo where, of course, as you know, there was a violent protest outside of our embassy– –sparked by this hateful video. But soon after that spontaneous protest began outside of our consulate in Benghazi…

Fox News Sunday: this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video…we don’t see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack…

NBC Meet the Press: what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video…

This video was an anti-Muhammad video made by a California filmmaker long before the attack and had a small amount of views on YouTube.

But according to a State Department diplomat and now whistleblower in Libya, Gregory Hicks, a subordinate of Secretary of State Clinton:

The YouTube video was a nonevent in Libya…everybody in the mission thought it was a terrorist attack from the beginning… the ambassador was in a hospital that we believe was under [terrorist organization] Ansar Sharia’s call.

During the night, I am in touch with Washington keeping them posted of what’s happening in Tripoli and to the best of my knowledge what I am being told in Benghazi. I think at about 2 p.m. the — 2 a.m., sorry, the Secretary of State Clinton called me along with her senior staff were all on the phone, and she asked me what was going on. And, I briefed her on developments.

This shows a few things: 1) the attack was premeditated 2) a known terrorist group was carrying out the attack 3) the video had nothing to do with the attack 4) Washington was being constantly briefed.

Remember, Ambassador Rice’s testimony came days after the attack, long after the government knew what happened, and who was to blame. On the same day as Amb. Rice made her statements, and on the same show (Face the Nation), the President of Libya, Mohamed Yousef al-Magariaf, said the following:

The way these perpetrators acted, and moved … and they’re choosing the specific date for this so-called demonstration, I think we have no, this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, determined…predetermined.

Ian Millhiser refers to “several television appearances where Rice communicated the intelligence community’s as-yet imperfect understanding of what happened during the Benghazi attack”.

Clearly, they had a perfect understanding of what was going on at 2AM Libya time—one hour before our ambassador in Libya was found dead.

As a result, Sen. John McCain, who, as a senator, votes on presidential nominees, said the following about Ambassador Rice’s nomination for secretary of State: “I will do everything in my power to block her from becoming Secretary of State.” When asked if there’s “anything that Ambassador Rice can do to change your mind?” he replied:

Sure, she can give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. And I’ll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her. Why did she say that al Qaeda has been decimated in her statement here on this program? Al Qaeda hasn’t been decimated. They’re on the rise. They’re all over Iraq.

This is characterized by Millhiser as McCain’s “efforts to inject partisan politics into our nation’s security,” despite the fact that McCain said absolutely nothing partisan and that Ambassador Rice was shown to have been completely wrong about what happened in Benghazi repeatedly—despite knowing exactly what happened.

Millhiser then says the following about al-Qaeda:

If McCain isn’t sure why Rice said that al Qaeda has been decimated, he may want to ask Osama bin Laden. When he fails at that, he can then ask the National Counterterrorism Center, which found that “a 16 percent drop in successful attacks by the al Qaeda network; a 65 percent drop in successful attacks by the al Qaeda network outside Africa; and a 35 percent drop in casualties caused by al Qaeda” in just the period from May 2011 until May 2012. Twenty-two senior-level al Qaeda operatives and leaders were captured or killed in the same one year window.

Yes, we know bin Laden is dead. We also know he was effectively useless to the organization and on his last leg by the time we took him out—15 years after he became a threat and a decade after 9/11.

On the other hand, according to CNN:

[al-Qaeda] affiliates remain active, particularly in Yemen and North Africa, where the threat to Western interests and plotting against the homeland remain strong.

Romney’s claim that al Qaeda is in 10 to 12 countries is in the ballpark, and the administration would seem to agree that poses an enormous threat.

That sounds a hell of a lot more like being “on the rise” than “decimated”.

It’s clear that the Obama administration made a number of mistakes about Benghazi, and either misrepresented or flat out lied about what actually happened.

Naturally, Millhiser takes the administration to task for these complete failures…

…oh wait. He blames Mitt Romney for daring to bring them up:

Shortly after news broke about a fatal attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused President Obama of “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks.” And Romney continued to make Benghazi-related attacks a centerpiece of his campaign even after his efforts were debunked and widely condemned.

Here’s Romney’s statement on the attacks:

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

So no, Romney doesn’t accuse Obama of anything, he blames the administration’s first response.

And here was the first response, courtesy of the American Embassy in Cairo:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

The embassy blames “misguided individuals” for “hurt[ing] the religious feelings” of the terrorists.

And 12 hours later, once a violent protest began in Cairo and the terrorist attack in Benghazi was underway:

This morning’s condemnation (issued before protest began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy

Yes, this is “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks” and worrying about their “hurt…feelings”, not condemning the protests and later attacks like the Embassy should have.

It’s clear that Ambassador Rice got it totally wrong on Benghazi, and to question her ability to faithfully carry out a role as Secretary of State is to honestly take into account what she did as an Ambassador. A fellow Ambassador of hers was murdered, and she and the Obama administration told flat-out lies about why. Questioning them for doing so is not a smear job—it’s asking the right questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *