If you’ve been watching Fox News at all lately, it’s almost all Benghazi, all the time. You can almost hear the sigh of relief that no new racist has turned up to distract them from Job #1: Taking down a Hillary Clinton presidency and, if they’re lucky, forcing President Obama out of office. But today, during the White House press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney pushed back at Fox’s Ed Henry about that infamous anti-Muslim video and the protests – and Henry was either shockingly ignorant or knew that a truthful answer would damage Fox’s “White House cover up” meme.
For some back story: Two days ago, White House emails were released to Judicial Watch. Fox got so excited over one from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes that it broke from discussing the NBA’s just-announced punishments of Donald Sterling to report on it. Even though, as I wrote at the time, there was no new information in it.
Media Matters goes into more detail:
In his twenty paragraph email advising (then-U.N. Ambassador) Rice on her upcoming TV appearances, Rhodes made only two direct references to Benghazi—first highlighting support from the Libyan government for U.S. diplomatic efforts in the country, and later debunking the false claim that there was any “actionable intelligence” prior to the attack on the facility in Benghazi and stating that “the currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo (which were inspired by an anti-Muslim video) and evolved into a direct assault against the US Consulate and subsequently its annex.” That language is identical to the initial draft of the separate set of CIA talking points that were crafted by CIA analysts earlier that day, suggesting that Rhodes had seen that early document and was using it to ensure the administration’s statements were consistent with the intelligence community’s conclusions.
But Fox is calling the email a “smoking gun” of a cover up, designed to blame the video instead of terrorism.
Today, Tommy Christopher caught an exchange between Ed Henry and Jay Carney that Fox would almost surely prefer not be scrutinized too closely.
Carney was, again, trying to explain that Rhodes’ email “was about protests around the region,” when Henry interjected “But Benghazi was part of that…Cairo, a lot of places, but Benghazi was part of it, right?”
“Right,” Carney said, “and I would refer you to the C.I.A.-produced talking points on that, that referred, at the time, to currently available information suggesting that there were protests outside the facility in Benghazi inspired by demonstrations outside of Cairo.”
Then, he asked Henry “What inspired those demonstrations outside our embassy in Cairo? Do you even remember?”
Henry hesitated. “There was… Cairo, I don’t remember specifically, there was a.. um..”
Given Fox’s 19-month obsession with Benghazi, it’s nearly impossible to believe that Henry would not “remember specifically” what inspired those demonstrations. It is quite possible to believe that he chose not to say on camera what he did remember. Because as even Fox News reported, it was the film that sparked the Cairo violence:
In Egypt, riot police clashed with protesters angry over an anti-Islam film blocks away from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo as the president went on state TV and appealed to Muslims to protect embassies, trying to patch up strained relations with the United States.
Anybody doubt that Henry’s amnesia was motivated by the knowledge that he is tasked with helping to promote a Republican agenda?
Watch Henry's suspicious memory loss below, via Tommy Christopher:
Correction: This post originally stated that the emails were released to American Center for Law and Justice.
As for Reagan, he was certainly popular during his first years in office, but there was a LOT of opposition to him both abroad and at home. He was viewed as dangerously misguided, particularly when he blew up the Gorbachev summit so he could keep going with the Star Wars idea. And in his second term, the sheer weight of all the scandals led to him finishing office in a situation where he was dangerously close to being impeached himself. The only thing that saved him from that fate, frankly, was the circus of congressional testimony and then a deliberate closing of the ranks around him by his inner circle. So Ollie North was convicted, but he was willing to take the hit for the man above him. Same idea as what happened almost 20 years later with Scooter Libby over the misdeeds of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Looking at Reagan today, the right wing loves him and his legacy. Americans who either weren’t alive or aware when he was president think of him as a nice, folksy guy. Everyone else looks at his legacy and shakes their head.
As for the reason why Single Payer didn’t go through, you must know that the GOP in Congress gummed that one up. Frankly, the Dems didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to take on the insurance companies in that way, so they settled for the much weaker “Public Option”. Except that the GOP made so much kerfuffle over it that President Obama made a show of dropping it – to placate the GOP. The GOP responded as they have to every one of Obama’s offerings – they said they wanted the entire bill to go back to the drawing board, as a method of killing it, just like they had done when Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton had tried this in the mid-90s. Not sure what you mean about payoffs for Nancy Pelosi, but we do know that the Dems had to practically beg many of their own members to vote for the ACA since the GOP was in lockstep trying to kill it. (It’s an interesting irony – the GOP likes to project that “the left” is monolithic when in fact that statement really tends to apply to the right wing. Liberals tend to waffle back and forth, and those farther on the left are wildly divided even among themselves.) The Dems have always been a mix of liberal politicians and more conservative ones. It’s no surprise that Nancy Pelosi had to make promises to the more conservative ones in order to get their votes on this bill. But that’s not the same thing as all the graft that went on under Ronald Reagan, which I’m sure you know. Nancy Pelosi promising a House member she’d help him get funding passed for a project he wanted in his state is a bit different from the numbers of Reagan and George W. Bush Administration members taking money directly from major companies or immediately getting cushy positions there after jumping out of their government jobs. That’s a payoff, and there’s a big, big difference.
Nixon was many things, but he was no idiot. He was a very smart, very corrupt career politician. There’s a reason that Roger Morris’ accurate book about him is subtitled: “The Rise of an American Politician”. You’re correct that Nixon and his cronies did huge damage to the presidency, but it wasn’t Reagan who repaired it. It was actually Jimmy Carter, who was elected on the basis of his being more pious than your actual driven snow – something that wound up being a problem when he refused to do business with Congress in the way that they had become accustomed after decades of graft and insider scheming.
Reagan’s presidency actually did further damage to the presidency, in that more members of his administration were convicted of crimes committed while in office than any other presidency in history. Before that, the worst we had was actually Warren G. Harding. Under Reagan, graft and corruption were commonplace. It may well have been one of the greediest and most venal administrations in the history of the country.
Clearly as an attempt at payback, the GOP attempted to go after Bill Clinton with every trumped up scandal they could find or manufacture. They accused him of everything from fraud to murder. The only thing they finally could hang their hat on was the fact that he had an affair and lied about it. And I’d agree this was a serious matter – but nothing along the lines of the rampant criminality of the Reagan years or the Nixon years before them. People forget that Watergate was a criminal break-in and only the tip of a huge scandal emanating straight from the Oval Office. It wasn’t just a partisan investigation – this was real criminality trying to use partisanship as a cover. People forget that the Iran/Contra matter under Reagan resulted in the deaths of thousands of people in Central America, specifically after the Congress had told the Reagan Administration to back off.
I don’t know that George W. Bush is explainable on any other level than that the GOP managed to squeak their guy through a suspect vote in 2000, in a situation where Al Gore never inspired enough people to turn to him and even then, the GOP was forced to resort to nonsense in Florida to get their way. The George W. Bush presidency was marked with a combination of incompetence, intransigence and, once again, outright criminality by that administration. Given that many of these people were the same ones who had caused problems during the Reagan years, it’s no surprise that they were just as greedy and criminal in their behavior as before. The only things that spared more Bush people from going to jail were the right wing echo chambers in the media and the fact that the right wingers had enough judges in enough courts to keep things from going very far. And even then, we still had the Plame and Gonzales situations blow up.
As for President Obama, the right wing went after him with even greater ferocity than they attacked Clinton, and for obvious reason. They resent the fact that he ran, and they hate the fact that he won twice. Or is that the other way around? They couldn’t conceive of him becoming president, and once he got there, all these guys could do was stomp their foot and say things like “I hope he FAILS!” Not much of a basis for opposition, is it?
I would agree that the Obama Administration has worked from the center and sometimes rightward from there, and I would have preferred he actually back notions like Single Payer Health Coverage, which would have been a more boldly left-wing position. But that’s not who Obama is – he’s a standard centrist Democrat, and he’s doing what he can to try to negotiate with the GOP. And that’s the problem – because the GOP has no intention of negotiating with him. They never did.
The Benghazi obsession of the right wing has nothing to do with seeking “answers”. This matter was examined repeatedly in commissions, committees and more hearings than I can count at this point. The ARB is actually crucial to a discussion of this issue, because it’s the most comprehensive examination done of the situation. Nobody has been engaging in “obfuscation”. They’ve been quite forthcoming about what happened and why. But every time the right wing “just asks” some more questions, the answers are never enough. The right wing has tried to deny the reality of the riots that were engulfing the Middle East at the time, the reality of the video that caused them, and the reality of how military deployments work. They seized upon the deaths of the people at the Benghazi Consulate as a way of accusing President Obama and Hillary Clinton of causing them. If they couldn’t have it that way, then the right wing settled for implying that Obama and Clinton were somehow “covering it up.”
Except that there’s nothing to cover up. President Obama did not attack that consulate – he was as outraged about it as everyone else. Questions about what happened were addressed back in 2012, at the time it was relevant. Even the really insulting question of “where was the President” was asked and answered – he was in the White House, regularly being updated about what was happening. He was aware of the steps that were being taken, and that there were limits on what steps could be taken. At no time has any military official said that they either told rescue units to “stand down” or that they were told to do so. We’ve heard some individuals say that they believe this happened, but none of them were in a position to know such a thing – and the ARB expressly disproved that conspiracy theory. The one part of this that the right wing does have correctly is that there was insufficient security at the Consulate – and the ARB roundly criticized this, and the situation was handled internally.
So one has to ask – where’s the criminality here? There is no indication that the Obama Administration somehow committed a crime here. Just an indication in the ARB that security wasn’t as high as it should have been at that moment – and we should note that our embassies all over the Middle East were simultaneously presented with angry demonstrations. At the time, Fox News was gleefully showing the Cairo Embassy being overrun – as an obvious attempt to paint Obama as being weak on foreign policy. Once they had the deaths in Libya, the right wing shifted gears and put all their eggs in that basket. The clear hope was to present a narrative for the 2012 election that Obama was either weak or criminal in this situation, and that Mitt Romney would be the one to fix the problem. Except this strategy backfired – particularly when Romney walked into the proverbial open manhole in his second debate with Obama.
The right wing has been engaged in projection every time they have discussed Benghazi. They want you to think it was Obama covering something up to help his own campaign narrative. That’s incorrect. This has always been a matter of the right wing trying to INVENT something to help THEIR campaign narrative. It really is that simple. It hasn’t worked out for the GOP before, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to here either. Does anyone think that Trey Gowdy has any intention of actually learning anything here? Of course not. He’s been eating out on this conspiracy notion for the past two years. He’s repeatedly been told the truth and doesn’t wish to accept it. So he’ll sit at a couple of hearings now, bang his gavel and yell at whoever sits at the table across from him. But I wouldn’t hold my breath expecting to learn anything from that display. And the GOP doesn’t expect to learn anything either – they just want to keep stoking the fires of this nonsense to try to keep their base engaged. They know that there is nothing more to be learned here – but they’ll be happy to try to get it some more Fox News headlines and some AM radio airtime, just in time for the midterms.
I don’t know anyone who thinks that the Obama Administration is “sensitive” about this. The issue is that the GOP has tried this attack route over and over again, and it never works. The Obama Administration answered questions about this situation extensively. An ARB was issued, which had some very critical things to say about embassy security. Officials have repeatedly answered GOP conspiracy theories with simple truths that the GOP obviously doesn’t want to hear or would prefer that the American public didn’t hear.
I’m curious what reese thinks “lasting damage to our nation” means. If he means the GOP intransigence that has kept our economy in neutral for the past five years, he might be on to something. If he means the right wing hatred of this President and the insistence on finding every way possible to demonstrate it, I would agree there too.
First, we have them jumping on an email that isn’t particularly illuminating. Reading it, we can see the Obama White House following exactly the steps that they have repeatedly said they were following.
The Ben Rhodes email, and the exchange with Matt Lee, are products of the actual events in the Middle East during the week of 9/11/12, events that Fox News initially tried really play up. As we all know, the offensive video, published from the US, had people all across the Middle East protesting US Embassies. This included a group of angry people rushing the Cairo Embassy, pulling down the US flag and burning it. Fox News was delighted to show footage of this stuff before Benghazi, as they got a double pump from it. First, they could show footage of angry Muslims running around burning US flags and thus rile up the Fox News viewer base. Better still, they could make snide comments on the air about how “the Middle East is on fire!” and that this was somehow the result of “Obama’s failed policies”. Hannity certainly engaged in this stuff at least twice, as did O’Reilly and Van Susteren. The intent by Fox News was to attack the Obama 2012 campaign by PLAYING UP the protests and rioting. Fox News was hoping to counter the serious foreign policy deficiencies Mitt Romney was perceived to have, and was trying to make President Obama look incompetent. Fox News was also trying to directly suggest that al Qaeda was somehow behind the protesting and rioting,
After days of the right wing openly and gleefully trying to attack over the rioting and what they felt was a palid and apologetic response by the Obama Administration, it’s understandable that Rhodes’ email specifies that any response by Susan Rice would need to address the reason for the regionwide unrest. The right wing meme was that it was a failure of President Obama. The reality was that it was mass unrest caused by an act of hatred.
When the Benghazi Consulate was attacked, the US was trying to put out fires all over the area, not just in Libya. Once it became clear that this had been a deadly attack, Fox News refocused its emphasis into Libya. Ignoring their own coverage from the prior several days, they began exclusively pounding the images of the Benghazi Consulate on fire. Suddenly the story became how this was a planned al Qaeda attack and thus was somehow proof that al Qaeda was on the rise in the Middle East. Further, Fox News began really pushing the idea that somehow President Obama and Hillary Clinton had deliberately left the Ambassador exposed and then had refused to send assistance. The intention here was to pull a “Jimmy Carter Iran moment” on the Obama 2012 campaign. It’s clear that Roger Ailes wanted to smear President Obama as being somehow ineffectual and incompetent while our people abroad were being killed. Hence, Fox News and right wing Congressmen began asking silly questions about exactly where President Obama was at each moment of the Consulate attack, as if this was relevant. Conspiracy theories began getting airtime on Fox News about how rescuers were somehow being told to “stand down”.
All of the Fox News/GOP attack material on Benghazi was pretty much debunked in an extensive ARB that openly addressed some bureaucratic problems and the usual finger pointing from within the State Department after an event like this occurs. That wasn’t enough for Fox News. They’re still angrily holding onto this story.
It’s frankly odd to see Bill O’Reilly shouting and screaming in April and May of 2014 about a situation he already knows has been covered and examined to death. it’s truly odd to see O’Reilly putting so-called military “experts” like Ralph Peters on his air to once again attack the Obama Administration with not even a shred of evidence. (I particularly enjoyed how O’Reilly allowed Peters to get in a really cheap shot last night, wherein he accused the Obama Administration of being hostile to the US military…) O’Reilly himself seems to be trying to stir this nonsense back up, now opining that someone needs to ask Leon Panetta and others the direct question of “whether anyone was told to stand down.” Except that this question was ALREADY ASKED, BACK IN 2012! And the answer was unequivocally NO. It’s fun to watch the armchair generals now bring up this unit or that one which could have been tasked to go into Benghazi – but those armchair generals have no idea what those units were tasked with doing on a week when the ENTIRE REGION was a hotspot. I wouldn’t be surprised if all these other units were on alert to move into other areas where we were seeing riots and disturbances. The way the military chain of command works, and people like Peters should know this, the units assigned to Libya are the ones that would and did move in, in the time that it took them to get there. The military doesn’t randomly reassign units in a panic. Peters does know the last. O’Reilly is pretending he doesn’t understand it, for purposes of trying to generate more headlines.
But there’s no new headline here. Just the GOP once again trying to fan the embers of a non-story. Presumably, this will allow right wing pundits to make Benghazi the centerpiece of their discussion of the foreign policy history of the Obama Administration, while also using it as an attack prop against Hillary Clinton in 2016. No sense of irony here. No acknowledgment of the many people killed in attacks on US Embassies during the George W. Bush presidency. And if anyone had made these kinds of comments about Bush and Condoleeza Rice during that disastrous presidency, Fox News would have immediately smeared the accusers as unpatriotic and treasonous.
Of course they’ll never get the needed 67 votes in the Senate but would crow about a symbolic victory as a gift for its hard right base, and of course the money made with advertising revenue from higher ratings that Fox and right wing talk radio would reap. But it’ll be fool’s gold.
Henry hesitated. “There was… Cairo, I don’t remember specifically, there was a.. um..”
Hmm, F&F seems to have left this particular part out of their discussion today and the video clip they aired did not include this part of the video. And from show that’s always pointing fingers at OTHER media outlets’ bias and selective cropping?! Hypocrites. Hell, while every other media outfit was discussing the racist Bundy comments (made on a Wed.), F&F’s Thursday and Friday show made no mention of the racist comments at all. Yeah, it looks like Ed Henry’s work as a reporter is just as selectively amnestic as the rest of the network that employs him. LOL!
Geez, come on, Ed, even I remember that and could have answered Carney’s question.