The Transparently Phony Attacks Against Susan RiceDecember 5th, 2012 12:00 am Gene Lyons
Even in a news environment dominated by melodramatic, often bogus, group narratives, the Susan Rice affair stands out. What began as a tragedy in Benghazi has degenerated into a classic Washington farce: with Fox News and its allies pushing GOP political correctness, politicians faking indignation for TV cameras, and “mainstream” pundits advancing a false storyline for dramatic purposes.
Thank heaven the United States faces no serious foreign policy issues. Because otherwise, you’d have to think this is a crazy way to choose a Secretary of State. Unless, as my mentor Bob Somerby speculates at his indispensible dailyhowler.com website, we’ve degenerated to the point that the dopiest possible answer to a problem is always the default option.
I hold no particular brief for Susan Rice. President Obama can nominate the current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to replace Hillary Clinton, or he can nominate somebody else. It’s all the same to me.
Maybe a touch of nostalgia is even in order. To see a Washington media pile-on this transparently phony, one would have to hark back to 2000, when Al Gore supposedly claimed he’d invented the Internet. Or to even to 1996, when Hillary Clinton’s indictment in the make-believe Whitewater scandal was supposedly a done deal.
Even more remarkable is that Susan Rice’s supposed participation in the Benghazi “cover-up,” as Rush Limbaugh and various Fox News pundits have called it, took place on national TV. Anybody with a computer can watch the video clips or read the posted transcripts.
Upon which a person with an ounce of intellectual honesty would be forced to concede two things: first, Rice never said what dishonest paraphrases say she did; second, that she did say exactly what her vociferous critics insist she denied.
It all started, as the world knows, on September 11, 2012, when a mob armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and automatic weapons stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya—murdering U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three aides. It was the first such fatal incident in 30 years. Almost universally revered, Stevens’ loss was keenly felt.
Five days later, Ambassador Rice appeared on all the Sunday political talk shows to give the Obama administration’s response. Speaking from “talking points” written by the CIA, she made essentially the same statement everywhere she went.
Repeatedly stressing that a preliminary FBI investigation had yet to establish basic facts, Rice said it appeared that “extremist elements with heavy weapons” had “hijacked” what began as a “spontaneous reaction” to violent demonstrations in Cairo sparked by a video insulting the prophet Muhammad. (Similar eruptions occurred all over the Muslim world that day.)