More on Benghazi here:
On Saturday, retired Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer told Fox News that according to his sources, President Obama watched the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, from the White House as it took place.
“This was in the middle of the business day in Washington, so everybody at the White House, CIA, Pentagon, everybody was watching this go down,” he said on Fox News’ “Justice with Judge Jeanine.”
“According to my sources, yes, [President Obama] was one of those in the White House Situation Room in real-time watching this,” he added.
Col. David Hunt, a Fox News military analyst, said the "entire U.S. government was paying attention," since this was the fourth embassy to have been attacked in a 24-hour period.
But President Obama said Friday that he was "not personally aware" of any requests for additional security.
Per the AP "The State Department’s timeline says the attack itself began at around 9:40 p.m." (presumably local time), which is certainly during the afternoon in Washington.
Obama spoke at the Pentagon 9/11 memorial service that morning, spoke in the Rose Garden the morning of the 12th, and flew to a Vegas campaign event. So he certainly coul dhave been in the Whiye House minding the store that afternoon. I don't recall Obama telling us where he was and what he was doing as the events in Cairo and Benghazi undolded, but I welcome assistance.
His Rose Garden talk included this account of his personal schedule:
Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourned with the families who were lost on that day. I visited the graves of troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hallowed grounds of Arlington Cemetery, and had the opportunity to say thank you and visit some of our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. And then last night, we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi.
About "Last night" - the State Dept says the attack began at 9:40 local time. At 4AM the annex to which people had retreated took precise mortar fire and a decision was made to evacuate the annex. Benghazi is six hours ahead of Washington DC, so the attack began at 3:40 EST (although the militants were marshalling for an hour or so before that) and the annex was struck at 10PM.
Forget about the 3AM phone call - Obama can't even take the 3PM calls. If Obama was not involved in the decision process as events unfolded, why not?
OK, I understand that as a boring middle-aged white guy I am not the target demographic for this latest 'girls just wanna have fun' Obama ad. Nor was I the target when Putin ran with a similar theme.
Still, yike. I am highly confident that Bill Clinton would have steered away from an ad playing on the suggestion that voting for him would be like having sex with him. (And if there is a merciful God in heaven, Hillary will be as wise in 2016.)
Secondly, does any Dem strategist wonder whether these young ladies have voting-age parents? Are those parents all giving this the har-de-har, or are some taking offense?
That said, I guess it is a sign of progress that we can make jokes about eighteen year old girls having sex with fifty year old (married) black men. There was a time when the whole sex and black males topic was fraught, but maybe we moved on with the then-24 year old Obama Girl. Or maybe Obama is just innately non-threatening. Good to know.
David Brooks comes out swinging with a definition and vigorous defense of political moderation:
It occurred to me that this might be a good time to describe what being a moderate means.
First, let me describe what moderation is not. It is not just finding the midpoint between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there. Only people who know nothing about moderation think it means that.
Moderates start with a political vision, but they get it from history books, not philosophy books. That is, a moderate isn’t ultimately committed to an abstract idea. Instead, she has a deep reverence for the way people live in her country and the animating principle behind that way of life. In America, moderates revere the fact that we are a nation of immigrants dedicated to the American dream — committed to the idea that each person should be able to work hard and rise.
This animating principle doesn’t mean that all Americans think alike. It means that we have a tradition of conflict. Over the centuries, we have engaged in a series of long arguments around how to promote the American dream — arguments that pit equality against achievement, centralization against decentralization, order and community against liberty and individualism.
The moderate doesn’t try to solve those arguments. There are no ultimate solutions. The moderate tries to preserve the tradition of conflict, keeping the opposing sides balanced. She understands that most public issues involve trade-offs. In most great arguments, there are two partially true points of view, which sit in tension. The moderate tries to maintain a rough proportion between them, to keep her country along its historic trajectory.
The moderate creates her policy agenda by looking to her specific circumstances and seeing which things are being driven out of proportion at the current moment. This idea — that you base your agenda on your specific situation — may seem obvious, but immoderate people often know what their solutions are before they define the problems.
For a certain sort of conservative, tax cuts and smaller government are always the answer, no matter what the situation. For a certain sort of liberal, tax increases for the rich and more government programs are always the answer.
The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right. Situations matter most. Tax cuts might be right one decade but wrong the next. Tighter regulations might be right one decade, but if sclerosis sets in then deregulation might be in order.
Well, on the conservative side Brooks shortchanged stronger defense as the third leg of the timeless (or at least, Reagan-ear) stool. And the social conservatives are written out entirely (which is the second time he has done that recently, IIRC. Here, maybe?).
As to the notion that higher taxes and more regulation only appeal to a "certain type" of liberal, I am curious to learn what other type Brooks has in mind.
In any case, in a previous column Mr. Brooks exhorted us not to confuse moderation with pragmatism:
It’s important to distinguish between moderation and pragmatism. Ted Kennedy was nobody’s definition of a moderate, yet he had the ability to craft large and effective compromises on issues ranging from immigration to education and health care.
Good point. In that sense, Obama is not a pragmatist at all, since he has demonstrated no ability to sway his party or the opposition. Just offhand, Obama campaigned on promises to close Gitmo, attack global warming, and oppose an individual mandate on health care. Yet with Democratic control of both houses, how did he do?
A few days back the Times front-paged a story about Anita Dunn, Obama advisor and well-paid corporate consultant. Yeah, yeah, one more high minded progressive getting rich while peddling hope and change. But the story ended with a bit of a he-said/they said confusion:
Among its [SKDKnickerbocker, a communications firm] biggest assignments was representing a business coalition seeking to reduce tax rates on about $1 trillion in offshore earnings. Ms. Rosen told members of the corporate team that the Treasury Department was unwilling to go to bat for the idea, one participant recalled. SKDK and several senior Treasury officials say they never discussed the issue.
But an official with knowledge of the issue said Ms. Rosen had spoken by phone with Jake Siewert, then a senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, asking whether there was any chance that the administration would allow such a plan to be included in a debt deal then under discussion. Mr. Siewert told Ms. Rosen that the idea had no administration support, acccording to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Ms. Rosen acknowledged that she probably spoke to officials at the Treasury press office to learn the administration’s public position on the tax plan.
When The New York Times asked the Treasury Department last week about its contact with SKDK on the issue, that inquiry was forwarded to the firm within an hour.
Today the Times is back (on page A25) with confirmation that they were right and Ms. Rosen has memory issues:
WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department said Thursday that a communications firm with close ties to President Obama talked to the administration about allowing tax breaks for its corporate clients on more than $1 trillion in offshore revenues.
Hilary Rosen, a partner at the firm, SKDKnickerbocker, who is also a prominent Obama supporter, arranged a phone call last year with Jake Siewert, then a senior adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, to determine whether the administration might reverse its position on the offshore tax issue, according to a department spokeswoman.
Mr. Siewert said the administration would not, the spokeswoman said.
The firm has insisted that it never spoke with senior Treasury Department officials about the offshore tax issue and that it does not lobby policy makers on issues affecting its corporate clients. Jill Zuckman, a partner at SKDK, said Thursday that Ms. Rosen “did not remember having that conversation” with Mr. Siewert.
Human memory is tricky, and sometimes convenient.
Hilary Rosen is probably best known for her attack, later withdrawn, on Ann Romney and stay at home moms.
Mark Thompson, former head of the BBC, is slated to become CEO of the NY Times on Nov. 12. However, Mr. Thompson has become embroiled in a monumental pedophilia scandal at the BBC, and questions have been raised, in Parliament and elsewhere, about what he managed to not know and how he managed to not know it.
Mr. Thompson has defended himself with two classic non-denial denials:
Mr. Thompson’s version of his role has shifted somewhat over the past 10 days.
In a statement released on Oct. 13, Mr. Thompson issued a blanket denial of any knowledge of the squelched BBC report. “I was not notified or briefed about the ‘Newsnight’ investigation,” he said, adding that “during my time as director general of the BBC, I never heard any allegations or received any complaints about Jimmy Savile.”
But on Tuesday, in a letter in response to Mr. Wilson, the Parliament member, Mr. Thompson appeared to adjust his answer slightly, saying, “I was never formally notified about the ‘Newsnight’ investigation and was not briefed about the allegations they were examining and to what extent, if at all, those allegations related to Savile’s work at the BBC.”
So as of Oct 13, Mr. Thompson's claim is that during his time as head of the BBC (i.e., 2004 to 2012) he never heard any allegations about Jimmy Savile.
Please - per his bio, he started at the BBC in 1979! Was his memory wiped clean when he took the corner office in 2004, or is he willing to deny that he never heard relevant rumors or innuendo from 1979 forward? Let's note that Mr. Savile was questioned in a 2000 documentary about pedophila rumors, so the notion was surely circulating.
And his latest denial is that he was never "formally" briefed. Is it his official view that gossip, back-channel contacts and friendly "heads-up" warnings about Mr. Savile wouldn't be relevant, if he had in fact received some? Is Mr. Thompson prepared to assert that he never, from 1979 forward, had any indication at all that the BBC was harboring a monstrous pedophile?
Times chairman and publisher Arther Sulzberger has chimed in with support for Mr. Thompson. However, questions have been raised which will not be answered before November 12, so sometime soon (All eyes will be elsewhere on election night!) the Times will announce a delay in this transition.
And as they wait the Times board will ponder the obvious - do they really need a See-No-Evil CEO running their news organization? Either Mr. Thompson is lying and he did have concerns about Mr. Savile, or he has the corporate antenna and finger-on-the-pulse skills of a garden gnome.
Donald Trump may be second to none n the arena of self-promotion but his sense of how to purchase a political scandal is very far off:
Donald Trump said on Wednesday that if President Obama releases his college records and his passport application, the mega-millionaire developer will give a $5 million check to charities of Obama’s choosing.
Trump tweeted a video of himself in which he offers Obama a “deal that I don’t believe he can refuse, and I hope he doesn’t.”
The records must be turned over by Oct. 31 by 5 p.m., and the check will be made within an hour after the records are released, Trump said.
Obama won't be playing along and talking about his birth certificate will only energize the committed and annoy the rest.
However! The time is past, at least for this election, but for a lot less than $5 million a much more entertaining scandal might be for sale. Back in 2008 (and in follow-ups) Jack Cashill alleged that Barack Obama got ghostwriting help from Bill Ayers on "Dreams From My Father". Author Christopher Andersen made a similar claim in "Barack and Michelle:Portrait of an American Marriage".
Juola & Associates (www.juolaassoc.com) is the premier provider of expert analysis and testimony in the field of text and authorship. Our scientists are leading, world-recognized experts in the fields of stylometry, authorship attribution, authorship verification, and author analysis. Every written document is a snapshot of the person who wrote it; through our analysis, we can determine everything from sociological information to biographical information, even the identity of the author. We provide sound, tested, and legally-recognized analysis as well as expert testimony by Dr. Patrick Juola, arguably one of the world’s leaders in the field of Forensic Stylometry.
We have worked with groups as wide-ranging as multinational companies, Federal courts, research groups, and individuals seeking political asylum. We have literally written the book (ISBN 978-1-60198-118-9) on computational methods for authorship analysis and profiling.
Expert witnesses for hire! Mr. Watts mentioned the fees (waived for his project):
Normally such professional analysis for courtroom quality work nets them fees comparable to what a metropolitan lawyer might charge...
Not a big deal for Trump, who has lawyers for lunch. Not even chump change, actually.
Well, the key word is "stylometry" and lots of academics are doing interesting things with it. The death of internet anonymity is mooted here; police states take note, as well as app developers interested in creating a "style obfuscater".
if Mr. Trump wants to throw away a bit of money wisely, hiring some credible experts to track the authorship of "Dreams" could be a cheap home run.
I CAN QUIT ANYTIME: The World Series starts tonight! OK, we won't see any cheap Yankee Stadium home runs, but wait'll next year. Meanwhile, starting next week we will be all about three yards and a cloud of dust and draining threes with our Metaphor Mangler.
LONDON (AP) — The child abuse scandal that has enveloped one of Britain's most respected news organizations is now hitting one of America's, as the incoming president of The New York Times is on the defensive about his final days as head of the BBC.
Mark Thompson was in charge of the BBC in late 2011 when the broadcaster shelved what would have been a bombshell investigation alleging that the late Jimmy Savile, one of its biggest stars, was a serial sex offender.
The BBC scandal has horrified Britain with revelations that Savile, a popular children's television presenter, cajoled and coerced vulnerable teens into having sex with him in his car, in his camper van, and even in dingy dressing rooms on BBC premises.
Police say there could be more than 200 victims, leading one child protection charity to state that Savile could rank among Britain's most prolific child sex predators.
Hmm, would the Times hire the former Penn State Athletic Director to run their sports desk? Inquiring minds want to know.
The Times Public Editor exhorts the Times to cover this with appropriate vigor. And they do! Their account makes the scheduled ascension of Mr. Thompson on November 12 seem absurdly unlikely.
But first, a bit of the scandal, as described in the Times; Parliamentary hearings have just begun:
How could this have happened, over decades, without action to stop it? How could some of the country’s most respected institutions — among them the BBC, the National Health Service, police forces in London and other areas, as well as the national prosecuting authority — have failed to bring the accused principal abuser to book? How could so many vulnerable young girls and boys — more than 200, according to the police — have been exposed to such vileness, for so long,and so blatantly, without anybody stepping in to help them?
The occasion was the opening of hearings by the House of Commons committee on culture, media and sport, and the matter at hand cascading revelations in the past month that have portrayed one of Britain’s most beloved television hosts, Jimmy Savile, who died last year at 84, as an insatiable pedophile, a predator who abused teenagers in children’s homes, in hospitals for the emotionally disturbed, in BBC dressing rooms yards from stage sets where he made himself a national idol.
And more background here:
Abuse Allegations Against BBC Host Multiply in Britain
By ALAN COWELL
The British police said Friday that the allegations of sexual abuse leveled against one of Britain’s best-known television personalities were “unprecedented,” with more than 400 leads and at least 200 potential victims, more than three times the tally only days ago.
The disclosure represents a significant widening of the scandal, as victims and accusers overcome decades of reticence to step forward and denounce the former BBC host, Jimmy Savile, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and had often been depicted as a national treasure.
“The public’s response to this issue has been astounding,” Peter Spindler, a commander with Scotland Yard, said in a statement. “We are dealing with alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale. The profile of this operation has empowered a staggering number of victims to come forward to report the sexual exploitation which occurred during their childhood.”
The accusations against Mr. Savile, who died last year at the age of 84, have stunned many Britons, shattering the public image of a television personality who for decades attracted a young audience through his role as host of two popular BBC programs, “Top of the Pops,” a chart-countdown show, and “Jim’ll Fix It,” in which Mr. Savile promised to grant viewers’ wishes.
The accusations first came to light in a documentary broadcast this month on the rival commercial channel ITV.
With his hallmark peroxide-blond hair and long cigars, Mr. Savile was widely known as a showman whose celebrity enabled him to sponsor many charities. The complaints of abuse of under-age girls in hospitals that Mr. Savile visited as a volunteer, in children’s homes and on the premises of the BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, have also raised searing questions about why the station did not move earlier against Mr. Savile, whose behavior was the topic of much-discussed rumors among BBC employees.
So, what did Mr. Thopson know and when did he know it? He claims he knew nothing, quite resolutely, as head of the BBC from 2004 until September 2012. Yet per the Times, rumors about Mr. Savile have been circulating for more than a decade:
Starting in September, accusations began to surface in news reports that Mr. Savile, a beloved television personality, philanthropist and longtime BBC employee, had victimized more than 200 boys and girls before his death last year. The accusations have also raised questions about whether the BBC was aware of his suspected pattern of criminal behavior while he was employed there and whether the “Newsnight” investigation was shut down to avoid embarrassment for the corporation.
For years, Mr. Savile’s career had been dogged by rumors of his sexual behavior. In a 2000 documentary, Mr. Savile acknowledged speculation that he was a pedophile, saying, “I know I’m not.”
That level of incuriousity on the part of Mr. Thompson may not be indictable but I doubt the Times board will consider it a helpful embellishment to their imagined brand. And if rumors circulated for years but never reached his ears, what sort of a corporate culture of communication was he fostering? What was his approach - "My door is always open - for good news"?
Naturally, there is also some question of a specific cover-up - a BBC investigative team was working on a Savile project which was eventually cancelled. So far, Mr. Thompson has managed to preserve his shield of perfect ignorance.
But so what? Is this really the man the Times wants leading what they would like to present as a news organization? Maybe they could signal the change in leadership with a change in motto - "All the News That Jumps In Our Lap and Slaps Our Face".
The Times current official position is to Keep Hope Alive:
A New York Times spokesman said that while the newspaper’s board had been notified of the BBC matter, he was confident that Mr. Thompson will be the company’s chief executive.
“Mark will join The New York Times Company as president and CEO the week of Nov. 12,” said the spokesman in a statement. “We believe his experience and accomplishments make him the ideal person to take the helm of the Times Company as we focus on growing our businesses through digital and global expansion.”
Hell will freeze and Thompson will have to skate across it to get this job on this schedule. We hear from a voice of realism:
Douglas Arthur, an equity analyst at Evercore Partners, an investment bank that follows The Times and currently has a buy rating on the stock, was more cautious. “It might make sense to delay his start date until there is more clarity on how this is going to play out in Parliament and in the U.K.,” he said. “Even if everything he has said to date is accurate, there is still a great deal of confusion around the actual facts of the case.”
A preview of an upcoming epic Duel of the Pygmy Presidents (One term edition)? Jimmy Carter travels to Israel and takes a few shots at Barack Obama:
In Jerusalem, Carter Derides Netanyahu and Obama
On Monday, he [Mr. Peanut] ramped up his years of criticism of Israeli policy by saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lacked the courage of his predecessors and that he had abandoned the two-state solution that has been the accepted framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. And just two weeks before the American election, he was almost as critical of President Obama, saying his administration has shirked the historical role played by the United States in the region.
As for Mr. Obama, a fellow Democrat, the former president said, “The U.S. government policy the last two to three years has basically been a rapid withdrawal from any kind of controversy.”
He added: “Every president has been a very powerful factor here in advocating this two-state solution. That is now not apparent.”
Of course, Jimmah has no reputation for being pro-Israel, so it isn't clear whether it is Romney or Obama that benefits from this denunciaton.
In an abstarct sense, Obama probably "won" the debate as performance art. But Romney surely seemed adequately Presidential and I doubt that Obama's Presidential petulance was attractive to any remaining undecideds.
However I am sure Obama's "zingers" gave Chris Matthews a tingle and helped fire up the many haters amongst the Democratic base. It is presumptuous of me to attempt to out-think the Democratic brain trust, but my guess is that Obama's hope was to goad Romney into a display of temper that would be immediately criticized by the Dem media chorus as racist. Yes, Romney was extremely unlikely to say "Stifle yourself, you uppity black boy" but the Dems were desperate to pretend he had and would have pounded any flash of Romney temper into that mold. Oh, well - that didn't work, so they will need something else to light their fire.
On the Detroit bailout, it is pretty clear that Obama's attack is on yet another Dem strawman; what Romney favored was restructuring, not a liquidation. In November 2008 Romney argued for private financing with some Federal guarantees rather than a full Federal bailout. Since private markets were essentially closed by the winter of 2009, one is left guessing whether Romney would have compromised with reality in favor of liquidation, or a full Federal bail out.
Economist Christina Romer defends the stimulus she helped devise and delivers a few laughs in the process. Among the lessons learned from the stimulus experience she notes the importance of salesmanship and public confidence (aka Krugman's "confidence fairy"):
Finally, there’s little question that policy makers — myself included — should have worked harder to earn the public’s support for the act. One frustrating anomaly is that many of its individual components routinely received favorable reactions in polls, while the overall act was viewed negatively.
That is more than a simple public relations problem. Recovery measures work better when they raise confidence — as Franklin D. Roosevelt understood. His fireside chats, and his inaugural address proclaiming he would fight the Great Depression with the same resolve he would muster against a foreign foe, were aimed at reassuring Americans. Recent research suggests that New Deal programs may actually have had their primary impacton the economy by influencing consumer and business expectations of future growth and inflation.
Partly because of fierce political opposition, and partly because of ineffective communication and imperfect design, the Recovery Act generated little such rebound in confidence. As a result, it didn’t have that extra, Rooseveltian kick.
Fierce political opposition? Surely she remembers that Roosevelt's New Deal aroused bitter opposition, and yet here we are.
Ms. Romer also lauds a couple of academic efforts to track the results of the stimulus:
TWO careful studies have looked at the relationship between this formulaic spending and employment. Both find that states that received more money fared substantially better. This is the strongest direct evidence that the Recovery Act contributed to employment growth. Based on the estimated size of the effect, the studies suggest that the act created more than three million jobs.
Well, well. Ms. Romer provides links to Chodorow-Reich, Feiveson et al  and Daniel J. Wilson of the FRB San Francisco . Both papers were noted in Ezra Klein's stimulus push a year ago and in our humble pushback. Mr. Klein had failed to note that the June 2011 draft of the Wilson paper rebutted the Chodorow et al result. The revised October 2011 version is less visibly contradictory.
Marco Rubio is the latest to note the lack of a Presidential agenda. But why listen to this from some righty when we have the NY Times making the same point? This is from their coverage of the second Romney-Obama debate:
But [prospective voters] have not learned as much about what the next four years might look like. With tens of millions of Americans tuning in to the debates, the four candidates for president and vice president have spent most of their time on the biggest public stage of the campaign fighting more about what happened in the last term than what should happen in the next.
Mr. Obama and Vice President Biden defended their record but gave only a modest sense of their agenda should they be re-elected, beyond arguing for staying the course because the other side would return to what they called the failed policies of the past.
Over the course of three debates, the two sides have provided clues. Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, in effect, asked voters to ratify the path they have already set. They promised to finish carrying out the health care plan passed in the first term and to seek higher taxes on the wealthy to whittle away at sky-high budget deficits. They vowed to continue clean energy initiatives and fight erosion of women’s rights. It has sounded like rear-guard actions preserving what they see as their accomplishments.
There was little of the sweeping ambition envisioned four years ago. Mr. Obama made clear on Tuesday that while he still wanted to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws, Republicans stood in the way. The words “climate change” were never uttered by a president who in 2008 vowed that his watch would be remembered as the time “the planet began to heal.” He spoke only once, in passing, about building roads and bridges, once a key part of his jobs plan.
Obama's agenda? Four more years of blaming Bush and failing to work with Republicans.
It's a less-read Saturday so the Times can step out a bit. Today they shock us with both a pro-Romney piece - his management style isn't the hated Reagan or Bush 43, it's LBJ or Barack himself! Actually, his immersion in detail and fondness for talk evokes Bill Clinton, but maybe they didn't want to go overboard in what they consider praise.
As a companio piece, they have an Obama-basher: one of his top advisers, Anita Dunn, is doubling up as a big-time lobbyist:
Still, Ms. Dunn’s dual roles show the limits of Mr. Obama’s attempts to change the culture of Washington. Even as he pledged to curb the influence of special interests in the capital and has restricted the role of lobbyists in his administration, the president and his top aides continue to rely on political operatives like Ms. Dunn who also represent clients seeking to influence public policy.
“He’s gone in the right direction,” said James Thurber, a professor at American University, referring to measures that opened more White House records to public scrutiny and that slowed the revolving door between government and lobbying firms. “But in the wide sweep of things, he didn’t really change Washington that much.”
The White House is overrun by lobbyists? I have to blame Bush. Or the dismal economy Obama inherited - c'mon, those Dems have to eat, too, right?
Some quips from the Al Smith dinner to start the weekend. I especially like this from Romney:
"I've already seen reports from tonight's dinner. Headline: Obama embraced by Catholics, Romney dines with rich people."
Jeffrey Goldberg looks at the Benghazi disaster and the debate debacle, decries the lack of serious debate, and makes with the rhetorical questions:
What we've got now is a discussion about who needs to be fired, and which candidate is in a better position to score cheap points. Does Mitt Romney actually think that Barack Obama doesn't believe that what happened in Benghazi was an act of terror?
GREAT question. Of course, I am not a mind reader so I can only guess as to what Mitt Romney or Barack Obama have been thinking. But let me toss out a few questions of my own:
1. Did anyone think Barack Obama would have taken a political hit if he had entered the Rose Garden on Sept 12 and said something like "Terrorists killed out ambassador to Libya on the anniversaty of 9/11 in an attack we failed to anticipate, after turning down repeated requests for more security in Libya. Oops."? I am just guessing that Axelrod et al advised against walking that road since it clashed with "Osama is dead and General Motors is alive".
2. Here is the White House press release of Sept 12 responding to the death of our Ambassador:
Statement by the President on the Attack in Benghazi
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya's transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.
Which part of that should have suggested to Gov. Romney (or does suggest to Mr. Goldberg) that on Sept 12 President Obama considered this to be an act of terror? FWIW, my takeaway is that senseless violence provoked by an offensive video sparked the tragedy.
In his Rose Garden appearance the President did mention terror generically and as an afterthought. My question - if he was labeling this tragedy an act of terror, how come no one was listening? How did,for example, the NY Times completely miss that in their coverage of his comments? Why did the press ignore the obvious follow-up questions, such as what groups sponsored the terrorists and was there an Al Qaeda connection?
Why did UN Ambassador Susan Rice harp on the seemingly irrelevant video in her Sunday talk show appearances on Sept 16? Why was it newsworthy when Hillary Clinton described the incident as terror on Sept 21? Why was the President specifically asked whether it was terror as late as Sept 25 on The View (he ducked the answer)?
Is it now the case that when Obama speaks no one listens, including Obama? Does Mr. Goldberg really think that the President clearly described the death of our ambassador as an act of terror on Sept 12 but no one noticed?
Just when should it have been obvious to Gov. Romney and the rest of us that President Obama viewed this as an act of terror?
IF WE CAN BELIEVE THE QUESTONER...
Apparently Obama chatted privately with Kerry Ladka, who asked the fateful Libya question, after the debate:
President Obama, though, wasn’t done with Kerry Ladka. “After the debate, the president came over to me and spent about two minutes with me privately,” says the 61-year-old Ladka, who works at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola, N.Y. According to Ladka, Obama gave him ”more information about why he delayed calling the attack a terorist attack.” For background, Obama did apparently lump Benghazi into a reference to “acts of terror” in a Sept. 12 Rose Garden address. However, he spent about two weeks holding off on using the full “terrorist” designation. The rationale for the delay, Obama explained to Ladka, was to make sure that the “intelligence he was acting on was real intelligence and not disinformation,” recalls Ladka.
Wait - now the President is admitting he waited two weeks to call this terror while the intel came in?
Debate "moderator" Candy Crowley ought to be excoriated for her very misleading support of Obama's claim [transcript] that he labeled the Benghazi consulate attack as terror the very next day. [And she is not defending herself. Geez, send in the replacement moderators.]
Glenn Kessler of the WaPo has a timeline of the shifting Administration position. Obama did use the word "terror" late in his Rose Garden presentation after denouncing "senseless violence" linked to the Mohammed video; the White House press release made no mention of terror. In their coverage the Times inexplicably missed the idea that this was a terror attack, so I guess Obama was too subtle for them.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. So I wanted to begin tonight by just saying a few words about a tough day that we had today. We lost four Americans last night, who were killed when they were attacked at a diplomatic post in Libya. And they were serving overseas on our behalf, despite the dangers, despite the risks, to help one of the world’s youngest democracies get on its feet. They were working to advance the interests and the values that we hold dear as Americans. And as Americans, we stand united -– all of us -– in gratitude for their service, and we are mindful of their sacrifice, and we want to send out heartfelt prayers to their loved ones who grieve today. (Applause.)
It’s a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy -– sometimes even the freedoms we take for granted -– they’re only sustained because there are people like those who were killed, who are willing to stand up for those freedoms; who are willing to fight for those freedoms; in some cases, to lay down their lives for those freedoms. So tonight, let’s think of them and thank them.
As for the ones we lost last night: I want to assure you, we will bring their killers to justice. (Applause.) And we want to send a message all around the world -- anybody who would do us harm: No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America. (Applause.)
However, the terror connection was lost and the Mohammed video was back by the time the President gave his Saturday address on Sept 15:
As we mourn their loss, we must also send a clear and resolute message to the world: those who attack our people will find no escape from justice. We will not waver in their pursuit. And we will never allow anyone to shake the resolve of the United States of America.
This tragic attack takes place at a time of turmoil and protest in many different countries. I have made it clear that the United States has a profound respect for people of all faiths. We stand for religious freedom. And we reject the denigration of any religion – including Islam.
Yet there is never any justification for violence. There is no religion that condones the targeting of innocent men and women. There is no excuse for attacks on our Embassies and Consulates. And so long as I am Commander-in-Chief, the United States will never tolerate efforts to harm our fellow Americans.
Glenn Kessler has more, but the laugh track wouldn't be complete without this excerpt from our tough-minded C-in-C with The View ladies on Sept 25:
QUESTION: “I heard Hillary Clinton say it was an act of terrorism. Is it? What do you say?”
OBAMA: “We are still doing an investigation. There is no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action. Now, we don’t have all the information yet so we are still gathering.”
Leading from behind.
I think a fair criticism of Ms. Crowley will be that she took the President's side when the full record is far less supportive of the notion that he made clear from Day One this was a terror attack.
Romney and Obama got into an early confrontation over oilproduction of Federal land. Let's go to a rush excerpt to set the scene:
President Obama insisted that oil production has been up and that the oil companies have been granted permits to drill but refuse to do so. Governor Romney, though, pointed out that the government is not granting many permits to oil companies, particularly on federal land.
"The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here's what I've done since I've been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years," President Obama said. Natural gas production is the highest it's been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment. But what I've also said is we can't just produce traditional source of energy. We've got to look to the future. That's why we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars."
Governor Romney shot back, saying: "Oil production is is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters."
The next Big Debate is at 9 Eastern tonight.
Obama is a lock to win the coveted "Most Improved" award.
However, all Romney has to do is be the guy he was at the last debate. Obama's task is much tougher. He will almost surely be more civil and subdued than Biden - excuse me, less rude and maniacal than Biden - which means a large segment of his base will be bitterly disappointed.
But just what advice is Obama getting - go out and be yourself? I doubt it: windy, pedantic and condescending probably won't win this.
Chris Matthews will want Obama to just shout "Bain Capital!", "47 percent!" and then "Liar!" in an endless loop. That won't sway the undecideds either.
Obama needs to be energetic and authoritative about his vision for America's future. That will be tough since he has yet to articulate on in this campaign. To be fair, I am setting aside his convention message, which amounted to assuring us he would put us on a difficult road to a distant place but he knew it would all work because it was the opposite of what Bush would have done.
Maybe Obama could study tapes of his 2008 debates? Maybe! I remember his patronizing "likeable enough" crack to Hillary, but in the course of three hundred debates I imagine a non-pedantic, non-condescending moment or two ocurred.
Obama needs to find a persona we haven't seen often in the last five years and maintain that for ninety minutes. I'll be surprised if he can manage it.
As part of their ongoing effort to pump up their candidate, David Kirkpatrick of the Times informs us that Al Qaeda is now a story used to scare the gullible. And the partisans, of course:
Election-Year Stakes Overshadow Nuances of Libya Investigation
CAIRO — After a month of conflicting statements and partisan criticism, the circumstances surrounding the attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, have become clouded in ambiguities and questions: Did the attack grow out of anger against an American-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad, or was it waged by an affiliate of Al Qaeda out to mark the 11th anniversary of its attack on United States soil?
To Libyans who witnessed the assault and know the attackers, there is little doubt what occurred: a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video. That is what the fighters said at the time, speaking emotionally of their anger at the video without mentioning Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or the terrorist strikes of 11 years earlier. And it is an explanation that tracks with their history as a local militant group determined to protect Libya from Western influence.
So (contra UN Ambassador Susan Rice) it was not a protest against the video hijacked by violent extremists; it was a violent assault by local milita angered by the video.
And that talk of Al Qaeda?
Whether the attackers are labeled “Al Qaeda cells” or “aligned with Al Qaeda,” as Republicans have suggested, depends on whether that label can be used as a generic term for a broad spectrum of Islamist militants, encompassing groups like Ansar al-Shariah whose goals were primarily local, as well as those who aspire to join a broader jihad against the West.
Those scurillious Republicans!
Mr. Kirkpatrick has a Cairo byline; since he may not reading the Times on a daily basis, he can be excused for missing this Sept. 26 headline:
Clinton Suggests Link to Qaeda Offshoot in Deadly Libya Attack
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday suggested there was a link between the Qaeda franchise in North Africa and the attack at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the American ambassador and three others. She was the highest-ranking Obama administration official to publicly make the connection, and her comments intensified what is becoming a fiercely partisan fight over whether the attack could have been prevented.
Mrs. Clinton did not offer any new evidence of a Qaeda link, and officials later said the question would be officially settled only after the F.B.I. completed a criminal inquiry, which could take months. But they said they had not ruled out the involvement of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — an affiliate of the international terrorist group with origins in Algeria — in an attack the administration initially described as a spontaneous protest turned violent.
The Times has also reported that another noted Romney surrogate has made the Al Qaeda connection:
In the week since the attack, the president of Libya’s newly elected national Congress blamed foreign fighters from Algeria or Mali with links to Al Qaeda who he said entered the country months earlier to plan the assault.
Hmm. A Libyan politician would have obvious reasons to blame meddling outsiders for his problems, but not everyone with an awkward message for Obama is a Republican.
As to the idea that Hillary is a Republican - well, she has been forced to walk the plank on Benghazi, so any day now!
A LIGHTBULB FLICKERS:
In explaining why Team Obama would be crazy to make Hillary the fall gal for Benghazi AllahPundit made this very good point:
Three: How are Obama and Biden going to scapegoat the most famous woman politician in America for a security breakdown at a moment when they’re counting on a decisive gender gap to deliver them a second term? After nine months of the “war on women” and Sandra Fluke and the three-day salute to abortion that you and I know as the Democratic convention, they’re going to freeze out … Hillary Clinton? C’mon.
Yes, but... Obama can praise her years of hard work, ruminate that mistakes were made, note that she is "likeable enough", and move on. It will be left to those Evil Republicans to criticize her decision making process, thereby demonstrating that they don't respect women's intellect or the difficulty of balancing work and home. Obama can play the kindly forgiving father figure that would infuriate libs if it were coming from a Republican, and Republicans can play the heavy. Tricky. I don't think hiding behind Hillary's skirts is Obama's best way of presenting himself as a steely Commander-in-Chief, but I am not a Democratic genius.
BOOTH REVIEW: Now that Hillary has taken the rap, Obama can pick up kudos by pretending to take responsibility himself. His surrogates can then explain that he is just showing he is a great leader and a great guy for covering up what we all know was Hillary's blunder.
My stomach is turning but Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow are the target audience and they will love this BS.
I HAVE BEEN CHANNELING MY INNER ALLAH... From the AllahP:
Fearless prediction: With Hillary having now formally accepted blame, President Above The Fray will magnanimously volunteer at tomorrow night’s debate that, no no, it is with him that the buck ultimately stops. The White House has been holding off on doing that because they’re desperate to frame this as an internal problem at State. Now that Clinton’s gone and done that, Obama can pose as a stand-up guy and loyal boss by symbolically accepting responsibility on behalf of the people who are really at fault.
More leading from behind.
I strongly, emphatically, vehemently disagree with this bit:
A friend e-mailed me after I wrote this post on Friday scolding me for thinking that Obama might throw Hillary under the bus rather than vice versa. After all, she’d have an easier time running in 2016 against President Romney than she would trying to succeed a two-term Democratic president.
It's the economy, people! The Dem game plan for both 2010 and 2012 was that a good recovery would happen regardless of their own anti-business predilections. Obviously that didn't work so well in 2010, but Obama may yet catch a break with the "recovery" of 2012.
But a President Romney has an excellent chance of inheriting an economy on the verge of recovery. With any luck at all, he should be able to ride that recovery to re-election in 2016; his timing will look a lot like Bill Clinton's in 1992.
Which means Hillary can either run against a successful Republican incumbent in 2016 or attempt (as Gore did) to succeed an economically successful Democrat. I think Barack can do a better job of keeping his pants on and Hillary can do a better job than Big Al.
David Sanger warns us that the current US approach to Syria has resulted in the arming of militant extremists currently oppposing Assad but likely to oppose the US:
WASHINGTON — Most of the arms shipped at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to supply Syrian rebel groups fighting the government of Bashar al-Assad are going to hard-line Islamic jihadists, and not the more secular opposition groups that the West wants to bolster, according to American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats.
That conclusion, of which President Obama and other senior officials are aware from classified assessments of the Syrian conflict that has now claimed more than 25,000 lives, casts into doubt whether the White House’s strategy of minimal and indirect intervention in the Syrian conflict is accomplishing its intended purpose of helping a democratic-minded opposition topple an oppressive government, or is instead sowing the seeds of future insurgencies hostile to the United States.
“The opposition groups that are receiving the most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” said one American official familiar with the outlines of those findings, commenting on an operation that in American eyes has increasingly gone awry.
Bleak news for Times readers. But Mr. Sanger rallies his base with the reassurance that Mitt Romney would probably be similarly inept:
The assessment of the arms flows comes at a crucial time for Mr. Obama, in the closing weeks of the election campaign with two debates looming that will focus on his foreign policy record. But it also calls into question the Syria strategy laid out by Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger.
In a speech at the Virginia Military Institute last Monday, Mr. Romney said he would ensure that rebel groups “who share our values” would “obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.” That suggests he would approve the transfer of weapons like antiaircraft and antitank systems that are much more potent than any the United States has been willing to put into rebel hands so far, precisely because American officials cannot be certain who will ultimately be using them.
But Mr. Romney stopped short of saying that he would have the United States provide those arms directly, and his aides said he would instead rely on Arab allies to do it. That would leave him, like Mr. Obama, with little direct control over the distribution of the arms.
In other words, since Romey has not been specific about what he would do differently, we can assume he would continue on the same poor course as Obama. Got it.
I am a little surprised that Mr. Sanger made no mention of another obvious dividing line - Syria is aligned with Hezbollah and Iran on the Shi'ite side, whereas Quatar and Saudi Arabia, as Sunni states, are surely guiding their arms to Sunni militants in Syria. Since Al Qaeda is the prime Sunni terrorist group, well, the slippage is predictable.
COMPOUNDING MY SURPRISE: The Sanger piece works as a front-page factcheck debunking a Biden debate claim. Well, except that Sanger never mentions Biden or the debate.
The AllahPundit convinces me that Biden and Obama would be crazy to throw Hillary under the bus for the Benghazi debacle. However, he does not convince me that Biden is not crazy.
The Times tries to pretend that all is well with the reassuring news that, like the Flying Dutchman, the buck stops nowhere:
In a debate with Representative Paul D. Ryan on Thursday night, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said White House officials were not told about requests for any additional security. “We weren’t told they wanted more security again,” Mr. Biden said.
The Romney campaign on Friday pounced on the conflicting statements, accusing Mr. Biden of continuing to deny the nature of the attack. The White House scrambled to explain the apparent contradiction between Mr. Biden’s statement and the testimony from State Department officials at the House hearing.
The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said Friday that security issues related to diplomatic posts in Libya and other countries were dealt with at the State Department, not the White House. Based on interviews with administration officials, as well as in diplomatic cables, and Congressional testimony, those security decisions appear to have been made largely by midlevel State Department security officials, and did not involve Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or her top aides.
Darn those mid-level staffers! If they would only run for re-election so we could vote them out.
Janet Reno got props for standing up and taking blame for the 1993 Waco disaster when all of Washington, including newly elected President Bill Clinton, were hiding under their desks. Maybe Hillary should step up on Benghazi and confirm that she is the only person in the Obama Administration with cojones.
But blaming mid-level staffers? Really? Is Obama going to campaign on a slogan that he killed Osama and will keep America safe unless those darn mid-level stafers screw up again?
But she would not weigh in on the growing controversy about when exactly members of the Obama administration knew the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate was carried out by terrorists or whether senior administration members knew that State Department security officials were concerned about the situation at the embassy in the months leading up to the attack.
The senior aides knew nothing. Set aside my Fast and Furious flashbacks - is this a winning message?
Joe Biden was a fountain of insight, or something, during the debate with Paul Ryan. Here he is on the war in Iraq, "ended" by Obama:
On Iraq, the president said he would end the war. Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake; we should have left -- that he ended it -- Governor Romney said that was a tragic mistake; we should have left 30,000 troops there.
So, troops out means 'war over'. But over in Afghanistan, Biden went awry, if we can believe David Sanger of the Times:
At the debate, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. could not have been more emphatic: By the end of 2014 Americans will be out of Afghanistan. “We are leaving. We are leaving in 2014, period.” After that, he said, it was up to the Afghans to secure their own country.
But leaving? Not exactly.
In every major conversation with the Afghans and the Pakistanis, American officials talk about their plans for an “enduring presence” of American troops.
No one says, at least officially, how big that enduring partnership would be. But the internal estimates cited by American officials in recent interviews run from 10,000 to 15,000 troops. That would include a counterterrorism force, probably made up of special forces and training forces. Those troops would be there to keep the Afghan security forces on track and as a tripwire to keep the Taliban from taking Kabul, if they ever threatened the capital again. The force would include drone operators, so that the United States can keep patrolling the skies and, on occasion, launch missile attacks inside Pakistan or in Afghan territory.
And, least discussed of all, it includes bomb search teams and other specialists to keep an eye on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. There is no bigger concern inside the Obama administration than how to respond if a nuclear weapon or nuclear material were at large, and after a 2009 scare — when the White House briefly thought the Pakistani Taliban might have obtained nuclear material — President Obama has insisted that the United States be able to respond quickly, according to interviews with current and former administration officials.
So an enduring American presence in Afghaistan won't be a tragedy and won't be inconsistent with declaring the war to be over. However, a similar approach to consolidating our gains in Iraq would be. I am sure that is clear to the Democratic base, if no one else.
And with respect to Iraq, we had the same position before the withdrawal, which was we agreed with the Obama administration: Let’s have a Status of Forces Agreement to make sure that we secure our gains. The vice president was put in charge of those negotiations by President Obama, and they failed to get the agreement. We don’t have a Status of Forces Agreement because they failed to get one. That’s what we are talking about.
The NY Times passes along a description of the Biden/Ryan brawl with which both sides can agree:
Jim Messina, the president’s campaign manager... [called] the debate a “clash between facts and conviction on one side and glib lines and empty promises on the other.”
Well, yes. Mark Salter was not so even-handed:
Mark Salter, a senior adviser to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, quipped on his Facebook page: “Evidently, the Obama campaign debate strategy is sleepy cop/crystal meth cop.”
Next Tuesday we will see Obama 2.0. Or will it be the O-1000, shifting shapes as necessary (but eventually melting down)? The suspense builds...
Catholics push back against one of Smirkin' Joe Biden's many preposterous debate assertions:
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the following statement, October 12. Full text follows:
Last night, the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:
"With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact."
This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain "religious employers." That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to "Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital," or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.
HHS has proposed an additional "accommodation" for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as "non-exempt." That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation "to pay for contraception" and "to be a vehicle to get contraception." They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.
Glenn Kessler of the WaPo did pick up on this in the course of fact-checking seventeen claims made during the debate, so Biden's alternative reality is not going totally unremarked in Medialand.
I don't imagine a string of columns by Dowd, Collins and Krugman denouncing Biden's lies will be hitting the press anytine soon, however.
A few days back I had wondered whether the embassy requests for extra security had stayed inside the State Dept (more likely) or actually reached the President (less likely). Obviously, blaing Hillary for the Benghazi debacle puts a torpedo in the Hillary 2016 battleship and risks alienating her husband, the guy who bailed out the Democratic convention. On the other hand, for Obama to claim ownership of the lax security decision could make for an awkward October and a miserable November. Tricky!
Well, Smirkin' Joe Biden has answered that question - it's the bus for Hillary:
Biden has come under fire for saying at Thursday night's debate, "We weren't told they wanted more security. We did not know they wanted more security there."
The Cable asked Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications Ben Rhodes whether Biden was speaking for the entire Obama administration, including the State Department, which acknowledged receiving multiple requests for more Libya security in the months before the attacks. Rhodes said that Biden speaks only for himself and the president and neither of them knew about the requests at the time.
The State Department security officials who testified before House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's panel Wednesday never said they had made their requests to the president, Rhodes pointed out. That would be natural because the State Department is responsible for diplomatic security, not the White House, he said.
Ouch. Well, Obama can do a lot more to promote Hillary's candidacy if he remains as incumbent and she remains a loyal, self-sacrificing team player, so sufficient unto the year are the elections therof.
However, this reassurance from Jay Carney does leave us wondering what Obama does all day:
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, we are very vigilant around anniversaries like 9/11. The President is always briefed and brought up to speed on all the precautions being taken.
Possible Team Obama spin - the President is briefed on the precautions being taken, but naturally he is not briefed on the precautions being overlooked. Naturally.
Will this Obama/Biden message of "We killed Osama but they forgot to remind us about the blowback" really carry them past the election? The buck stops where?
Inspird by the Biden-Ryan donnybrook the NY Times provides this fact-check on the situation in Libya:
Mr. Romney has criticized the Obama administration for initially playing down Al Qaeda’s possible connection to the attacks last month in Benghazi, but some of his own statements on the assault have been misleading.
In a major foreign policy address on Monday, Mr. Romney said the attack was “likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on Sept. 11, 2001.”
This suggests that Al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan, which planned and carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was somehow responsible for the attack in Libya. That’s misleading. American intelligence analysts now believe that some of the militants involved in the attack were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa, not the main Al Qaeda hierarchy.
Ah, well - our ambassador was killed by terrorists affiliated with terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda, not by terrorists affiiated with A Qaeda. I feel safer already, and darn that Romney for trying to scare me.
Over at Foreign Affairs we are cautioned against slicing Al Qaeda too finely:
Still, most accounts of the progress of the war against al Qaeda contend that the organization is on the decline, pointing to its degraded capacity to carry out terrorist operations and depleted senior leadership as evidence that the group is at its weakest since 9/11. But such accounts treat the central al Qaeda organization separately from its subsidiaries and overlook its success in expanding its power and influence through them. These groups should not be ignored. All have attacked Western interests in their regions of operation. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also long targeted the United States, but its efforts have moved beyond the execution stage only in the last two years, most recently with the foiled plot to bomb cargo planes in October 2010. And although al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has not yet attacked outside its region, al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was reportedly involved in the June 2007 London and Glasgow bomb plots.
It is time for an updated conception of al Qaeda's organization that takes into account its relationships with its subsidiaries. A broader conceptual framework will allow for a greater understanding of how and to what degree it exercises command and control over its expanded structure, the goals driving its expansion strategy, and its tactics.
Well - while the Times is decrying vagueness, perhaps they can take on this claim by Obama from May 2012, while speaking about our effort in Afghanistan:
But over the last three years, the tide has turned. We broke the Taliban’s momentum. We’ve built strong Afghan security forces. We devastated al Qaeda’s leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders. And one year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set -- to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild -- is now within our reach.
Hmm - does it count as "rebuilding" if Al Qaeda establishes affiliates in, just for example, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, and North Africa? Or was Obama preparing to declare "victory" over Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and pretend it was a complete victory? Baffling, and I await clarity from the Times.
The Administration put forward a senior State Dept. official to pre-empt the House hearing today on the deaths in Benghazi during the 9/11 attack on the consulate there. The latest story leaves the previous Administration spin a bit wobbly:
After declining for weeks to provide details about the assault on Sept. 11, the State Department on Tuesday night arranged with little notice a conference call in which a spokesman gave new details on what happened.
The account provided by a State Department official, whom the agency declined to identify, differed from the initial Obama administration reports in some important respects. Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, had said that the attack on the consulate began with an angry protest about an anti-Islamic film that was “hijacked” by extremists.
But in the new account provided by the State Department made no mention of a protest. In this account, Mr. Stevens met with a Turkish diplomat during the day of the attack and then escorted him to the main gate of the consulate around 8:30 p.m. At that time, there were no demonstrations and the situation appeared calm.
Little more than hour later, there was gunfire and explosions. American agents, watching the compound through cameras, saw a large group of armed men moving into the Benghazi compound. The barracks for a local militia that was protecting the compound was set on fire, and the attack began to unfold.
Ms. Rice's various statements to the Sunday talk shows on Sept. 16 are gathered here. One sample, from Meet The Press:
“Putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of – of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.”
Apparently that was not their best current assessment, but in their quest to win every news cycle Team Obama has done serious damage to their November goal.
Yesterday the State Dept official helpfuly explained that we can't expect the Administration to expect the unexpected:
Seeking to defend the State Department against charges of lax security, the official suggested to reporters that it could not have been anticipated. “The lethality and the number of armed people is unprecedented. There had been no attack like that anywhere in Libya — Tripoli, Benghazi or elsewhere — in the time we had been there,” he said. “It would be very, very hard to find a precedent for an attack like that in recent diplomatic history.”
More of this "C'mon, it was hopeless" defense will be on offer at the hearing:
WASHINGTON — The State Department official responsible for security for American diplomats in Libya testified before a Congressional committee on Wednesday that the attack last month on the mission in Benghazi would have overpowered even a reinforced security detail.
“The ferocity and intensity of the attack was nothing that we had seen in Libya, or that I had seen in my time in the Diplomatic Security Service,” said the official, Eric A. Nordstrom.
Oh, well then.
So, the key political question du jour - does this steaming mess end up sullying Hillary, or does it go all the way to Obama? One might not think that a State Dept. decision about consulate security would reach the White House, but on the other hand, we don't vote for Secretary of State. More importantly, we were being told by Jay Carney that the Man Who Killed Osama is on the case 24/7:
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you know, we are very vigilant around anniversaries like 9/11. The President is always briefed and brought up to speed on all the precautions being taken.
Hmm. I don't see how Team Obama can afford to throw Hillary under the bus between now and November and risk alienating her husband and the couple's many supporters. But the First Golfer can hardly take the blame for this himself. So where does the buck stop and where does the bus roll?
ERRATA: CBS News reported on Sept 20 that there was never a mob outside the consulate. That is after the Susan Rice appearances, which leaves us up in the air over what she knew and when she knew it.
Wow - "One riot, one Ranger" is now "One Ranger Team, one run". I have been resigned to Texas knocking the Yankees aside, but now I guess I have to brace for Detroit to do those honors.
And it is great to see Clint's empty chair back in the news.
Jake Tapper breaks news of down-sized security in Libya:
Email Shows State Department Rejecting Request of Security Team at US Embassy in Libya
ABC News has obtained an internal State Department email from May 3, 2012, indicating that the State Department denied a request from the security team at the Embassy of Libya to retain a DC-3 airplane in the country to better conduct their duties.
The DC-3 would have allowed the security team to move more freely about Libya, with their weapons.
The State Dept response includes this:
When commercial service was re-established in Libya, the aircraft was reassigned to other State Department business. We use our aircraft when no commercial flights exist.”
Geez, could a security team really take a commercial flight and get all their weapons past the metal detectors? Oh, I'm kidding - the plan was to use commerically available charter flights, which still might take more time than having a plane on call.
Critics claim the withdrawal of the DC-3 was part of a pattern of misunderestimating the security problems in Libya, and not decisive in itself:
No one has yet to argue that the DC-3 would have definitively made a difference for the four Americans killed that night. The security team in question, after all, left Libya in August.
Presumably the departure of the security team was also part of that pattern.
Will Obama catch a break with the jobs report or suffer the old one-two? We are moments away...
Up 110,000 is the consensus forecast.
HERE WE GO: Up 114,000 matches expectations; unemploment drops to 7.8%, making a great headline for Obama. Presumably workforce participation is a factor here [or not - volatility in the household survey may be driving this].
August and July are revised upward by roughly 40,000 each.
The general consensus is that Romney thumped Obama in the debate, proving that... humans beat robots? Or the T-1000 can beat the Terminator?
Let's cut to panic at the White House press office:
On Twitter, some of Mr. Obama’s Democratic allies expressed anger and disappointment that the president did not make better use of the “47 percent” speech by Mr. Romney and other missteps that the Democratic campaign has spent months honing into attack ads and stump speeches.
Andrew Sullivan, a blogger and strong supporter of Mr. Obama, echoed Peggy Noonan, a former Republican speechwriter, on Twitter, saying that “this is a rolling calamity for Obama.” Mr. Sullivan added: “He’s boring, abstract, and less human-seeming than Romney!”
And Bill Maher, the liberal comedian who had donated $1 million to a “superPAC” backing Mr. Obama, joked: “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter.”
But keep hope alive!
At this point, it remains unclear whether these snap assessments and others made immediately after the debate will be matched by the more sober judgments of voters in the upcoming days. Voters sometimes surprise the pundits by coming to different conclusions about the outcome of a presidential debate.
Possible spin: Of course Obama was downbeat and distracted - he was worried about the millions of Americans who might lose theuir health coverage iof Romney is elected.
Team Obama's Benghazi cover-up has Maureen Dowd reminiscing about Bush and Cheney:
Complicity in Duplicity?
By MAUREEN DOWD
A woman named Rice in a top administration job, ambitious to move up to secretary of state, hitting the Sunday talk shows to aggressively promote a Middle East narrative that’s good for the president but destined to crumble under scrutiny.
Accusations that intelligence on Al Qaeda links in the Middle East was cherry-picked by American officials to create a convenient reality.
A national security apparatus that becomes enmeshed with the political image-making machine.
Eerie. Ms. Dowd includes some Bush-bashing to make the medicine go down a bit more easily for her audience:
Last time it was Condoleezza Rice helping her war-obsessed bosses spin their deceptive web, as they recklessly tried to re-engineer the Middle East. This time it was Susan Rice offering a noncredible yarn as the Obama team desperately tries to figure out the Middle East.
W.’s administration played up Al Qaeda ties, exploiting 9/11 to invade Iraq, which the neocons had wanted to do all along. The Obama administration sidestepped Al Qaeda ties in the case of the Libyan attack to perpetuate the narrative that the president had decimated Al Qaeda when Osama bin Laden was killed, and to preclude allegations that they were asleep at the switch on the anniversary of 9/11. Better to blame it all on a spontaneous protest to an anti-Islam video on YouTube.
It’s remarkable that President Obama, who came to power abhorring the manipulative and duplicitous tactics of the Bush crowd, should now be vulnerable to similar charges.
Remarkable? Obama has made history with his use of warrantless wiretaps and broken new ground with his decision to target Americans overseas for death. And now Ms. Dowd is surprised?
Geez, wait 'til she learns Gitmo is still open...
Matt Drudge has been teasing a breakthrough video of someone saying something for hours. He has now narrowed it down as bit - Obama is giving a speech on race [Here at the Daily Caller]. Lots of previewing and excerpts here. And The Atlantic reruns an Andrew Sullivan transcript.
HE DOES SAY "IF": Let me pluck this from the transcript:
If we have more black men in prison than are in our colleges and universities, then it's time...
THE BITER BIT: I L-U-V this blast from the past denouncing Washington:
In the last several years, we have seen Washington become a place where driving the wedge to further divide us and keeping score of who's up and who's down is more important than who's working on behalf of the sick and the hungry and the lonely.
We have been told that our mounting debts don't matter, that the economy is doing great, and that people's anxieties about rising health care costs and disappearing pensions aren't a big deal.
UPDATE: Per the Daily Caller, the transcript linked above is 'as prepared'; Obama's remarks as actually delivered were less temperate.
The NY Times has more grim news from Afghanistan:
U.S. Abandoning Hopes for Taliban Peace Deal
Well, maybe things aren't so bad - the Times website headline is:
U.S. Scaling Back Plans for Peace Deal in Afghanistan
Whichever. The Taliban have outlasted us. Here is a bit of spin for nostalgia's sake:
Critics of the Obama administration say the United States also weakened its own hand by agreeing to the 2014 deadline for its own involvement in combat operations, voluntarily ceding the prize the Taliban has been seeking for over a decade. The Obama administration defends the deadline as crucial to persuading the Afghan government and military to assume full responsibility for the country, and politically necessary for Americans weary of what has already become the country’s longest war.
"Politically necessary" means that Obama couldn't or wouldn't take the lead in promoting his vision for Afghanistan.
Ramesh Ponnuru explains the next seemingly fatal flaw in ObamaCare:
Obama’s plan makes tax credits available to people who get health insurance from exchanges set up by state governments. If states don’t establish those exchanges, the federal government will do so for them. The federal exchanges, however, don’t come with tax credits: The law authorizes credits only for people who get insurance from state-established exchanges. And that creates some problems the administration didn’t foresee, and now hopes to wish away.
Legislative debate over the law didn’t go into great detail about these provisions. We can surmise what happened, though. Supporters of the legislation wanted to encourage states to set up the exchanges. So they offered the states a deal: If they did so, they would get to write their own rules, and their citizens would be able to get the tax credit. The states would also gain extra flexibility on Medicaid spending. The law’s supporters also expected the health-care law to become more popular over time.
Taxes and Penalties
That hasn’t happened. Many states are determined in their opposition, and few of them have set up exchanges. If they don’t do so, the tax credits don’t go into effect and the federally established exchanges won’t work: People won’t be able to afford the insurance available on them without the subsidy.
Trouble in paradise yet again? Well, we have to pass the bill in order to find out what's in it.
Here is the Adler/Cannon paper which lays out the case against ObamaCare in numbing detail. The Congressional Research Service took a look at these legal issues but did not pound the table either in support or refutation of the Adler/Cannon view.
Timothy Jost does pound the table in defense of ObamaCare, explaining that the legislative history and Congressional intent are clear. Both Yost and Adler/Cannon cite an exchange between Senators Baucus and Ensign when the Finance Committee was discussing various amendments; the relevant exchange begins on p. 326 here.
And the upshot? Another feast for the lawyers, and wouldn't it be swell to see John Roberts get another bite of this apple?
The NY Times avoids a rush to judgment with this cautious headline:
U.S. May Have Put Mistaken Faith in Libya Site’s Security
May have? Four Americans, including the Ambassador, are dead. Meanwhile, their crack team of investigative reporters drills down for the truth:
WASHINGTON — An effective response by newly trained Libyan security guards to a small bombing outside the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi in June may have led United States officials to underestimate the security threat to personnel there, according to counterterrorism and State Department officials, even as threat warnings grew in the weeks before the recent attack that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
June was OK so September will be better? What, is the State Department staffed by ineducable Mets fans?
The Sept. 11 attack culminated several weeks of growing violence against Western and other diplomatic posts in Benghazi. State Department officials said they were aware of the worsening climate and took precautions. One American official who worked in the mission said the Americans there were able to get around with “appropriate prudence.”
One American official, who said he traded e-mails with Mr. Stevens three days before his death, said the ambassador did not mention any heightened security concerns. CNN, however, has reported that Mr. Stevens did express such worries in a diary that one of the network’s correspondents found at the ransacked mission.
Hindsight is 20/20, but still - with deteriorating security and the 9/11 anniversary, Monday morning quarterbacks have a lot to work with.
The Times also provides a detailed account of the battle
Gov. Cuomo bows to the left and puts 'fracking' on hold:
ALBANY — A few months after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was poised to approve hydraulic fracturing in several struggling New York counties, his administration is reversing course and starting the regulatory process over, garnering praise from environmental groups and stirring anger among industry executives and upstate landowners.
Ten days ago, after nearly four years of review by state regulators, the governor bowed to entreaties from environmentalists to conduct another study, this one an examination of potential impacts on public health. Neither the governor nor other state officials have given any indication of how long the study might take.
How long will it take to nail down a decision? They need to ask Cumo's pollsters and fundraisers. However, this indecision will probably make Cuomo unelectable on the national stage, although it might very well make him a favorite for the Dem Party Presidential nomination:
The developments have created a sense in Albany that Mr. Cuomo is consigning fracking to oblivion. The governor has been influenced by the unshakable opposition from a corps of environmentalists and celebrity activists who are concerned about the safety of the water supply. The opponents include a number of people close to the governor, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime environmental activist in New York whose sister is the governor’s ex-wife.
The fracking issue is the biggest environmental question, and the most polarizing, facing Albany, and New York’s decision is being closely watched nationally, as President Obama and Mitt Romney have both expressed support for increased use of natural gas as a means to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The natural gas industry has been eager to drill in the Marcellus Shale, a deep underground repository that runs through West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. Extraction there was too complex and costly until the advent of hydrofracking.
...opposition to fracking has become such a touchstone for liberals that approving it, even in a limited fashion, would undoubtedly alienate some of his most dependable supporters. Anti-fracking protesters have shadowed Mr. Cuomo for months, at his home, his office, and his speaking engagements, and a wide array of celebrities, including Lady Gaga and Yoko Ono, have mobilized to express opposition to the technology.
“Andrew has a very good political antenna, and we’ve never seen anything like this in terms of grass-roots power,” Mr. Kennedy, whose father was a United States attorney general, said in a telephone interview. “In 30 years, I have not seen anything come close to this, in terms of the mobilization of the grass roots. You’ve got 20,000 people in the state who consider themselves to be anti-frack activists. So I think that’s got to impact the political process all around.”
Gee, if Lady GaGa is against it, how can any responsible Democrat be for it?
The Times closes with a buried, embittered rumination:
It was not entirely clear what further health impacts would be studied that were not already encompassed by the review process that began in the summer of 2008. In a statement in response to questions, the Department of Environmental Conservation said “health impacts were not overlooked” in the agency’s prior reviews, and “were fully assessed” in a draft environmental impact study that was released last year.
Joseph Martens, the agency’s commissioner, said last week: “Obviously if there was a public health concern that could not be addressed we would not proceed.”
Senator Thomas W. Libous, a Binghamton Republican and leading proponent of fracking, said he hoped the new study was “the last major hurdle,” adding, “I want to believe that.”
If Democrats can embrace this fear of the future at the national level, we can be in thrall to the Middle East for another generation. Or, they can reclaim their out-of-power-and-deservedly-so status.