Hillary Clinton's name doesn't appear in the bipartisan portions of the Senate review of the tragic September 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, but you would not know that by looking at the media.
The report, released earlier in the week by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a Rorschach test for the media, and as is almost always the case with Hillary Clinton, they are stretching to see something nefarious.
According to the Post, the report "is likely to provide fodder" for Clinton's political opponents, even though the Post acknowledged that the only references to the former Secretary of State came from partisan Republicans in an addendum, not from the review itself.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer said the report was "fueling heated debate, partisan debate, about her leadership," while correspondent Elise Labbott insisted that Clinton would "have to address Benghazi during" any 2016 campaign.
Inexplicably, Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin accused media of being too "incurious" when it comes to Clinton and called Benghazi Clinton's "drip, drip, drip problem." Partisan Republicans are certainly happy that the media is carrying their water. Almost on cue, Sen. Marco Rubio said the report should justify further investigations ... into Clinton.
The question of "leadership," however, has been a lopsided one as it played out in the media's campaign to use the Senate report as an indictment of Clinton.
Clinton has "deflected questions" about Benghazi, according to The New Yorker's Amy Davidson, who argued that Clinton "does not come out well" in the Senate report -- again, a report that never mentions Clinton. Davidson's explanation? "The State Department made mistakes when [Clinton] was its leader."
Clinton herself has acknowledged ultimate responsibility for any bureaucratic shortcomings that played a role to the tragedy in Benghazi. "I do feel responsible," she said under questioning by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). "I feel responsible for the nearly 70,000 people who work for the State Department. I take it very seriously."
So everybody agrees that Clinton had ultimate responsibility for leading the State Department.
That makes the question of what that leadership looks like critical, particularly since the media seems determined to parrot the right-wing narrative that Benghazi is a singular reflection on the former Secretary of State.
What is problematic about the way the media has used the Senate's review as a reflection on Clinton's leadership is that the reports ostensibly exploring Clinton's leadership make no mention of the fact that one of her last acts as Secretary of State was to fully accept and begin implementing the findings of the Accountability Review Board, an independent, nonpartisan review panel that looked into what went wrong and how to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.
That review, like the Senate report that led to the latest bout of Benghazi mania, also singled out bureaucrats, not the Secretary of State, for scrutiny over diplomatic security failures. Four mid-ranked department officials were suspended for those failures; according to Ambassador Thomas Pickering, one of the chairmen of the ARB, their "future career[s]" are "finished."
One of the pillars of the right-wing's Benghazi hoax has been to accuse Clinton of being dismissive of the tragedy during her Congressional testimony when she asked "what difference, at this point, does it make" what led the attackers to target the diplomatic facility on that day.
Often left out of the sound bite is what Clinton said next: "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again."
The Accountability Review Board laid out dozens of recommendations as to how to prevent future tragedies, recommendations largely in line with those contained in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report. Those recommendations are being implemented.
It's woefully inadequate to leave that fact out of a discussion of leadership.
With their conspiratorial, knee-jerk claim that New York Times' lengthy investigation into the Benghazi terror attack of 2012 was really an elaborate effort to aid Hillary Clinton if she runs for president in three years -- to "clear the deck" as Chris Wallace put it -- right-wing journalists seem to have mistaken the newspaper of record for one of their own conservative "news" outlets. It's the right-wing media, not the Times, that has a record of peddling purposeful misinformation for purely political reasons.
David Kirkpatrick's Times series, "A Deadly Mix In Benghazi," undercut a number of favorite right-wing Benghazi talking points. Among them, the Times debunked claims that an anti-Islamic YouTube video played no role in motivating the terror attacks -- a central tenet of the Benghazi hoax that conservatives have deployed to attack President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and others for engaging in a "cover-up" of the attack.
Since its publication, far-right commentators have have rushed to engage in lazy speculation about what motivated the Times to investigate Benghazi (aside from the fact that far-right voices have demanded for more than a year that news organizations like the New York Times investigate Benghazi).
But when the Times came to the 'wrong' conclusions and Fox News and friends needed to explain to their loyal customers why the year-long Benghazi tale they've been telling had been demolished by the Times, critics announced the story was all part of some vast, left-wing conspiracy.
The allegation is pure conjecture, though. Conservatives don't, and can't, cite any sources inside the Times who confirm the sprawling claim of a Clinton cover-up because there's zero evidence to bolster the allegation. Instead, the fact that the Times never mentioned Hillary Clinton in its Benghazi report simply confirms that the report was all about Hillary Clinton. And the fact that a Times editor pointedly denied the report was about Clinton simply confirms that the report was all about Clinton. (See how that convenient, closed loop works?)
Conservatives have become so used to the idea that their own outlets are, and should be, used to advance political agendas that they've convinced themselves that's how reputable news organizations go about gathering and disseminating information.
In this case, conservatives have convinced themselves, without being weighted down by facts or evidence, that senior editors at the Times assign long-term investigative pieces based on how the predetermined outcome of the reporting will benefit Democratic politicians, and specifically Democratic politicians who might run for president in 2016. It's journalism as political cover. Or, pretty much the opposite of how the trade is actually practiced.
The notion is pure fantasy, not to mention insulting, and reveals a complete lack of understanding of how journalism functions in a democratic society. The Fox and Republican assumption is that journalists act as unpaid advisers and advocates for politicians and that their work revolves around advancing a partisan agenda. Why do they think that?
Because that's how conservatives behave. And they're often quite open about it.
The latest development in the never-ending soap opera of congressional budget negotiations is that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are close to reaching a limited deal to partially replace spending cuts imposed earlier this year (the much-maligned sequestration). The details of the deal are not known, but that hasn't stopped conservative activist groups and pundits from denouncing Ryan -- a long-time conservative hero for his austere budget proposals -- as a sellout.
The Washington Post laid out what little is known about the emerging deal:
Senior aides familiar with the talks say the emerging agreement aims to partially repeal the sequester and raise agency spending to roughly $1.015 trillion in fiscal 2014 and 2015. That would bring agency budgets up to the target already in place for fiscal 2016. To cover the cost, Ryan and Murray are haggling over roughly $65 billion in alternative policies, including cuts to federal worker pensions and higher security fees for the nation's airline passengers.
Salon's Brian Beutler notes that if the deal ends up looking like this rough outline, then there's no real reason for conservatives to be all that upset: "If inked, it wouldn't raise revenue through the tax code, and would protect the Defense Department from sequestration's most severe cuts. At the same time, some of the savings in the deal would likely come out of the hide of federal workers."
And yet, the outcry from activists was swift. Groups like Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, and FreedomWorks are urging conservative members of Congress to vote against the budget deal, even though they don't know what the deal actually looks like.
Appearing on Fox News on December 10, Stuart Varney trashed the deal, calling it "a handshake deal. It does absolutely nothing to resolve the basic problems which we're facing. It does not tackle entitlement reform, it does not tackle tax reform, and it does nothing to drastically reduce the debt."
After an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin is, like most pundits sympathetic to the Republican cause, upset over the move by Democrats to change Senate rules so that judicial and executive branch nominees will no longer have to face down a filibuster in order to get a confirmation vote. "It's a bad way to run the country," Rubin writes. But at the same time she is wistful for what might have been had the filibuster been done away with long ago, and what the nation might have discovered about... Benghazi?
If only. . .
The president cared as much about Iran's nuclear option as he does the Senate's.
The nuclear option was in place for superbly qualified Republican-nominated judges like Miguel Estrada whom the Democrats filibustered.
The nuclear option had prevented Sen. Barack Obama from blocking the confirmation of John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador in 2005.
The nuclear option had removed fear of a filibuster and allowed Susan Rice to get nominated as secretary of state so then she could have been questioned about Benghazi.
This is a perplexing hypothetical. At the time Susan Rice's name was being thrown around as a potential nominee for Secretary of State, there were few people in the media who opposed the idea more than Jennifer Rubin. "From my perspective, it makes no sense to have a three-ring confirmation hearing and lose over a subpar nominee such as Rice," Rubin wrote on December 4, 2012. When Rice asked that her name be withdrawn from consideration for the position, Rubin wrote: "To be frank, she should never have been floated as a possible nominee."
Right-wing media are championing an appellate decision currently before the Supreme Court that upended the ability of presidents to appoint nominees during Senate recesses as a repudiation of President Barack Obama. But National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning was a radical decision that ignored long-standing precedent, and if the Supreme Court finds such appointments unconstitutional, governmental operations could be hindered to a historic degree.
There's been quite a bit of energy invested by reporters and pundits over the past week figuring out ways in which blame for the Republican-caused government shutdown can be spread around to the Obama administration. Those efforts have culminated in a masterwork of forced equivalence by Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who argued that the GOP is to blame for being completely unreasonable, and Obama is to blame because he's not indulging the unreasonableness of the Republicans, which is itself a form of unreasonableness.
Writing on her Washington Post blog at 11:00 a.m. EDT on October 7, Rubin lashed out at Republicans in Congress as a bunch of bumbling clowns who have no strategy for the shutdown or the debt limit fight, and no idea what they hope to extract in concessions from the Obama administration. The party, she wrote, is being needlessly stubborn in its unreasonable demands, is completely in shambles, and risks marginalizing itself so long as it clings to the "delusion" that it is "winning":
So long as Republicans think they are winning the speaker and cooler heads in the Senate will have difficulty putting together a package that could resolve the CR and/or the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, the business community, suburban Republicans and lifelong conservatives shake their head in dismay. This mess and the delusion that one can reach unattainable goals at the country [sic] expense are not why they have supported Republicans. And if the GOP doesn't get a grip, these voters might not do so in the future, or at the very least they might close their wallets to GOP candidates.
Writing on her Washington Post blog at 1:30 p.m. EDT on October 7, Rubin lashed out at President Obama for refusing to negotiate with the Republicans in Congress on the debt ceiling or funding the government (the same Republicans she painted as delusional and unreasonable). According to Rubin, the only reason Obama could have for refusing to negotiate (the fact that their demands are delusional and unreasonable apparently doesn't count) is that he wants the "political obliteration of his political opponents."
President Obama's assertion that he won't negotiate is inexplicable, unless the name of the game here is not a deal or economic survival but political obliteration of his political opponents. After weeks of intense focus on the crisis in Syria, the White House is set to turn to the economy.
The White House will counter that they will negotiate, after the continuing resolution and/or debt-ceiling bills are cleanly passed. But that is a distinction without a difference, and White House staffers know it. In actual war you can demand surrender and then negotiation, but in politics the other side has to survive and, hence, you must avoid making the terms so onerous that they can't be accepted. (Unless you think you are "winning" and the goal is to make the other guys look bad.)
When you want above all else to make the opposition look bad and set them up for failure (which, by the way, means a disaster for the country), then you decide to push them so hard they have to cry uncle. And when they are just as obstinate as you, they refuse to and the hostages suffer the consequences.
The "onerous" term the White House is supposedly imposing is refusing to negotiate on what Rubin herself called irrational and "unattainable" policy goals. Rubin is effectively pushing responsibility for the GOP formulating a coherent strategy onto Obama. She wrote in her first post that the GOP will be lost if it doesn't "get a grip." In her second post she said it's actually Obama's responsibility to make sure the other side "survives." At 11 a.m. she said the GOP was setting itself up for failure. At 1 p.m. she said it's the president who's setting them up for failure.
It doesn't make sense, but it covers both parties in blame, so mission accomplished.
Jennifer Rubin is using the fresh horror of the Washington Navy Yard massacre to take cheap shots at President Obama and make petty, insignificant, and ultimately false political arguments. Writing on her Washington Post blog, Rubin swipes at the president for calling the shooting "cowardly," instead of evil:
But what we know now is that a dozen brave souls in service of their country lost their lives, highlighting close to home how indebted we are to the military. President Obama properly acknowledged as such, before proceeding with a hyper-partisan speech blaming Republicans for the lack of economic progress. But Obama also said that the murders were a "cowardly" act. Not so. They were evil. The killing spree was, to be blunt, brazen and audacious. But in the end, just plain evil.
(In contrast with Obama, she points to Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's statement that "hit just the right note," because obviously we're all keeping score here.)
Rubin's reason for attacking the president's non-use of the term "evil" is as follows:
Yes, evil. Liberals tend to shy away from such terms, maybe afraid they'll sound like those dreaded values voters. Or maybe it's their therapeutic mindset that attributes most bad behavior to "sickness," personal or societal. They mocked President George W. Bush when he labeled terrorists as "evil-doers." The chattering class was horrified when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the "evil empire."
Even in his Syria speech on Sept. 10, Obama didn't use the word "evil." He said Bashar al-Assad's regime was "repressive" and that use of gas against civilians violated international law and our "common humanity." He said the images were "sickening." But evil? It's not in his vernacular.
This is lazy and wrong. If Rubin had bothered to Google a few of Obama's speeches, she would have noticed this one calling the Tucson mass shooting "evil." Or this one calling the Sandy Hook mass shooting "evil." Or this statement calling the Sandy Hook shooting "evil." Or this weekly radio address calling the Boston Marathon bombing "evil." Or this speech calling slavery "evil." Or this speech calling the Holocaust "evil." Or this statement calling genocide in the Balkans "evil."
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin has come up with a novel and ingenious strategy for responding to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against its own citizens: attack Iran. Frustrated with what she sees as the slow march to U.S. military action in the Middle East, Rubin posted to her blog this morning the draft congressional resolution she'd like to see in response to the Syria situation:
THEREFORE be it resolved:
1. The president of the United States shall be authorized to use all necessary force against Iran in the event it does not halt all enrichment and allow complete access to all facilities to verify the discontinuation and destruction of its nuclear weapons facilities;
2. It shall be the policy of the United States to support free peoples in Iran seeking to change the regime and obtain essential human rights and a normalized relationship with the West;
3. It shall be the policy of the United States to aid and assist Syrians, including the Syrian Free Army, seeking to live in peace with their neighbors and respecting the individual rights of the Syrian people so as to prevent a victory by the Assad regime and/or al-Qaeda forces;
3. [sic] Russia is an inappropriate party to negotiate on behalf of or verify the compliance of WMD disarmament by its ally Syria or by the government of Iran; and
4. [sic] The president shall be authorized to use all means necessary to achieve the president's stated purposes, to wit, enforcing sufficient consequences for use of WMDs, preventing the risk of future use by the Assad regime or Hezbollah and degrading the Assad regime's ability to use, deliver and command the use of WMDs.
For those of you quick to point out that Iran and Syria are, in fact, not the same place, and that attacking Iranian nuclear facilities would serve to stifle any hope for political moderation within Iran, you're forgetting that Jennifer Rubin is a clear-eyed foreign policy thinker who is respected by her colleagues and never gets anything wrong.
After recent reports that the Syrian government may have used chemical weapons against civilians, media figures have begun to push for U.S. military intervention in the region. But senior military leaders say that engagement could produce a negative long-term outcome.
Last month, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, detailed possible downsides to U.S. military involvement in Syria in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). In addition to possible collateral damage to civilians and the loss of U.S. aircraft, Dempsey notes that a poorly planned military incursion "could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control." Additionally, Dempsey noted that military options could cost taxpayers between $500 million to $1 billion per month.
The change in ownership over at the Washington Post has generated a flood of free advice for new owner Jeff Bezos from all corners. Among those advice-givers, Patrick Pexton stands out as someone who not only worked for the Washington Post (he was the ombudsman until this past March) but also directly liaised with the Post's readership. In a column for the Washington City Paper, Pexton counsels Bezos to get rid of "the No. 1 source of complaint mail about any single Post staffer" that he received while serving as ombudsman: Jennifer Rubin.
She doesn't travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward.
And she is often wrong, and rarely acknowledges it. She was oh-so-wrong about Mitt Romney, week after week writing embarrassing flattery about his 2012 campaign, calling almost every move he made brilliant, and guaranteeing that he would trounce Barack Obama. When he lost, the next day she savaged him and his campaign with treachery, saying he was the worst candidate with the worst staff, ever. She was wrong about the Norway shootings being acts of al-Qaida. She was wrong about Chuck Hagel being an anti-Semite. And does she apologize? Nope.
He's right that Rubin was aggressively, enthusiastically, and embarrassingly in the bag for Mitt Romney during the 2012 election, and that post-election blog post she wrote about Romney's "Perils of Pauline" campaign was a particularly galling bit of revisionist history.
Pexton makes a another point that is important and has to be repeated: Rubin is an embarrassment "not because she's conservative, but because she's just plain bad." She lies consistently about matters big and small, with no indication that she cares one way or the other about being found out. She frequently makes claims that a simple Google search would prove false. That's not a problem of ideology. It's a problem of basic competence and forthrightness that the Post is going to have to address sooner or later.
The paper is, of course, free to address it however they see fit. But for its own sake, sooner would be better.
UPDATE: Politico's Dylan Byers obtained an emailed response from Rubin to Pexton's column: "'hahahahahhahaha' - that's a direct quote"
So much for having a national conversation about race.
Conservative commentators claimed they'd welcome an honest discussion about the thorny issue in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict. But within moments last week of President Obama offering up his personal reflection about the trial and how the killing of Trayvon Martin had been viewed within the African-American community, right-wing voices responded with almost feral anger and resentment.
Among those most incensed by Obama's thoughtful reflections was Jennifer Rubin who writes for the Washington Post. She called Obama's comments "disgusting." Furious at America's first black president for discussing the topic of race following a passionate trial verdict (he's "not a good person," Rubin stressed), the columnist lashed out at Obama for addressing a problem she claimed is no longer even relevant to the American experience.
Lamenting that Obama's won't allow people "get out of this racial archaeology," Rubin claimed Americans are "held prisoners forever in a past that most Americans have never personally experienced." (Fact: "Most Americans" haven't personally experienced anti-Semitism, but that doesn't stop Rubin from crusading against what she sees as outbreaks of it.)
Rather than addressing the substance of Obama's comments about how "the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away," Rubin simply dismissed the idea that racial prejudice has to be talked about, let alone discouraged, anymore. Like Prohibition and the Red Scare, racism apparently represents a distant chapter in America's past.
Rubin is hardly alone in her proud and public denial.
That right-wing refutation has been found on the fringes of the conservative movement for years, if not decades. And skeptics have often tried to downplay the significance of the problem, insisting that liberals use the issue to attack their political opponents. But in recent weeks, much the way the denial of global warming has become a conservative cornerstone, the blanket denial of the existence of racism has been mainstreamed and embraced as an empirical far-right truth: Racism against minorities has been relegated to America's past. It's now filed under "archeology," as Rubin put it, something historians and academics might study one day.
Noting the dubious trend, the Chicago Tribune's Rex Huppke recently quipped that saying racism is over is the new way of saying you have 'a black friend.'
Fox News Sunday panelists ignored a poll showing a majority of Texans oppose a proposed abortion ban bill, instead pushing the baseless claim that the bill is supported by that state's public.
Republicans in Texas recently attempted to pass a bill during a special legislative session that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, which is unconstitutional under Supreme Court precedent, with lower courts recently striking down similar bans in two other states. The bill did not include exemptions for rape or incest and contained other restrictions that would force all but five clinics that provide abortions in the state to close. The bill was defeated after Texas Senator Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for 11 hours, causing the special session to expire before the bill was passed. But Governor Rick Perry said he would convene another special session on July 1 to pass the bill.
When discussing the second attempt to pass the bill, the June 30 Fox News Sunday panel focused solely on the bill's 20 week ban provision to baselessly claim that the bill would pass because it has the support of the Texas public. Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin said Gov. Perry "is completely in tune with public opinion" on the bill. Fox News contributor Juan Williams backed Rubin, saying that polling shows "abortions after 20 weeks are not popular with anybody." Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel said that the ban is "something that Americans actually have a great deal of unanimity on."
But a mid-June poll of Texas residents showed that a majority of Texans oppose the abortion ban bill. The poll, conducted by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, found that 51 percent of Texans opposed the bill. Sixty-three percent of respondents said that Texas has enough abortion restrictions already, and 52 percent said they think that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Seventy-four percent, including a majority of Republicans and Independents, felt that private medical decisions about abortion should not be made by politicians.
Over the past month or so, columnists for major newspapers have gotten it into their heads that the "scandal" involving IRS agents in Cincinnati inappropriately scrutinizing conservative non-profit groups can be traced back to President Obama. According to these professional pundits who are paid very well to fill column space for their newspapers' print and online editions, the anti-Tea Party vibes Obama put out were picked up on by the IRS bureaucrats, who were then subconsciously impelled to exact retribution on the president's political enemies.
It turns out that this theory of presidential pseudo-telepathy was completely and fantastically wrong. Who could have predicted?
Newly revealed IRS documents show that the agency's targeting efforts were also aimed at progressive groups, medical marijuana groups, organizations focused on Middle East policy -- not just conservative and Tea Party groups.
This is a big problem for columnists like Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal, who devoted no fewer than three columns to the idea that the White House was "involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives" because President Obama said ungenerous things about the Tea Party and created an "environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable." Here's what she wrote on June 7:
The president of the United States spent months warning the country that "shadowy," conservative "front" groups -- "posing" as tax-exempt entities and illegally controlled by "foreign" players -- were engaged in "unsupervised" spending that posed a "threat" to democracy. Yet we are to believe that a few rogue IRS employees just happened during that time to begin systematically targeting conservative groups?
Turns out this scenario that Strassel thought so unbelievable was pretty much exactly what happened, except that the IRS was also targeting liberal groups. If she has an explanation for how Obama is responsible for that as well, we'd love to hear it.
After President Obama named former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his new national security advisor, right-wing media figures called the appointment a "slap in the face," a "middle finger," and an "eff you" to Americans.