‘Nuff Said About Benghazi?

From the Associated Press:

A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees. 

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

No wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.” “Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies.” “No, no, no.”

How telling is this:

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week.

After all the hysterics, after all the accusations, after all those “dark conspiracies,” the Benghazi “conspiracy” dies with a gobble-gobble.

That’s it? Don’t bet on it:

The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

Reince Priebus’ Letter To Mr. And Mrs. Bergdahl

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl,

Hello. You probably don’t know me, but my name is Reince Priebus. I am head of the Republican Party, when Rush Limbaugh is off the air or under the influence of narcotics. I am the guy who, along with Mitt Romney, began exploiting the Benghazi tragedy before we even knew what happened or how many had been killed. I told the world how pathetic it was that President Obama “sympathizes with attackers.” Heck, I said that before I knew any of the facts. That’s how propagandistically efficient I am, when it comes to The Scary Negro.

Now, it has probably come to your attention that my party is pedal-to-the-metal exploiting the release from captivity of your son, Bowe. I heard a Fox host say this morning, with jubilation in his voice, that “This story is just getting rolling, really.” Isn’t it nice to have friends? And it isn’t just Fox. Today on MSNBC—Allah love ’em!—the talk has been about how questionable it was for the President to do what he did to get your son back. You know, “Was it too much of a price to pay?” Or “Did Obama negotiate with terrorists?” and all that stuff. It’s a beautiful thing, ain’t it? We have spent years criticizing Obama for not calling this the War on Terror and when he obviously treats it like a real war, with POW swaps and everything, we get to criticize him for that, too! Awesome!

In any case, I wanted you to know why my party has no shame in using the occasion of your son’s release to slam him and the President, even if, like with Benghazi, we don’t have all the facts. Indeed, we have gone to a lot of trouble to provide the media with plenty of soldiers who knew your son and who say they are angry he was swapped out for five Taliban prisoners in Gitmo. And we are generating a lot of rumors and half- and quarter-truths surrounding the disappearance of your boy and the subsequent search for him. It doesn’t really matter what the facts are at this point, what matters is that we smear President Obama. And if that means ripping apart your son, so be it. I hope you know what I mean.

Look, we’re desperate. We’ve been out of power now for a long time. We have only received the majority of the popular vote in a presidential election once in our last six tries. And that year we only got 50.7% of the vote. So, perhaps you can see why we find it necessary to do anything we can to get back in power, including trashing your son and the President who secured his release. Yes, we know that normally we are rah-rah guys when it comes to the military. Normally we would cheer at the keeping of a long military tradition of not leaving any soldier, no matter the circumstances of his disappearance, in enemy hands.

But you have to understand that these aren’t normal times. And President Obama is not a normal president. He is a weak leader—we claim. We have to keep telling people how weak he is because if they ever stopped and thought about it, if they ever checked into it, they would begin to see that the President has been pretty damned tough on the international scene, especially when it comes to hunting down and snuffing out terrorists. Since he took office, he has killed all kinds of al Qaeda leaders. And I’m not just talking about Osama bin Laden. He has killed top al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, Kenya, and elsewhere. At one point they were dropping like drone-dead flies. He’s been so good at it that left-wingers have compared him to Dick Cheney, for God’s sake!

And besides all that, there is a possible long-term upside to negotiating, directly or indirectly, with the Taliban. Maybe it will prove to be a useful thing in the future, as we pull most of our troops out of Afghanistan. Maybe it will prove to be a brilliant strategy that will help save lives over there and help us better manage the transition, even possibly reduce the intensity of the conflict. If that’s the case, it is even more imperative that we Republicans poison the well right now. Before Americans start thinking about the good that might—I said might—come.

Thus, you can see, I hope, that it was necessary to use the tragedy in Benghazi—oh, yes, we are still using it—to put doubts in the minds of the American people about this president’s leadership and that of his obvious successor, Mrs. Clinton. And, unfortunately for you and your soldier son, the release of Bowe Bergdahl is another opportunity that we simply couldn’t pass up. And this one is even better than Benghazi! Some journalists are already starting to talk about impeachment! That’s efficiency, I tell ya!

I do want to warn you about something, something kind of delicate. In the course of our campaign to exploit this incident, it will sound like we think President Obama should have let your son, the last POW from those interminable Bush-authored wars, rot in the custody of the Taliban. It will sound like we think the Commander in Chief should have said to hell with the long and nearly sacred tradition of “no soldier left behind” and let your son die in captivity. Well, not only does it sound like that, that is what our position entails.

You see, we can’t be happy that your son is back at home, no matter what he did or didn’t do. That would mean that we are happy that President Obama did what he did. And admitting that, Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl, will never happen. It just isn’t possible. It is not in my or the GOP’s DNA to give President Obama a jot or tittle of credit, no matter what he does. We can’t even credit him for good intentions. Hell, he’s in Europe right now, and if he decided to execute a flying forearm smash in the face of Vladimir Putin and take back Crimea single-handedly, you know what we’d do? We would have a segment on Fox five minutes later questioning whether flying forearm smashes erode the dignity of the office! More propagandistic efficiency!

Finally, I wanted you to know that there is a way of handling all this that might be good for everyone, depending on your politics. Your son, by some accounts (that we provided, of course!), was kind of, uh, different. He didn’t want to “drink beer or eat barbecue and hang out with the other 20-year-olds.” Apparently he spent a lot of time in his bunk reading books and “learning Dari and Arabic and Pashto.” Someone said he “wrote Jason Bourne-type novels,” casting himself in the leading role. We know that you, as devout Calvinists, home-schooled your son and taught him “ethics and morality.” You said, “Bowe was definitely instilled with truth.” And that leads me to a little scheme I’ve been thinking about.

When your son finally comes home, maybe you can instill in him a new truth. One that would make your entire family heroes to all those who are bashing you guys now. It is simple really: Convince Bowe to say that, yes, he walked off his base. Yes, he was uncomfortable with the war effort. But the real reason he was uncomfortable with it, the real reason he left his fellow soldiers that day, was because he did not respect President Obama’s leadership. All he has to say is that the President was so weak as a Commander in Chief that he, Bowe Bergdahl, couldn’t take it anymore. He had to get away, even if it meant capture by the enemy.

If he says that, I guarantee you that I and Rush Limbaugh and other leaders of the Republican Party will forgive him—forgive you!—and welcome all of you back as patriotic Americans on a special one-hour Sean Hannity program. It is that easy. I promise.

Sincerely,

Reince Priebus

[Photo of Bowe Bergdahl provided by Bergdhal family, via Rolling Stone]

How To Get A Job On Fox “News”

I watched President Obama’s press conference on Tuesday at The Hague. Man, oh, man. What is it about those ABC News guys?

First, a little background:

When Fox “News” first opened up its fairly unbalanced doors in 1996, a 23-year veteran of ABC News, Brit Hume, joined them. Hume had been ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent, and at Fox he was the anchor of Fox’s “Special Report” for ten biased years.

In 2003, another prominent ABC News correspondent, Chris Wallace, joined Fox. Wallace, son of Mike, still hosts the closest thing−and sometimes it isn’t that close−to a real news show on the network, “Fox News Sunday.”

John Stossel, who for years was a correspondent and co-anchor of ABC News’ 20/20 program, left ABC in 2009 to join Fox “News” and Fox “Bidness” Channel, where he preaches his libertarian ideas to, if not the choir, at least the gullible.

Earlier in 2009, Michael Clemente joined Fox as a Senior Vice President of News, after spending 27 years at ABC News, including a stint as senior broadcast producer for ABC’s World News Tonight and later for 20/20. His last job at ABC News was as Senior Executive Producer of the ABC Digital Media Group.

If you happen to watch Fox “News,” you will see Rick Klein, who is a “regular guest.” Except that Rick  Klein is the Political Director for, uh, ABC News! Now, I understand that ABC does not have its own cable news platform, but why allow your Political Director to appear so often on Fox? Is it because occasionally Fox promotes his stuff for ABC? If so, ABC News ought to be ashamed of itself.

All of which leads us to Tuesday’s press conference at the Hague. Jonathan Karl, who is currently ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent, actually asked President Obama these questions:

Mr. President, thank you. In China, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Russia we’ve seen you make strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world, your influence in the world is on the decline? And in light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s biggest geopolitical foe? If not Russia, who?

If that sounds to you like something John McCain might ask, or something that Reince Priebus might ask, or something that Sean Hannity might ask, you have good ears. Karl is apparently auditioning for Roger Ailes and, as a long-time Fox monitor, I’d say he is well qualified for a job on the network. Or just about any reactionary operation. Here’s how a few right-wing sites reported on Karl’s performance at The Hague:

right wing responses to karl

And my personal favorite, posted by Jonathan Karl’s Fox friend Greta Van Susteren, includes a proud shot of the ABC News correspondent:

greta and jon karl

As you can see, Karl is something of a journalistic hero on the right. But that’s not just for what he did at The Hague yesterday. When you examine Karl’s body of work, you see why the right-wingers love him so.

He started his reporting career in a right-wing organization created to promote conservative journalism on college campuses, the same kind of collegiate journalism that gave us people like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Karl also worked for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which is basically Fox “News” in print. He has written articles for the right-wing Weekly Standard (including this embarrassing piece), a publication that helped bring us the Iraq War.  At ABC News, if you watch his reporting, you see a clear bias in favor of Republican talking points, including the need for austerity and tiny tales of government waste. Because I like Diane Sawyer, I frequently watch her newscast, and the best one can say about Karl’s reporting is that it slants to the right; the worst one can say about it is that, well, Karl is an undercover reactionary.

Nothing demonstrates his conservative bias better than his infamous mishap involving the Fox-created Benghazi scandal. Karl went on the air last spring and unethically fed into the Fox Benghazi narrative by erroneously “quoting” from an email that he himself had not read. The false quotes, presented as “exclusives,” made it appear that the White House (read: Barack Obama) and State Department (read: Hillary Clinton) had “dramatically edited” the famous Benghazi talking points used by Susan Rice on all the Sunday news shows. We found out later that Karl was fed his false information by, uh, congressional Republicans. He sort of apologized for the error and ABC News should have sort of fired him, but on he goes.

Given Karl’s track record, you have to wonder why President Obama, who has publicly compared Jonathan Karl to Fox’s Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry, didn’t answer Karl’s question this way:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Wow, Jonathan! Isn’t ABC treating you well? Aren’t they paying you enough? Did Roger Ailes promise you a job and a raise if you came here to the Netherlands and tried to claim how weak I am on the world stage? Isn’t that Fox’s “Obama meme du jour”? No, wait. They’ve been saying that for some time now. But, congratulations anyway! I think you’ve got the job you obviously want whenever you want it. I look forward to not calling on you at my next presser. Oh, and tell Mittens that Mr. President said “hey.”

Instead of that, President Obama, soberly and thoughtfully, answered in a way that demonstrated what real strength is and why we are fortunate the American people chose him to lead the country in these perilous times:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jonathan, I think if the premise of the question is that whenever the United States objects to an action and other countries don’t immediately do exactly what we want, that that’s been the norm, that would pretty much erase most of 20th century history.

I think that there’s a distinction between us being very clear about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what principles we believe in, versus what is, I guess, implied in the question, that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something.

You know, the truth of the matter is, is that the world’s always been messy. And what the United States has consistently been able to do, and we continue to be able to do, is to mobilize the international community around a set of principles and norms. And where our own self-defense may not be involved, we may not act militarily. That does not mean that we don’t steadily push against those forces that would violate those principles and ideals that we care about.

So yes, you’re right, Syria — the Syrian civil war is not solved. And yet Syria has never been more isolated.

With respect to the situation in Ukraine, we have not gone to war with Russia. I think there’s a significant precedent to that in the past. That does not mean that Russia’s not isolated. In fact, Russia is far more isolated in this instance than it was five years ago with respect to Georgia and more isolated than it was certainly during most of the 20th century when it was part of the Soviet Union.

And what we have to make sure we’re…putting all elements of our power behind finding solutions, working with our international partners, standing up for those principles and ideals in a clear way.

There are going to be moments where military action is appropriate. There are going to be some times where that’s not in the interests — national security interests of the United States or some of our partners, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to make the effort, or speak clearly about what we think is right and wrong. And that’s what we’ve done.

With respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia’s our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that, you know, America’s got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength, but out of weakness.

Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for decades — since the breakup of the Soviet Union. And you know, we have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.

And so my response, then, continues to be what I believe today, which is Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan, which is part of the reason why the United States, showing its continued international leadership, has organized a forum over the last several years that’s been able to help eliminate that threat in a consistent way.

Exploring The Left’s Own Obsession

I said on Monday that there is “something seriously wrong” with Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as others on the right who are suffering from an Obama-induced detachment from reality. Graham had blamed the invasion of Ukraine on the President, saying, We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.”

Whatever is wrong with Senator Graham (and, please, let’s stop blaming it on his primary election and the need to please radicals in his party; that makes what he’s doing worse, not better), the disorder has deepened. Yesterday he tweeted:

graham tweet

In comes the bizarre conservative obsession with Benghazi, which means that rational thought is on vacation. Even in times that call for some semblance of national unity, in the face of thuggish behavior by a thuggish despot, we get Benghazi. How sad that is.

But I don’t want to just pick on conservatives, when it comes to foreign policy obsessions. On the far left we have an equally strange and disunifying foreign policy obsession: Barack Obama and George W. Bush are the same people, just different colors.

A long-time follower of this blog, and a man of the left, Gerry Malan, commented on my piece on the right-wing’s hysterical reaction to what happened in Ukraine. He said,

We have proof of two US State Department high officials confirming their plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.

When I asked him to provide such proof, he responded with this:

Not sure how you missed the Nuland recording where she and our Ukraine ambassador discussed cutting out the EU and putting in our own selected thugs. Here it is from Foreign Policy on Focus:http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/02/21-8

Today on Common Dreams Ray McGovern explains more of the Obama/State Department grab for the Crimea:http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/03/02-2

I highly recommend reading more from RT and less from Morning Joe.

So, I spent some time following those links and reading the content. And I’m still waiting for “proof” that the Obama administration tried to install “our own selected thugs,” or that there is any such thing as “the Obama/State Department grab for the Crimea.”

On the day it was released, I listened to the famous secretly-recorded phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt (hear it here or read a transcript here). That call featured Nuland saying “Fuck the EU.” Besides that one bit of profanity, what I heard during that call is not what some liberals, way too many I’m sad to say, heard in it.

As Gerry Malan’s comment makes clear, and as the writers he references also make clear, what some folks heard was a secret and grand attempt at American imperialism, executed by “neoconservatives” in the Obama administration. But what I heard was not some worrisome conspiracy to bring down a democratically-elected president, but two people discussing events in Ukraine that were not started by the United States, nor part of a plot to set up a “client regime” in that country, but events that lent themselves to some democracy- and better government-favoring manipulation by the United States. And I’d be disappointed if we were not doing that kind of “meddling” in such events, since I have a fondness for democracy and good government and believe we should help those Ukrainians who also have a fondness for those things. Especially when it doesn’t involve American troops and trillions of dollars.

As for that Russian-leaked phone call, let’s remember what Jonathan Marcus pointed out was the reason for it:

The clear purpose in leaking this conversation is to embarrass Washington and for audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message to portray the US as interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.

“For audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message.” I don’t want to be in that audience. I tend to side with my own guys when a Russian thug is hard at work trying to embarrass them. I’m sorry that some liberals don’t have that same disposition. Unlike too many lefties, I will need a whole lot more than what I heard in that phone call to get me to buy what the Russians, and to some extent folks in the far-left press, are selling.

And one guy on the far left trying to sell this conspiracy is Patrick Smith, who wrote one of the articles that Gerry Malan linked to and presumably helped him conclude that, “We have proof of two US State Department high officials confirming their plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.” Smith is a long-time journalist and foreign correspondent, but to give you an idea of the kind of pieces he writes these days, he recently wrote an article for Salon.com titled, The world is right to hate us: Arrogance, ignorance and obscene foreign policy,” and subtitled, “This White House was supposed to be different. But our arrogant foreign policy has been the same since the 1950s.” That sort of gives you an idea where Smith stands.

Now, on to what he writes about that intercepted phone call and the recent events in Ukraine:

…we get to hear two American diplomats talking about Washington’s plan, already in motion, to install a client regime in the Ukraine.

Ah. There is that “install a client regime in Ukraine” stuff. But think about it. Even if there were proof of such a plot, it is hard to see just what we would do with such a client regime, especially when the opposition who would lead such a regime are, in the words of Patrick Smith, full of “oligarchs of the new Russian model.” Just why would we want to get mixed up with those guys in such an intimate way?

But even Patrick Smith isn’t quite bold enough to make the claim that there is “proof” that such a vast neocon-led conspiracy was and is going on:

With Kiev again erupting in violent confrontation, an understanding of the possible role of covert activities is essential to a complete picture.

“Possible role of cover activities”? Possible? Proof is more than speculation. Proof is more than saying it is wise to have “an understanding of the possible role of covert activities” in the confrontation going on in Ukraine and in what Gerry Malan and other liberals are calling a “plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.” If there is proof, present it. That intercepted phone call is not proof. But there is evidence all over the place that what led to the fall of the government in Ukraine was homegrown frustration with corruption and malfeasance. Whether the protesters went too far and committed their share of violence, and whether there are neo-fascists and other miscreants among their ranks, is another question. We are debating here whether the United States government deliberately toppled a democratically-elected president.

I admit I am suspicious of anyone, like Patrick Smith, who tries to make the case for a conspiracy to install that new client regime but who also says that “demonizing Yanukovich is a distraction.” What? Viktor Yanukovich, the former Ukrainian president, caused turmoil in the country, ordered the killing of civilians, and looted the treasury. I don’t find demonizing him a distraction and I’m suspicious of the motives of any writer who could so cavalierly dismiss his role in the mess.

I also find suspicious the writer’s motives when he says things like this:

There is a tendency among the East European nations to idealize the West, as if westernizing is the solution to all problems. I see this among the Kiev demonstrators. It is a mistake. Disillusion is never far when people follow this line of thought to its end.

That sounds like good old-fashioned lefty-loathing of Western civilization, a disease that some liberals just can’t shake. And for some of them the disease gets worse when a Democrat is in the White House. I wish I had the cure for such an illness, but I don’t. Western civilization, for all its faults, is better than the alternative. Therefore I tend to give it the benefit of the doubt. I wish all Westerners did.

As for the actual speculation on this client regime stuff, Mr. Smith writes:

More interesting by far are the machinations Nuland and Pyatt describe. The American plot revolves around manipulating various figures in the opposition, backing the fortunes of some, keeping others from the table, and thereby inducing a friendly, post–Yanukovich government of one kind or another, compromised from its very conception.

And what exactly is wrong with such manipulation, so long as it is not accomplished at the point of a gun? I’d like for any liberal to explain to me why it isn’t a proper component of our foreign policy, as part of a larger Western strategy, to attempt to curb the appetite of a Russian despot? Mr. Smith also says:

The West unites around the thought of undermining Putin’s neo-imperial ambitions and pushing institutions such as NATO up to his doorstep.

So? Isn’t that what we should be doing? Isn’t “undermining” people like Putin a worthy objective? Or have liberals become so critical of Western civilization that they can no longer distinguish between the good and the bad? At one point Ambassador Pyatt says during the phone call with Assistant Secretary of State Nuland:

I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together.

Is that some awful conspiracy? Keeping those “moderate democrats together.” What next? Will we have the gall to advocate for a chicken in every Ukrainian pot? Seriously, this left-wing criticism is surreal. Since when are liberals opposed to democracy and good government and thwarting the ambitions of thugs? So what that we publicly said we were peace-loving brokers regarding the uprising, while behind the scenes we are trying to make good things happen more than we dared to publicly admit. God, I hope we do that stuff all the time. We have national interests, even if sometimes they President-elect Putin watches the tactical exercises of Russia's Northern Fleet in the Barentsevo Sea on April 6, 2000. He has been at the helm during a decade of Russian economic growth fueled by natural resources of gas and oil.are only what should be non-controversial interests (at least for Americans) in seeing to it, the best we can, that good democratic governance has a chance to flourish where it is wanted. To me, that is better—and much different—than invading Iraq and forcing it on people, like the real George W. Bush did.

What I find appalling about all this is the idea that what the United States was trying to do, shape events as best they could in favor of better democratic angels in Ukraine, is worse than what the Russians were and are doing, including endorsing the use of deadly force against Ukrainian civilians and still implicitly threatening such force. If this is what hard-core liberalism has become, count me out. I think I can still tell the good guys from the bad ones, even if, in this case, one of the “good guys” is Victoria Nuland, a career foreign service officer who, after she worked for Bill Clinton, then worked for neocons like Bush and Cheney, before working for Barack Obama. In any case, even if we were talking about bad guys, we aren’t exactly talking about torture or starting a war on false pretenses here, even though one of the commenters on Smith’s piece wrote,

Obomba is a thug who heads a thug state (see Engelhardt’s article of yesterday here at CD), and it seems that by now this ought to be clear to anyone who has been paying attention to his appointments, his bellicose foreign policy, and assassination program. No different in fact from Bush the Lesser and an entire lineage of U.S. presidents who threw their weight around all over the planet, plundering, occupying, killing, etc. That is (why) Nuland was appointed as she was. She is the perfect agent of a rogue state.

What a load of America-loathing bullshit. But this thinking, engendered by the kind of writing Patrick Smith does these days, represents what some folks on the far left think. They fail to differentiate between bad, better, and best. It sounds so much like what I hear a lot of Obama-hating conservatives say. As I said, count me out as wanting to join that kind of liberalism, which I find every bit as darkly conspiratorial as anything Glenn Beck could fantasize into existence. And thank God or Allah that Obama isn’t that kind of liberal either, just like he isn’t the same kind of neoconservative thinker that led us to a foolish war during the Bush administration.

For the record, as many mistakes as America has made in its foreign policy, and believe me there have been a lot, trying to seek out and help “moderate democrats” in Ukraine doesn’t rise to the level of the “assassination program,” for God’s sake. Those of us on the left, who value the principles of good-government democracy, shouldn’t let an obsession with misguided neo-conservative “regime change” philosophy get in the way of appreciating the fact that we, as a nation of freedom-loving democrats, should still be friends of liberty everywhere, even if we screw things up now and then.

The deal about all this “fuck the EU” business is that the U.S. diplomats were expressing frustration at the slow-walking EU folks, who want to avoid a confrontation with Russia and a mean-spirited despot like Putin, who controls much of their energy needs. In that context, we all should be applauding what these two U.S. diplomats were trying to do, not accuse them of evil. It’s not exactly like they were trying to establish the Ukrainian version of the bleeping Third Reich.

As for Gerry Malan’s other link to an article by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern—who was a daily briefer for George H. W. Bush but who now thinks Julian Assange is a “hero”—I will only quote one passage:

In early February, as violent protests raged in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and the White House professed neutrality, U.S. State Department officials were, in the words of NYU professor emeritus of Russian studies Stephen Cohen, “plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.”

Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative “regime changers” of Official Washington and their sophomoric “responsibility-to-protect” (R2P) allies in the Obama administration? Have they dangerously over-reached by pushing the putsch that removed duly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych?

What? There is no evidence, not to mention proof, that the United States pushed “the putsch” that ended Yanukovych’s presidency. Protests in Ukraine initially began in November of last year, after Yanukovych backed away from signing a free trade agreement with the European Union, mostly under pressure from Putin. There were also issues with the Ukrainian constitution. But, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune pointed out, wanting closer ties with Western Europe wasn’t enough to get “[m]iddle-class professionals, blue-collar workers, students and retirees” out to “form ranks of street fighters armed with Molotov cocktails.” The biggest reason for the unrest was a familiar one:

The demonstrations reflected the appalling state of governance in Ukraine. The Yanukovych government was a kleptocracy. Policy goals were subordinate to the enrichment of the president and a privileged elite, known colloquially as “the family.” In international rankings of corruption, Ukraine was recognized as one of the most corrupt regimes on Earth.

There you have it. The tumult in Ukraine was not a coup d’état (as Russian expert and Putin apologist Stephen Cohen claimed) plotted by Barack Obama and the U.S. government. And if someone, anyone, claims it was then they have to offer up more evidence than a Russian-provided telephone call between two American diplomats.

60 Minutes Leaves Fox “News” In The Lurch

You have heard by now that the famed CBS News program 60 Minutes is doing a my bad! on its recent report on Benghazi, a report that many right-wingers, especially the Obama-haters on Fox “News,” have been using to justify their own misreporting on the tragedy that occurred there.

Here is the way HuffPo began its story:

In a humiliating retreat from a piece she had staunchly defended, “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan admitted on Friday morning that she and the news magazine had made a “mistake” in their reporting of a controversial story about the Benghazi attacks.

You can read the details for yourself, but the important thing to know here is that because Fox journalism is always seeking validation from mainstream journalists (who are much too eager to give it to them), it quickly latched onto the 60 Minutes story. Via Media Matters, here is how an alleged straight news reporter (he’s not) on Fox, Brett Baier,opened a segment on Fox’s flagship news program Special Report the day after the Lara Logan piece ran:

BAIER: Answers are still hard to come by in the investigation into last fall’s Benghazi terror assault. Last night, one of journalism’s heavy hitters reaffirmed what we knew and had reported on.

“What we knew and had reported on” turns out to be, well, “what we wish we knew but reported on as if we knew it.”  Fox, and many Republican politicians and pundits, have been pushing the idea that somehow President Obama or someone in his administration (by the time its all over future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be to blame) withheld military help from those under attack in Benghazi, and that the whole thing was a grotesque scandal that the “lamestream media” was covering up. Foxers were so damn happy that finally someone had legitimated their coverage they could hardly contain themselves.

Again, on the day after the 60 Minutes report aired, Media Matters chronicled another Fox response, this time from another anchor pretending to be a straight journalist, Martha MacCallum:

Now 60 Minutes, the venerable news program, Sunday night news program, is putting a lot of focus on this story … Here at Fox News we’ve been covering this story for a very long time. At times we’ve been criticized for continuing to cover this story…

It remains to be seen whether 60 Minutes will remain a “venerable news program” in the eyes of Fox on-air talent, but what we do know is that right-wingers will not give up their quest to taint the President or, as will eventually happen as the 2016 draws closer, taint Hillary Clinton over the horrific events in Benghazi.

Finally, the indispensable Media Matters.org also kept track of other right-wingers’ expressed glee over the now-flawed 60 Minutes report: from Pat Robertson’s pronouncement that “it’s all over” for Obama to Breitbart’s declaration that “It was a reversal for CBS News, which played a key role in the Benghazi cover-up in 2012,” to the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg’s tweet:

jonah goldberg tweet

Yikes! It turns out that the original 60 Minutes piece—centrally flawed—does corroborate “pretty much everything” Fox has been reporting.

What The President Should Know And When He Should Know It

Barack Obama, I found out today, is a liar. Oh, yeah, that’s right. Here, see for yourself:

President Obama Lied, Millions Will Lose Insurance Under Obamacare He Promised They Could Keep, Says Report

Lest ye think the Republican talking point in that headline is confined only to right-wing websites like the one above, well, you should know that the basis of that headline is a report by NBC News. Yes, that NBC News. The one that is supposed to be in bed with Obama and the Democratic Party.

Here’s how that story began:

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

I won’t here go into why that and similar stories are essentially ridiculous—most of the relatively small number of people affected will lose their “junk” insurance plans in favor of better ones—but I do want to go into another Republican talking point that is making the rounds, even the rounds outside of conservative media: Obama is either “detached” from his administration because he doesn’t know what is going on, or he actually knows what is going on but won’t admit it.

Thus, if you believe the Republican Party and its conservative pundit defenders (not to mention non-conservative pundits who should know better, like Dana Milbank), President Obama should, among other things:

♦ Know everything going on at HHS, and especially know how to write the code that makes the ObamaCare website work;

♦ Know everything that is going on at the IRS, and especially know when conservative groups think, mistakenly, that they are getting undue scrutiny;

♦ Know everything that is going on at the NSA, and especially know every phone call the agency is “listening” to or every email it is “reading”;

♦ Know everything going on at ATF, and especially know when the agency is about to double-down on a Bush-era “gunwalking” tactic designed to catch Mexican drug cartel kingpins;

♦ Know everything going on at the State Department, and especially know the status of diplomatic security in Benghazi;

♦ Know everything going on at the Justice Department, and especially know when the Attorney General is about to issue a subpoena against a reporter, especially a reporter from Fox “News”;

♦ Know everything going on in every agency of the government, at all times, to the minutest detail;

♦ And if he doesn’t know everything that is going on, at all times, to the minutest detail, that itself is a scandal, a big, big, scandal.

♦ On top of all those things he should know, he should also know that he is required to wine and dine Republicans regularly, so they can persuade him to “reform” Social Security and Medicare beyond recognition, all in exchange for not shutting down the government again or placing a large stick of dynamite under the economy and lighting it this time.

Yes, the President is expected to know all these things.

Stale Bread

We have all watched as Fox “News” and other right-wing media outlets have pushed the so-called Benghazi scandal. And some of us watched, in relative horror, as CNN recently joined in with its own right-wing-infected “special investigation,” complete with ominous music and boldly titled, “The Truth About Benghazi.

Revealing the truth about Benghazi, of course, had little to do with that dubious special investigation. What it did have to do with, as David Brock pointed out, is CNN’s turn toward more right-wingishness, presumably as a way “to compete with Fox News.”

The honcho of CNN, Jeff Zucker, “has lent legitimacy to the right’s agenda, especially the never-ending complaint that the network never airs enough conservative points of view,” Brock wrote. Zucker told Variety that such a complaint “was probably a valid criticism.” Yes, the network that brought us Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch lacks conservative voices.

As Brock notes, the response to that “never-ending” conservative criticism includes producing “truth” programs that push “long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.”

Such is the state of the television news business these days. Excepting some thoughtful programs on MSNBC, it’s a race to the bottom it seems and CNN wants to be a part of it, even if it can’t really compete with the worst of the worst on Fox. But there may be something happening on the Roger Ailes-controlled conservative channel that needs a closer look.

For many years Fox “News” and right-wing media in general have been selling the stale bread of conservatism in the form of turd sandwiches. Hannity and Limbaugh may be the two biggest turds, but there are many smaller ones that serve as nourishment for American reactionaries. However, there may be a move away from selling pure turd sandwiches and instead put something more appetizing between those slices of stale conservative bread, something that would attract people who are not part of the turd-loving Tea Party tribe.

I’m talking about the rumor that the attractive Megyn Kelly, who is part of Fox’s daytime Republican propaganda lineup, may replace the unattractive Sean Hannity, who is part of Fox’s evening Republican propaganda lineup. John Whitehouse, writing for Media Matters, begins his interesting piece on the rumor this way:

Megyn Kelly’s move to primetime will mark a shift in the very essence of Fox News, away from the hate of right-wing radio and towards something more effective at shilling conservative misinformation.

Whitehouse says that Kelly,

is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all.

The point of all this, says Whitehouse, is adaptation. Fox is moving away from the Hannity-turd model of conservative propaganda, thus “allowing it to more effectively advance a political agenda.” My own view is that, fearful of a powerful Hillary Clinton-for-president campaign, there is a need to get people like Megyn Kelly out there to push, without the insanity of Hannity, the Benghazi “scandal,” which, naturally, will soon be an all-out assault on our former Secretary of State.Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity

And speaking of politics, take a look at what is happening to New Jersey governor Chris Christie. I have heard even liberal commentators rave about his appeal, about his personality, about his ability to attract even Democratic voters (and Democratic money). Christie is obviously a favorite of the mainstream press, which is why so much was made of his public spat with Rand Paul. By comparison to the nuts-turds in the Republican Party, Chris Christie looks quite sane and un-turdly, which, of course, is why he is so politically dangerous to Democrats.

Besides his willingness to raise money for the unhinged right-wing congressman from Iowa, Steve King—talk about your turds!—consider just how conservative Christie is. As Salon’s Alex Pareene notes, the governor

is anti-choice on reproductive rights (after being pro-choice);

has doubts about evolution;

has doubts about the reality and causes of climate change;

bullies “teachers and public servants”;

favors at least some privatization of public schools;

has opposed same-sex marriage in his state;

has opposed early voting in his state;

has vetoed a minimum wage increase;

has withdrawn New Jersey’s participation in a carbon cap and trade agreement;

has “killed” his state’s version of the DREAM Act;

has cut funding for women’s health services, including cancer screenings and family planning, which led to the closing of clinics.

Others have pointed out how Christie refused to renew a state tax on millionaires while cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit.  He has cut business taxes and increased the amount of subsidizes given to corporations operating in New Jersey. He has cut funding for county colleges, causing tuition to go up for students.

The bottom line is that Chris Christie is a very conservative, even ultra-conservative guy. He’s just not a turd in the same way Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are. And that’s why he may be able to serve up president-size slices of stale conservative bread to a public hungry for solutions to the dysfunction in Washington.

Especially now that CNN has made a conscious turn toward the dark side of journalism.

Barack Bulworth

Last night I finally saw in graph form what the CBO came up with for its projected budget deficit for this year:

deficit 2013

As St. Rachel pointed out, this isn’t a good thing in an economy struggling to keep the recovery momentum, such as it is, going. This isn’t a good thing with so many unemployed folks out there. Nor is it a good thing with government jobs, jobs held by, say, teachers, disappearing as I write this.

But it is what Republicans, especially Tea Party phonies, have been squawking about since George Bush went on a spending spree Barack Obama became president.

And apparently no matter how far the damn deficit falls, they won’t stop squawking about it. Because, as we all know, their squawking has very little to do with government spending, but has to do with the Scary Negro, who they claim is spending it, and who they claim he is spending it on.

Remember the 2012 election charge, a charge that came from everywhere on the right, that O was trying to “buy” the election by spending a ton of money on the poor, minorities, and other natural Democratic constituencies? If so, he did a terrible job of spreading the cash around.

Maybe, just maybe, he won the election for other reasons.

And maybe, just maybe, O needs to take this chart and shove it down the throat of the next Republican who opens his or her mouth about “out of control” government spending. And then maybe he needs to rat out the Republicans—instead of eating and playing golf with them—to the American people about how phony their deficit hysteria was and still is, and explain that it is the Republican Party in Congress that is responsible for nothing, absolutely nothing, getting done to fix the country’s problems.

Finally, maybe O needs to go to many of the red states in the country and explain to the people there that the reason teachers and cops and firefighters are out of jobs, and the reason that unemployment is so high, is that their Republican governors and Republican legislators are starving the beast of their state governments, too.

And he should tell all the people everywhere that it is only the people who can put a stop to this madness.

Because no one thinks that anything positive, especially in terms of  the economic recovery, will get done while Republicans essentially control Congress. So, President Obama may as well go back to traveling around the country and, as The New York Times reported, possibly go “Bulworth.” What else can he do? How many dinners does he need to have, how many rounds of golf does he need to play with reactionaries, before he realizes that they will never allow him to actually govern the country?

For a fantasized version of what a Barack Bulworth would say, Ezra Klein wrote a great piece. Here is part of what President Bulworth had to say to a reporter who ask him yet another dumb question about whether the American people can “actually trust their government”:

BARACK BULWORTH: Look, the reason the American people can’t trust their government is here in Washington. Right now sequestration is cutting unemployment checks by 10 or 11 percent. Do you hear anyone talking about that? Or doing anything about it? No. You hear Republicans aides telling Politico, anonymously, that the speaker is quote “obsessed” with Benghazi. You know, I don’t think most of the Republicans screaming about Benghazi could find Libya on a map. I don’t think 10 of them knew our ambassador’s name. And, let me be clear, Speaker Boehner certainly wasn’t obsessed with giving us the money we asked for to keep the embassy’s safe.

But now he’s obsessed with Benghazi. And not even Benghazi. The Benghazi talking points. Are you kidding me? He’s not obsessed with global warming or unemployment or rebuilding our infrastructure.  And now that there’s conflict, all of you are obsessed with Benghazi talking points too, and meanwhile, we’re cutting the National Institutes of Health and we’re cutting too deep into the military and we’re making life harder for the unemployed and we’re doing nothing to keep this planet in good shape for our kids.

Look, this is why the American people can’t trust their government. Because this town is obsessed with conflict and political advantage and not with real problems. We worry about the wrong things so much that we don’t even have time to talk to the American people or each other about the right things. And that’s not the I.R.S.’s fault.

Who wouldn’t want to see that guy do a presser? It would scare the tan off John Boehner’s face, but, much more important, it would educate the people as to what the Republican Party is doing to the country.

Desperately Seeking Scandal

In an intriguing, but sad, way, the interests of the Republican Party and the interests of Big Media met, as a triad of quasi-scandals seemed to explode over the White House last weekend. Both the GOP and Big Media need at least the appearance of scandal, thus we have before us, night and day, the appearance of scandal.

Republicans, of course, want to destroy President Obama’s presidency completely, a job they started on January 20, 2009. Big Media, of course, wants to prove to Republicans that journalists, often accused of putting their liberalism and love for Obama over their professional duties, will help right-wingers bring down this president at the slightest hint of trouble.

So much for the “liberal media.” As coverage the past week or so demonstrates, there isn’t, and never was, any such thing.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, the general thrust of the conversation among the talking heads was that Obama was very close to making a Nixonian exit from the scene, what with all the “scandals” surrounding his presidency. On Morning Joe on Wednesday, the general thrust of the conversation among the talking heads was that Obama was not being Nixonian enough, in that he should fire everyone and his brother who had the slightest connection to anything the government might have done wrong. He needed to show how mad he was over this stuff, by God.

Get it? One day Obama is attacked for being Richard Nixon. The next day he is attacked for not being Richard Nixon.

So, what happens? Late Wednesday President Obama obliges the throngs of Republicans and journalists on his trail by firing (uh, “asking for his resignation”) the one guy who apparently had nothing to do with the IRS mess when it actually happened, the agency’s acting director, Steven Miller. “It is important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward,” the President said.

Okay, now that Mr. Miller has been duly sacrificed, let’s see how confidence going forward is being restored. President Obama’s long-time political enemy and chief saboteur for the GOP, Mitch McConnell, had this to say after Steven Miller was given the left foot of fellowship:

If the President is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal — no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses. These allegations are serious — that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election. We are determined to get answers, and to ensure that this type of intimidation never happens again at the IRS or any other agency.

“These allegations are serious–that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election,” McConnell said, as if it weren’t he who was making those “allegations,” as if it weren’t his party who was claiming, without even the tiniest bit of evidence, not to mention proof, and without the slightest hint of embarrassment, not to mention shame, that President Obama pulled a Richard Nixon and used the IRS last year in order to keep Mitt Romney from becoming president.

Meanwhile, Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee and one of the most virulent Obama-haters in the country, issued the following Tweets after the Miller dismissal:

priebus tweets

Priebus told fellow Obama-hater Sean Hannity:

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that these folks hated the tea parties—the President called them “teabaggers,” he said he wanted to punish his enemies. That’s what he’s all about.

Yep, that’s our Obama. He’s always trying to punish his enemies, except when he’s golfing or dining with them.

In any case, unless we soon see President Obama boarding a helicopter, after resigning from office, and heading back to Chicago with his pigmented tail between his legs, nothing, absolutely nothing, will quiet down Republicans, who use Big Media to prosecute the President for crimes neither he, nor anyone as far as we know, have committed.

Just one example of how Big Media helps Republicans do that is ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. He was caught—by a former ABC News guy, Jake Tapper, who is now at CNN—inventing a quote in a piece he did on the Benghazi emails, a piece that made it look like the White House was involved in some sort of cover-up of what happened in Benghazi, which just happened to be what Republicans have been claiming since the Benghazi tragedy happened last year.

Not only did Karl pretend he had actually seen the original emails, others on the air at ABC reported it that way too. (You can read the details here.) Now that the emails have been made public (Republicans had them months ago and knew there was nothing incriminating in them relative to the White House), we see that there is exactly no way to claim that Obama, or anyone at the White House, was trying to scrub the “truth” from the infamous talking points that Susan Rice used on those infamous Sunday talk-show appearances so long ago.

It was mostly the CIA , in the person of its deputy director, Michael Morell, who watered down those talking points to the point that David Petraeus, who at the time was actually leading the CIA, said,

Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this.

So, where does Susan Rice, who was smeared repeatedly by Republicans, go to get her reputation back? She might have become Secretary of State, the ultimate job in her diplomatic profession, were it not for the incessant attacks on her character by Republicans in Congress, not one of whom have apologized to her for their disgraceful behavior.

And when does ABC News apologize for misleading reporting, reporting that conveniently supported unsupportable charges made by Republicans?

My hope, and it is only a very faint hope, is that after all the overreaching and misreporting and hysteria related to the the three let’s-pretend-they-are-scandals-even-if-they-might-not-be issues involving the IRS, the attacks in Benghazi, and the Justice Department’s snooping around in the telephone records of Associated Press reporters, that the public will quickly turn off the next Republican who wildly waves his or her hands on Fox or any other cable news channel, claiming our President had done bad things to the country.

I said it was only a hope.

George Will Channels Glenn Beck, Or How A Once-Respected Conservative Columnist Has Caught The Hate-Obama Plague

I’ve often picked on George Will, the conservative columnist famous for being a right-wing nerd.

And I’ve picked on him for good reason. He’s written some nasty and nutty columns in his career, but perhaps none as nasty and nutty as his column in yesterday’s Washington Post (“In IRS scandal, echoes of Watergate”).

While I won’t hold him accountable for the headline of his piece, I will hold him accountable for beginning his piece with a selection from the Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon:

“He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to . . .cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”

Will, knowing that he is a media darling, intentionally invoked the ghost of Tricky Dicky to, what else, bring attention to himself, which is somewhat excusable I suppose. A guy has to make a living, even if it is peddling nonsense.

But while it is excusable for a conservative columnist to engage in some hyperbole regarding the Obama presidency—and God knows the Scary Negro brings out the beast in those pale-faced conservatives—it is not excusable for a man with the reputation that George Will has enjoyed to engage in the kind of conclusion jumping fit for, say, Glenn Beck:

The burglary occurred in 1972, the climax came in 1974, but 40 years ago this week — May 17, 1973 — the Senate Watergate hearings began exploring the nature of Richard Nixon’s administration. Now the nature of Barack Obama’s administration is being clarified as revelations about IRS targeting of conservative groups merge with myriad Benghazi mendacities.

The nature of Barack Obama’s administration is being clarified…” Hmm. Not one thing that has been revealed so far, from either the IRS fiasco or the Benghazi tragedy, has even come close to implicating President Obama in some kind of Nixonian crime. Not one thing. Nothing. But here is the much-respected George Will comparing the “nature” of Obama’s presidency to Nixon’s. I once thought that only in the noggins of people like Glenn Beck would such tripe thrive. But the plague has spread and even those with intellects are vulnerable.

Oh, and to show how this whole column was designed to draw attention to himself and not to offer us any real insight, Will includes this cover-his-ass disclaimer:

It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty of more than an amazingly convenient failure to superintend the excesses of some executive-branch employees beyond the Allegheny Mountains.

Wait a minute: “It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty…”? Huh? Will begins his column with a reference to impeachment, compares Obama to Nixon repeatedly, and then adds, “It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty…”? What bullshit, what utter bullshit, that is.

And to expect the President, no matter who he is, to “superintend the excesses” of anyone and everyone who works in the executive branch is itself an absurdity. What is Obama supposed to do? Do we want him spending his time running from building to building, city to city, state to state, embassy to embassy, making sure all 2.65 million executive branch employees are doing their jobs correctly?

Is Obama supposed to be the superintendent-in-chief?

The tommyrot in this column culminated in this:

Five days before the IRS story broke, Obama, sermonizing 109 miles northeast of Cincinnati, warned Ohio State graduates about “creeping cynicism” and “voices” that “warn that tyranny is . . . around the corner.” Well.

Well what? What’s that “well” there for? I’ll tell you what it’s there for. It is to confirm that the Scary Negro, the one that has driven pale-faced conservatives nuts for more than four years, is the tyrant they all imagined him to be. Barack Obama is a Black Panther—excuse me, a New Black Panther—who means to do real harm to the country, especially the parts of the country with lots of conservative white folks in it.

Finally, Will claims that,

If Republicans had controlled both houses of Congress in 1973, Nixon would have completed his term. If Democrats controlled both today, the Obama administration’s lawlessness would go uninvestigated.

Get that? Did you get that transition from using the specific name “Nixon” to using the phrase “the Obama administration’s lawlessness”? Did you get that slick move from naming a man who personally committed crimes for which he had to be pardoned, to using the phrase, “the Obama administration“? Again, it’s as if bad deeds done by IRS staffers in Cincinnati or elsewhere is Obama’s fault and is equivalent to the crimes committed by Richard Nixon himself.

What dishonest piffle that is.

And by the way, as Politico reported,

[R]oughly one-third of House committees are engaged in investigating some aspect of the Obama administration…

With millions of Americans out of work or out of full-time work, with a slow economic recovery, with working-class incomes declining, with all the other things going on both here and abroad, ain’t it nice to know that Republicans have something to do?

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