New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is mischaracterizing the aftermath of the September attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in an effort to promote her claim that Hillary Clinton's aides engaged in "obfuscation."
In her May 12 column, Dowd writes that Gregory Hicks, who was deputy chief of mission in Libya during the attacks and testified before Congress May 8, "believes he was demoted because he spoke up" about the Obama administration's characterization of the attacks in a meeting with Beth Jones, an undersecretary of state.
In fact, Hicks' change of position came after he voluntarily decided not to return to Libya; he subsequently testified that the "overriding factor" in that decision was that his family didn't want him to go back. According to the State Department, that decision took him out of the regular cycle in which Foreign Service officers are assigned, resulting in him being placed in a temporary position as a foreign affairs officer in the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs. According to State, Hicks retains the same rank and pay, and has submitted a preference list and is under consideration for his next assignment.
Dowd further claimed:
Hillary's chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, also called Hicks to angrily ask why a State Department lawyer had not been allowed to monitor every meeting in Libya with Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who visited in October. (The lawyer did not have the proper security clearance for one meeting.) Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, has been a rabid Hillary critic on Fox News since the attack. Hicks said he had never before been scolded for talking to a lawmaker.
But Hicks himself never described Mills as angry. In his testimony, Hicks acknowledged that Mills had offered no "direct criticism" of his actions, but cited the "tone and nuance" of Mills' voice during their conversation as indicating she was "unhappy" (Hicks later repeated a congressional Republican's description of Hicks as "upset.")
In painting this as part of a pattern of obfuscation, Dowd also ignored the administration's explanation for why Mills would have wanted a State Department lawyer present for Hicks' meeting with Chaffetz - a State Department official told Dowd's paperthat department policy requires one to be present during interviews for Congressional investigations.
Dowd's commentary follows that of Fox News hosts who have baselessly described Hicks as being "excoriated," "reprimanded," or "punished" by Mills - a characterization promoted by the false frame that Congressional Republicans pushed in their questioning of Hicks.
A central facet of the right-wing media's criticism of the Obama administration's response to the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya has been inadvertently disproved by The Weekly Standard.
For months, the right-wing media has suggested that the Obama administration had for political purposes attempted to link the Benghazi attacks to an anti-Islam YouTube video. According to this theory, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and other high-ranking members of the administration had highlighted the video as a "diversion tactic" to downplay the attack's connection to terrorism and cover up the supposed failure of American foreign policy that would indicate. But the original draft of talking points on the attacks generated by the CIA -- released last week by The Weekly Standard in an effort to demonstrate how those talking points were changed "to obscure the truth"-- prove that the intelligence community itself believed that such a link existed.
In the Weekly Standard article, Stephen F. Hayes highlighted how specifics about the involvement of members of an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group that were included in an initial September 14 draft of talking points by the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis were later removed by administration officials. Included in Hayes' report are images of the various versions of those talking points, which serve to drastically undermine the right-wing media's critique. Here's the first bullet point from what The Weekly Standard terms "Version 1":
We believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex.
In the final version of the document, that bullet reads:
The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.
These talking points were used by Ambassador Rice for a series of September 16 television interviews. The right-wing media subsequently engaged in a witch hunt to portray her as untruthful and misleading for connecting the attack to the video. But as the Weekly Standard has now shown, it was the CIA's Office of Terrorism Analysis and not political appointees that introduced that link into the talking points.
The membership of the National Rifle Association has unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by a WND columnist expressing opposition to any and all additional restrictions against guns during the session of its annual meeting. This position puts the activists in attendance out of step not only with the American people, but with the broader membership of the organization.
The resolution was offered by fringe gun activist Jeff Knox during the open session of the May 4 meeting. Knox is head of the Firearms Coalition, a hardline organization that promotes the "unencumbered right to arms" and opposes "any moves toward more restrictive and/or intrusive gun laws." He also writes a column about gun policy for WND, a discredited right-wing website known for its conspiracy theories. Knox's father Neal is credited with leading NRA hard-liners to crush the group's moderate wing in the 1970s and 1990s, helping to establish the organization as a no-compromises right-wing lobbying powerhouse.
The text of Knox's resolution cites its necessity as "a public repudiation of the lies and distortions from the media and politicians suggesting that the majority of NRA members support the expansion of gun control laws as clearly and unequivocally we do not." Polling indicates that the public -- including self-described NRA members -- overwhelmingly support at least one proposal to strengthen gun laws, the expansion of the background check system.
Speaking on behalf of the resolution, Knox claimed it was necessary to establish that "the members here gathered soundly and solidly oppose any and all new restrictions on our Second Amendment rights." John Fafoutakis of Sheraton, Wyoming, seconded Knox's resolution, saying that "we will not compromise. To all those gun-grabbers in Washington, to all their members of the lapdog presstitute news media, and to the gun-grabbers of the United Nations who want to disarm all law-abiding Americans, I have these kind words for you: fill your hand you son of a bitch."
After voting to strike a clause of the resolution requiring its text be published in the NRA's magazine, the membership in attendance passed it unanimously.
Daily Beast contributor Niall Ferguson has offered an "unqualified apology" for suggesting that John Maynard Keynes, the British economist whose theories are the basis of macroeconomics and the foundation of progressive economic policy, was unconcerned with future generations because he was gay and childless.
Ferguson, a Harvard history professor who has issued flawed denunciations of President Obama's economic policies, made his original comments during a May 2 speech. According to a May 3report by Financial Advisor magazine (emphasis added):
Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes' famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead.Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of "poetry" rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive.
It gets worse.
Ferguson, who is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and author of The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, says it's only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an "effete" member of society. Apparently, in Ferguson's world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society.
Ferguson quickly came under fire following the publication of the Financial Advisor piece. On May 4, he acknowledged on his website that his comments were "as stupid as they were insensitive." He wrote:
But I should not have suggested - in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation - that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes's wife Lydia miscarried.
Ferguson further stated that he "detest[s] all prejudice, sexual or otherwise," but that his colleagues, students, and friends "have every right to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself." He concluded: "To them, and to everyone who heard my remarks at the conference or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize."
This is not the first time Ferguson has been the subject of scrutiny following an offensive comment. He was harshly criticized for a 2009 column in which he compared Obama to the cartoon character Felix the Cat, writing that Obama was "not only black" but "also very, very lucky." More recently he claimed that New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman's supposed "inability to debate a question without insulting his opponent suggests some kind of deep insecurity perhaps the result of a childhood trauma."
In the midst of the most promising time for the gun violence prevention debate in decades, the National Rifle Association will name a new president at their annual meeting May 3-5.
Alabama lawyer Jim Porter will replace current NRA President David Keene, whose two-year term is expiring.
Here's what the media should know about Porter, a conspiracy theorist who calls the Civil War the "War of Northern Aggression" and represents more of the same for the organization:
1. Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss. Don't expect Porter to be a breath of fresh air bringing with him a new way of doing things. As is traditional, Porter will come to the presidency following two years as first vice president and two years as second vice president of the organization. He has also been the head of the NRA's legal affairs committee and a trustee of the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund. Porter's father was the NRA's president from 1959 to 1961 and chaired the 1977 annual meeting at which hardliners took over the organization and began transforming it into the no-compromise lobbying powerhouse the group remains today.
2. Porter Believes "Un-American" Eric Holder And Hillary Clinton Tried To "Kill The Second Amendment At The United Nations." Porter said during a June 2012 speech at the New York Rifle & Pistol Association's Annual Meeting that Attorney General Eric Holder, who he termed "rabidly un-American," was "trying to kill the Second Amendment at the United Nations" with the help of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He attributed this to the proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which he claimed would "make it illegal for individuals all over the world to own firearms." This is a blatant misrepresentation of the treaty, which deals with the international arms trade, not private ownership.
A series of new polls indicate that the media was wrong to suggest that legislators who oppose strengthening guns laws would not pay a political price for their actions.
Following the Senate's failure to pass stronger gun laws earlier this month, political reporters suggested that Senate opponents of those laws had been wisely reacting to the political environment. According to those reporters, Democrats "got gun control polling wrong" because while surveys indicated that an overwhelming majority of Americans supported reforms like expanding the background check system to cover more gun sales, they may not feel as passionately about the issue as their opponents and thus for politicians: "Voting against gun control measures may well carry less negative political consequence than voting for them -- even though the poll numbers suggest the opposite is true."
Contrary to this theory, several polls conducted since the gun votes earlier this month indicate that more voters are likely to oppose senators who voted against stronger gun laws than they are to support them:
Washington Post political writer Melinda Henneberger falsely suggested that a woman depicted in an undercover video issued by the anti-abortion rights group Live Action was never asked whether she was sure she wanted a legal late-stage abortion despite the "apparent qualms" the woman demonstrated.
Henneberger's falsehood aids the group's attempt to smear an abortion clinic as using practices similar to those of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion provider facing multiple murder charges resulting from the monstrous and horrific procedures he is alleged to have carried out under the guise of women's reproductive health.
Live Action has falsely claimed that their video, currently being trumpeted by the conservative media, reveals "illegal and inhuman practices" at an abortion clinic in New York City.
The Live Action video depicts a woman at Dr. Emily Woman's Health Center in the Bronx inquiring after an abortion in the 23rd week of her pregnancy -- a procedure that is legal in New York State. The woman asks detailed questions about that procedure to both a clinician and a counselor at the facility.
Henneberger writes that given those questions, the woman should have been asked if she was sure she wanted to have an abortion:
You'd think that a patient with so many apparent qualms about a late-stage abortion would at some point get her questions answered with a question: Are you sure you want to go through with this?
But if the tape is as undoctored as this clinic seems to be, you'd be wrong. (A message left on the center's 24-hour line wasn't returned on Sunday.)
In fact, in a portion of the woman's visit to the clinic not included in Live Action's supposedly "undoctored" video, a counselor at the facility asked the woman that very question in response to her repeated inquiries. From the full transcript of the woman's visit, posted by Live Action [emphasis added]:
COUNSELOR: Now are you sure this is what you're comfortable doing? Are you sure you want to do a termination? Because you knew you were pregnant at two months, in some way or another you were thinking about continuing this pregnancy.
COUNSELOR: So what changed your mind from then to now?
WOMAN: Well, I don't really feel like talking about it.
COUNSELOR: Ok. You don't have to go into detail, but I mean is there, there has to be something that can be rectified? I mean do you want to continue this pregnancy because I don't want you to go home after doing your dilation and everything and say "You know what, I think I want to keep the pregnancy". Because that's when we run into problems
The counselor goes on to suggest that the woman consult with a friend before making a final decision about whether she wants to go through with the procedure.
It's no surprise that Live Action is fabricating smears against an abortion clinic -- the group and its founder, Lila Rose, have a long record of concocting such hoaxes. The Post, however, has a responsibility not to compound the group's falsehoods by introducing their own.
UPDATE: The Washington Post's Melinda Henneberger has posted the following correction to her story:
Correction: An earlier version of this column said the activist was never asked if she was sure she wanted to go through with the abortion, but she was, on a portion of the interview not shown on the tape, according to a full transcript provided by the activist.
In the latest salvo in a Republican Party civil war that shows no signs of stopping, CBS political analyst and GOP consultant Frank Luntz criticized Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and others in right-wing talk radio for attacking Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over his support for immigration reform.
Luntz's comments came during an April 22 talk at the University of Pennsylvania. According to Mother Jones, Luntz asked to go off the record after being questioned about political polarization because he was concerned his comments could have repercussions. One of the students in the audience then started to record Luntz without the consultant's knowledge.
In that video, Luntz says:
And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side...[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take -- Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy.
Since the 2012 election, Republican media figures and activists have been engaged in often intense debates over who to blame for the party's electoral failures and what the party's future direction should be. Luntz's comments provide more fuel for that fire.
Fox News' campaign to use the September terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, to damage President Obama may not have succeeded in defeating his bid for re-election, but it has resulted in Congressional Republicans issuing a politicized report that echoes longstanding conspiracy theories in an obvious attempt to damage Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The report, compiled by House Republicans on five committees for the House Republican Conference, has already come under fire from the Democratic leaders of those committees, who have reportedly sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner accusing him of politicizing the inquiry by shutting out Democratic views. Fox News, however, is already promoting its conclusions, with a segment on the "scathing report" leading Fox's Special Report:
This is no surprise. The right-wing media -- led by Fox News -- has spent more than half a year blaming the Obama administration for the tragic deaths of U.S. personnel in Benghazi and wielding that attack as a cudgel in an attempt to cause political damage. They have politicized the attack since day 1, claiming that the Obama administration's actions are directly responsible for the deaths and pushing conspiracies about administration officials deliberately misleading the public.
Several Fox talking points on the attack were later used by Republican senators seeking to criticize the administration during that hearing. So it's no surprise that similar talking points have found their way into the report itself.
Notably, the document accuses the Obama administration of "deliberately misleading" by asserting that an anti-Islam YouTube video had triggered the attack, echoing claims by Fox News. But The New York Times has reported that the attackers themselves said they were motivated by the video.
Likewise, the report pins the blame for the Benghazi facility's level of security directly on Clinton. A nonpartisan review conducted by a State Department Accountability Review Board, led by Ambassador Tom Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, made no such finding with regard to Clinton, attributing the security conditions to lower level bureaucrats.
Expect Fox to continue to push the report in the days and weeks to come. They've been pushing these partisan attacks for months, and apparently have no intention of backing off now.
Even legendary journalists can fail to recognize the overwhelming popularity of expanding the background check system for firearms purchases. While it is now a well-known fact that the policy enjoys overwhelming support from the American public at large, some pundits remain unaware that it is also very popular in states that typically support conservative politicians.
NBC's Tom Brokaw is apparently one of those pundits. On the April 21 edition of NBC's Meet The Press, responding to the statement that the structure of the Senate explains why expanding background checks did not pass (an amendment had the support of 55 senators but needed 60 votes), Brokaw said that the proposal likely had very little support in the home states of Democrats who voted against the measure:
BROKAW: But in those states in which the senators voted against the background check, it's not even close to 90 percent in terms of wanting it, it's probably down in single digits in Montana and Arkansas and Alaska and North Dakota, the states that block it as Democrats. So you have to take that into consideration.
In fact, state polls in three of those four states found that at least 79 percent of respondents supported requiring a background check on every gun purchase (a broader measure than the one actually under debate).
According to a series of state polls commissioned by Mayors Against Illegals Guns, which supports the policy: