A few weeks back, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler did a “fact checking” of White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer’s correct assertion that the Republican party ‘doctored’ White House e-mails and leaked them to the press to smear the State Department and White House, and he came out of it issuing ‘3 Pinocchios‘ to the claim.
Setting aside the fact that providing altered quotes to the press is consistent with the ‘doctored’ claim, I have serious issues with his assessment and will explain why.
Kessler quotes three separate ‘doctored’ comments made by Pfeiffer on three different talk shows, and proceeds with ass-up fact checking, thusly:
When a White House aide uses the same word — “doctored” — on three television shows, you know it is a carefully crafted talking point. On top of that, he says that this was done to “smear the president.”
These are strong words concerning the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. But is this a case of the White House communications chief taking liberties with the facts?
A talking point, not unlike the Republican party’s ubiquitous talking point that President Obama mislead the country by covering up the deaths of four Americans to get elected, or to hide some gun-running scheme being executed by Ambassador Stevens, and to deny Mitt Romney and the GOP their “October surprise.” Except, Pfeiffer’s point happens to be true. Recent declarations by Darrell Issa of a continued targeting of
Communists in the State Department Hillary Clinton pretty much vindicate Dan Pfeiffer by virtue of Republicans vowing to carry on the witch hunt.
And I write this because it seems to be working for Republicans, with new polling showing Hillary Clinton taking a hit, from a 61% favorability last month down to 52% in the recent poll. President Obama seems to be holding up well.
I suppose by neutered media standards, Dan Pfeiffer’s assertion could be construed as “strong words,” according to Glenn Kessler, but in an era where the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove breathe free air, “strong words” have lost all their meaning, unless you’re a Democratic administration, in which case the words themselves are measured, rather substance. Last year, Glenn Kessler gave President Obama 4 Pinnochios for his response to the Benghazi attacks, the response which made Obama-deranged nuts everywhere instant experts on lying, he wrote:
Words have consequences. Is there a difference between “act of terror” and “act of terrorism”?
Kessler indeed decided words have consequences in that check, but decided they have no meaning when a Republican uses them to implicate the White House and State.
Because Republicans leaking doctored e-mails to the press is part of a companion piece to their official, tax payer-funded hit piece which they entered in to the historical record of fact with their April 23 report, entitled: “Interim Progress Report for the Members of the House Republican Conference on the Events Surrounding the Terrorist Attacks in Benghazi, Libya.”
It could better be described as the culmination of one factually-retarded smear campaign accompanying their already public smear campaign intended to directly mislead the American people about everything from the reasons our defenses have been weakened, to the administration’s prior knowledge of any actionable intelligence that could have prevented the attack(there were none), and the editing of the rush-transcript talking points that were then used on the Sunday talk shows. A report that intends to extrapolate from the now public White House e-mails that the Benghazi talking points were the exchanges between secret anti-American communist lovers, The White House and State Department sweating it out beneath the sheets working late into the night trying to plot their lies to the American people in a grand-cover up for, but not limited to(paraphrasing):
a) The Obama administration’s failed policies of not using the military as an offensive tool to defeat terrorism before it occurs, especially at outposts in war torn lands.
b) Failure to stop all evildoers in Libya with military action before they attack.
c) Failure to take seriously no actionable or factual intelligence and not reporting an incomplete review of the facts to the American people faster than you can say, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein has sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
d) Failing to honor Terry Jones with land and titles for his courageous heroism.
e) Failure to command respect from our allies and all evildoers who would do us harm.
f) Failure to secure the Benghazi outpost with enough Navy SEALs, Black choppers, Reagan freedom fighters, and beheaded leftist rebels on a pike to make Libya a safer place to exploit for fear and profit. But mostly fear.
All of this would have been a perfect getaway for Republicans, had the White House actually been the Nixonian villain Republicans and the D.C. Press Corp pundits have accused him of, and kept those e-mails classified. In retrospect, it was an obvious gamble for Republicans to accuse the W.H. and State Department of covering up and lying about their concern for the accuracy of the talking points and the FBI investigation into the matter.
“White House officials argue that these e-mails show that the White House was coordinating the development of the talking points, favoring no side. Indeed, for all the accusations that the White House deliberately changed the talking points, this e-mail comment from a CIA official would greatly undercut that claim: “The White House cleared quickly, but State has major concerns.”(emphasis me)
Yes. The Republican party claiming that the White House was directing some sort of document shredding of the facts is greatly… full of shit. But Kessler opts for a weaker word: “undercut.” Because subjectively strong words are forbidden. And to be clear, the issues The State Department had with the original talking points can best be described as, being careful to not jeopardize the FBI investigation(Republicans insist in their report that the military should have been investigating anyway)and not wanting to divulge intelligence that could hamper the investigation, or mislead the American people, less than three days after the attack.
Kessler outlines the facts:
Under pressure, the White House in March provided the e-mails to Capitol Hill Republicans surrounding the development of its talking points on the Benghazi attack when John Brennan was nominated to be CIA director. The talking points became an issue because they were used by U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice on the Sunday public affairs shows the week after the attack. Republicans, however, were not permitted to have copies of e-mails, but could only take notes on them.(emphasis me)
Let’s just paint a more accurate portrait. Less than three days after the September 11, 2012 attack on the Benghazi outpost, House Republicans(HPSCI)demanded talking points for “immediate use on Sunday talk shows,” which the White House e-mails show. Republicans, not happy with the administration’s lack of freak-the-fuck-out-over-shit, then write up a report using suspiciously poor note taking skills despite the fact that all of them went to college(they even took the time to copy the word, “penultimate.”). They then used them to portray the Obama administration and the State Department as overall failures and secret evil doers. So, Republicans, losing the battle of public perception, feed Jonathan Karl e-mails that attempt to show what Republcans have been saying publicly all along– that the White House and State Department, but mostly the State Department, or not, they don’t even know or care anymore– conspired to deceive the American people. The White House then declassifies the e-mails, and Republicans remain steadfast in their collective, willful ignorance, that this is a scandal and we should pay attention because they say so!
Glenn Kessler makes several, jaw-dropping assumptions on behalf of his findings, and they all benefit the Republican narrative.
“CNN, which had only obtained the single e-mail, used strong words in its report about its competitor, ABC: “Whoever provided those accounts seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.””(emphasis me)
Again with the “strong words.” Kessler weakly discredits the CNN explanation due to a competitor’s smear campaign against a rival network, but ignores the ongoing Republican smear against President Obama and Hillary Clinton.
“The summary would have been fairly close if the commas had been removed and replaced with brackets.”
I’m sure it would have been fairly close if professional note takers weren’t trying to smear the State Department. It’s fairly close, so no harm done if you never pay attention to public statements made by the GOP, or their official report targeting W.H. and State.
Here’s one of the early talking points, which were eventually edited from the final version of talking points that made Republicans so furious:
The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.
Initial press reporting linked the attack to Ansar al-Sharia. The group has since released a statement that the its leadership did not order the attacks, but did not deny that some of its members were involved. Ansar al-Sharia’s facebook page aims to spread sharia in Libya and emphasizes the need for jihad to counter what it views as false interpretations of Islam, according to an open source study.
Let’s just throw in the words, “State Department” in there somewhere– The fucking “penultimate point” Republicans are actually driving at, since it’s only a matter of commas.
The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from The State Department and across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that The State Department and Islamic extremists with ties to The State Department and al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.
Just words, right? Or not? Still not sure what counts anymore.
State Department’s Victoria Nuland responded with her reservations about the original CIA talking point, writing:
Are these for open or close hearing? If open, the line about “knowing” there were extremists among the demonstrators will come back to us at the podium– how do we know, who were they, etc… so I’ll need answers to those if we deploy that line, tx.
I just had a convo with [cia/opa] and I now understand that these are being prepared to give to members of Congress to use with the media.
On that basis, I have serious concerns about all the parts highlighted below, and arming members of Congress to start making assertions to the media that we ourselves are not making because we don’t want to prejudice the investigation.
In the same vein, why do we want Hill to be fingering Ansar al Sharia, when we aren’t doing that ourselves until we have investigation results… and the penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either? Concerned…
+Jake Sullivan, Dave Adams here
“Agency warnings” were phantoms at best, and motive was unclear at the time. What is clear is that the State Department’s concerns were the result of not wanting to panic and burn the American people with lies intended to lead to war as Republicans have done time and time again.
“So is this more a case of some sloppy note-taking and reportorial imprecision?”
It might be, if the Republican party cared about facts and wasn’t attempting to intentionally mislead the American people.
He goes on:
“Moreover, the full disclosure of e-mails makes it clear that White House officials were concerned about the State Department’s objections.”
But the White House “cleared right away,” and the concerns of State pertained to talking points about “knowing” who was responsible for the attack, three days after the fact, which the original points had prematurely asserted in the view of officials from the State Department.
Then Kessler breaks the fact-checking mold with this line of defense:
“Indeed, Republicans would have been foolish to seriously doctor e-mails that the White House at any moment could have released (and eventually did). Clearly, of course, Republicans would put their own spin on what the e-mails meant, as they did in the House report. Given that the e-mails were almost certain to leak once they were sent to Capitol Hill, it’s a wonder the White House did not proactively release them earlier.”(emphasis me)
Yes. Republicans would have been foolish(whoa, there, with the strong words, Kessler)– unheard of from the party of outright lies who are still denying they are full of shit about this whole thing at this very minute. And clearly, of course, Republicans continue to lie about what the e-mails meant. The e-mails were only certain to leak because one can only tolerate an imbecilic Republican Party’s lies and purposeful distortions for so long.
Glenn Kessler in his assessment, offers no such assumptions or apologetic considerations to Dan Pfeiffer, and while he recognizes that the GOP were caught lying and trying to pass off a bad bill of sale to the American people, he still went ahead and gave them the benefit of the doubt. And for that, he gets 19.5 Pinocchios!