BANANA REPUBLIC BENGHAZI: Dowd!

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2012

Screeching and mashing bananas: Banana republics are often fueled by the things which don’t get said.

Last evening, Wolf Blitzer didn’t speak up when two of his guests made obvious misstatements. This morning, Scott Shane didn’t list the (frequently crazy) accusations still being made against Rice.

Yesterday, Maureen Dowd did. Dowd had spoken to Susan Collins, the deeply troubled Republican senator from Maine who is up for re-election, not that that matters a whit. According to Dowd, Collins had a list of questions which had her troubled in mind.

In this passage, Dowd described Collins’ first question:
DOWD (11/218/12): Collins drew up a list of questions to ask Rice at their one-on-one hourlong meeting slated for Wednesday. She wants Rice to explain how she could promote a story “with such certitude” about a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Muslim video that was so at odds with the classified information to which the ambassador had access. (It was also at odds with common sense, given that there were Al Qaeda sympathizers among the rebel army members that overthrew Muammar el-Qaddafi with help from the U.S.—an intervention advocated by Rice—and Islamic extremist training camps in the Benghazi area.)
Already, Dowd was making little sense. In fairness to Dowd, it's amazing to see how much confusion can be crammed into just one paragraph.

That passage is puzzling in various ways. Banana republics are like that.

Before we consider Collins’ first question, was Maureen Dowd herself making sense in that passage? According to Dowd, Rice’s story on September 16 had been “at odds with common sense,” since there were “Islamic extremist training camps in the Benghazi area.”

But Rice had used that very word—“extremists”—to describe the people who launched the attack. Meanwhile, why wouldn’t “al Qaeda sympathizers” take part in a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Muslim video?

On the day of the Benghazi attack, al Qaeda sympathizers were taking part in such demonstrations all over the Muslim world.

Alas! That single paragraph by Dowd is loaded with claims and implications which are hard to parse, make little sense and stand unsupported by evidence. But let’s try to get back to the list of questions which had Susan Collins so troubled.

Did the senator’s first question make sense? Here it is, as described by Dowd:

She wants Rice to explain how she could promote a story “with such certitude” about a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Muslim video that was so at odds with the classified information to which the ambassador had access.

Question: Was the story Rice told on September 16 “at odds with the classified information to which the ambassador had access?” Dowd made no attempt to explain what that claim means. What was the classified information which contradicted the ambassador’s story?

Dowd made no attempt to say. We were asked to buy this on faith.

At any rate: As we noted yesterday, this first question from Collins doesn’t seem to make sense. When Rice appeared on those Sunday shows, she spoke with almost no “certitude” about the Benghazi attack. Again and again, she said her assessments were preliminary—that she was waiting for the full investigation.

Dowd didn’t seem to know that. She simply accepted this hackneyed script from the troubled Collins. She bought this bullshit on faith.

Did that first question from Collins make sense? As presented by Dowd, it pretty much didn’t. But Dowd eats bananas for all three meals. She moved to Collins’ next question:
DOWD (continuing directly): The F.B.I. interviewed survivors of the attack in Germany and, according to some senators, had done most of the interviews of those on site by Sept. 15, the day before Rice went on TV, and established that there was no protest. Collins wants to learn if the F.B.I. had failed to communicate that, or if they had communicated it and Rice went ahead anyway?
Had Rice been told there was no demonstration? That’s a perfectly valid question. But note how weak the evidence is suggesting that Rice had been told.

“According to some senators”—now there’s a very weak standard of proof!—the FBI had done most of the relevant interviews by September 15.

Uh-oh! That means that the relevant interviews were still being conducted as Rice went on air. Why would we think that the FBI had even formulated its conclusion by that time, let alone sent it to Rice?

Collins’ third question was the dumbest one yet. The question is so dumb it squeaks. But banana mashers aren’t able to notice. If they noticed, they wouldn’t care:
DOWD (continuing directly): When Rice heard the president of the Libyan National Congress tell Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation,” right before her appearance, that 50 people had been arrested who were either foreign or affiliated with or sympathized with Al Qaeda, why did she push back with the video story? “Why wouldn’t she think what the Libyan president said mattered?” Collins wondered.
At this point, decent folk will avert their gaze from the manifest dumbness of Collins (and Dowd). That quotation from Collins is dumb beyond dumb, but its sentiment can be answered:

Why didn’t Rice agree with what the Libyan president said? Perhaps because his statements didn’t agree with the state of U.S. intelligence? Perhaps because U.S. intelligence still doesn’t seem to agree with his claims? (For more on this topic, see our next post.)

She should have agreed with the Libyan president! This has been the dumbest complaint against Ambassador Rice from the start. But Maureen Dowd was happy to type it, along with this account of Collin’s fourth question:
DOWD (continuing directly): Why did Rice say on ABC News’s “This Week,” that “two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security”? Rice was referring to the two ex-Navy SEAL team members who were C.I.A. security officers working on a base about a mile away. “They weren’t there to protect Ambassador Stevens,” Collins said. “That wasn’t their job.”
There are very few words for the soul-crushing dumbness of that. Why did Rice say that “two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security?” Perhaps because two of the four Americans who were killed were there providing security? It’s true—the two men weren’t there to protect Ambassador Stevens. But as you can see just from reading Dowd’s paragraph, that isn’t what Rice said.

In fairness to Collins, there is no transcript of her session with Dowd. It may be that her remarks made more sense before they went through the soul-crushing process of being reworked by Dowd. In fairness, we can imagine Collins’ consternation as Dowd leaped from bar to bar inside her cage at the Times, cramming bananas into her ears and her mouth, screeching loudly and baring her teeth at each new accusation.

We’ll guess that Collins maintained a brave front in the face of this puzzling conduct by Dowd. But we are here to judge the press—and Dowd’s column about this important subject makes almost no sense at all.

Reading Dowd’s column, you get this picture of Collins’ heartfelt concerns:

She wants to know why Rice spoke “with such certitude”—although Rice expressed almost no certitude on those Sunday programs.

She wants to know if Rice had been told that there was no demonstration—although she seems to have no evidence that Rice had been so told.

She wants to know why Rice didn’t accept the claims of the Libyan president. (The answer to that is blindingly obvious.) She wants to know why Rice made an accurate statement about two of the men who were killed.

What does it mean to have a banana republic press corps? Dowd is very influential—she has been so for many years. She’s also a visible basket case—although members of the guild will never betray this knowledge.

That column by Dowd is a screeching mess. She went over her own cliff a long time ago.

Inside a banana republic, careerists agree not to see such things. Regular people will read Dowd's columns and imagine that they make sense.

Next: The Libyan president

6 comments:

  1. It's just amazing, and also depressing, seeing this account (and the many, many posts showing this same phenomenon stretching back over days) of how useless the biggest names in "journalism" really are. It's just an avalanche of stupid.

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  2. TDH--'She [Collins] wants to know if Rice had been told that there was no demonstration—although she seems to have no evidence that Rice had been so told."

    We know that Rice was told there were no demonstrations in Benghazi: she put out a press release to that effect--Collins wants to know when the FBI told Rice there were no demonstrations. Rice's press release didn't mention when the intelligence assessment evolved.

    Shockingly (to TDH),it seems that Collins would like to know if Rice was flat-out lying. Also, Collins seems not to trust that Rice will tell us herself that she was lying. Probably Dowd doesn't think Rice would do that either.

    Rice made an accurate statement about two of the men who were killed...but didn't mention that they were far away from the consulate building where Ambassador Stevens was trapped. From someone other than Rice, TDH might label that as misleading--maybe not. For a political opponent find that statement misleading isn't surprising at all. Most people would get the impression that the two men were killed providing security for the Ambassador at the consulate-but they would be wrong.



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    Replies
    1. This was oh-so-concerned Susan Collins yesterday on Hardball. This is after Ms. Collins had sat through multiple closed door classified hearings with all the top intelligence officials up to Petraeus answering questions.


      MATTHEWS: Let me go back to the facts, as you know them now. Was there a
      role played by that video, that anti-Islamic video made in California, in
      this horror story? Did it play a role?

      COLLINS: It may have inspired some of the people who later entered the
      compound, but I have not seen evidence that it was the cause of the violent
      attack on our personnel in Benghazi that cost four Americans their lives.
      And certainly, Ambassador Rice`s statement on ABC News when she said it was
      the direct result of the video was not accurate. And today she told me
      that she did not intend to say what she said on ABC.

      MATTHEWS: I want you to listen to something. This was in "The New York
      Times" -- it was in today -- about what we know now of the attacks in
      Benghazi. This is "The New York Times," and straight reporting.

      "On-the-ground accounts indicate that Ms. Rice`s description of the attack,
      though wrong in some respects, was accurate in others. Witnesses to the
      assault said it was carried out by members of Ansar al Sharia, the militant
      group, without any warning or protest in retaliation for an American-made
      video mocking the Prophet Mohammed."

      Is that the truth, as you know it?

      COLLINS: It`s partially the truth. When you look at what happened -- and
      I`ve reviewed tapes, I`ve reviewed classified materials, I`ve sat through
      hours of briefings -- there were some people who no doubt came onto the
      compound not only to loot it but because they were angry about the video.
      But that is not the primary cause of the assault on the compound.

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    2. Anon 2:35:

      You don't seem capable of reasoning. Not a rare thing, but it is very disheartening to read what you have tosay.

      AC / MA

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    3. Anon 2:35

      The CIA put together a memo for public consumption on 9/15, 4 days after the Benghazi attacks. The day after that Rice presents this info on 5 tv shows making the incorrect statement about a demonstration in Benghazi (the looters might well have been mistaken for demonstrators in the moment). At close to the same time THE STORY CONTINUES TO DEVELOP (FOG OF WAR?). and Rice is out of synch with some emerging information (NY Times article). It is obvious that she must have learned this new information after it was reviewed and documented - It would have been presented to her no doubt shortly after the TV appearance a mere 5 days after the event happened.

      As Tom Ricks said on Fox recently - this is pure horse hype which originates in the Republican hope for an October surprise, bubbles up out of the Fox's cauldron and then takes hold of the script driven cognition of our journos, as your TDH incomparably documents every day.

      To be clear - the media has disappeared the 2 true things she cautiously said 5 times that day; heavily armed extremists attacked the consulate and there is no evidence this was a planned attack and in fact was improvised to leverage the souring mood in the middle east due to the idiotic video. I do have some curiosity about the timing of all this upheaval around the anniversary of attacks on 9/11. The one inaccurate thing she said is not all that important really.

      I assume there is some 'good' political reasons for Republicans to continue to be paid to not understand this simpler version of the facts, perhaps in the hopes of getting Scott Brown his old job back so he and Elizabeth Warren can go over the fiscal cliff together. The Republicans just love the idea of John Kerry as Secretary of State

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  3. "We know that Rice was told there were no demonstrations in Benghazi: she put out a press release to that effect--Collins wants to know when the FBI told Rice there were no demonstrations. Rice's press release didn't mention when the intelligence assessment evolved."

    How ridiculous and desperate can you get to clutch onto a phony version of what Rice said. Obviously, that was verified and told to her after September 16. That press statement was issued on November 29.

    Neither the comical excuses of Republican Senators nor their true beliver trolls have to this date articulated a credible theory of why she or the administration would lie about this, or for that matter, how she misled anybody based on the actual transcripts of the comments she made that day -- that is, the transcripts in their entirety and not with cherry-picked portions that are directly contradicted by the excluded parts.

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