Seventh Investigation Debunks Republican Benghazi Conspiracy Theories

Yet another investigation has debunked the Republican claims about Benghazi, this one run by House Republicans. AP reports:

House intel panel debunks many Benghazi theories

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.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. That led Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to inaccurately assert that the attack had evolved from a protest, when in fact there had been no protest. But it was intelligence analysts, not political appointees, who made the wrong call, the committee found. The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel. The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May…

In the aftermath of the attacks, Republicans criticized the Obama administration and its then-secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is expected to run for president in 2016. People in and out of government have alleged that a CIA response team was ordered to “stand down” after the State Department compound came under attack, that a military rescue was nixed, that officials intentionally downplayed the role of al-Qaida figures in the attack, and that Stevens and the CIA were involved in a secret operation to spirit weapons out of Libya and into the hands of Syrian rebels. None of that is true, according to the House Intelligence Committee report.

The report did find, however, that the State Department facility where Stevens and Smith were killed was not well-protected, and that State Department security agents knew they could not defend it from a well-armed attack. Previous reports have found that requests for security improvements were not acted upon in Washington.

Of course it was the Republicans who cut funding for embassy security, denying requests from Democrats for increased funding.

Despite seven investigations which failed to provide evidence to support the Republican conspiracy theories, an eight is underway, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more to follow in the Republican-controlled Senate. The party which already voted over fifty times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and which exists in a fact-free bubble, will not hesitate to continue engage in the same irrational behavior.

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Hillary Clinton And Some Potential Challengers For The Nomination

With the midterm elections behind us, it finally makes sense to talk more about the 2016 presidential election. NBC News has a recent report claiming that Hillary Clinton will be announcing her candidacy in January, but Politico reports that she still has a paid speech scheduled for February 24, which may or may not give a clue as to her plans:

It isn’t clear that the speech says anything about Clinton’s time frame for declaring a decision about a second White House campaign. Her timetable is a topic of disagreement among her supporters: Some people think she is already being attacked and defined by Republicans and only adds to the perception that she’s being coy the longer she waits. Others say she should stick to her stated time frame of early next year.

Clinton could, of course, cancel the appearance or decline a speaking fee if she announces a campaign before the speech. It’s highly unlikely she would continue to give paid speeches once she’s a candidate, something Republican Rudy Giuliani did in 2007 and took heat for.

But the fact that Clinton is still signing up for speeches also gives weight to what a number of people close to her say: that she hasn’t completely made up her mind about running. The conference is about women in the workforce, an issue Clinton is also focused on at her family’s foundation.

While Clinton leads in the polls, there is less enthusiasm for her candidacy among many on the left. The reluctance to have the Democratic Party led by someone as conservative as Clinton may have been intensified by the midterm election results in which Democratic candidates ran away from Democratic principles, only to see Democratic voters stay home. Polls show considerable support for liberal positions on the issues, but voters are not going to turn out for Democratic candidates if they cower in fear and run as Republican-lite.

There has been no lack of condemnation for Democrats who, among other acts of cowardice ran away from the Affordable Care Act rather than promote how successful it has been. One of the more recent such comments came from Andrew Sullivan:

Yes, there has been a mountain of propaganda against it. But that doesn’t excuse political malpractice in defending it. This is the Democrats’ most significant piece of domestic legislation in decades. And yet they cannot manage to make the case for it. That tells you so much about why that party remains such a shit-show, rescued temporarily by this president, but still wallowing in its own dysfunction, inability to communicate and pusillanimity.

While it seems like a futile effort, the memory of Barack Obama defeating Clinton in 2008 gives hope. While they get little mention in the media, there are other potential candidates. Elizabeth Warren was the one bright spot of the 2014 campaign, showing a real ability to communicate, and she  has toned down her earlier statements that she will not run. It is doubtful she would actually challenge Hillary Clinton, and someone more experienced in government might make a better candidate. Bernie Sanders is toying with the idea of running, but a self-proclaimed Socialist has no chance, and  his primary role would be to force Clinton to discuss liberal positions.

Other more conventional candidates are actually looking into running.  Jim Webb has become the first to announce an exploratory campaign. Martin O’Malley is also making moves towards a possible campaign.

In addition to these names which have been mentioned frequently, Michael Kazin has another suggestion in an article at The New Republic, Sherwood Brown:

At the risk of seeming ridiculous, I think Sherrod Brown should run for president. I know that, barring a debilitating health problem or a horrible scandal, Hillary Clinton is likely to capture the Democratic nomination. I realize too that Brown, the senior senator from Ohio, has never hinted that he may be tempted to challenge her. “I’m really happy where I am,” he told Chris Matthews last winter, when the MSNBC’s paragon of impatience urged him to run.

Yet, for progressive Democrats, Brown would be a nearly perfect nominee. During his two decades in the House and Senate, he has taken strong and articulate stands on every issue which matters to the party’s broad, if currently dispirited, liberal base. When George W. Bush was in office and riding high, Brown opposed both his invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act. He has long been a staunch supporter of abortion rights and gay marriage, and is married to Connie Schultz, a feminist author who writes a nationally syndicated column.

Brown’s true mission, however, is economic: He wants to boost the well-being of working Americans by any means necessary. Brown has been talking and legislating about how to accomplish it for years before Elizabeth Warren left Harvard for the Capitol. During Obama’s first term, he advocated a larger stimulus package, called for re-enacting the Glass-Steagall Act to rein in big banks, and stumped for comprehensive immigration reform. He champions the rights of unions and the power of the National Labor Relations Board and criticizes unregulated “free trade” for destroying manufacturing jobs at home. He also led the charge among Senate Democrats that pressured Obama to drop his plan to appoint Larry Summers to head the Federal Reserve and appoint Janet Yellen instead.

At the moment pushing Sherrod Brown to challenge Clinton might seem ridiculous, but certainly no more ridiculous than Barack Obama challenging her in 2008.

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Quote of the Day: Jimmy Fallon On The Clintons

“Congratulations to Chelsea Clinton, who gave birth to a baby girl named Charlotte on Friday. Or as Hillary described the baby, ‘Third in line to the throne.'” –Jimmy Fallon

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Bill Maher Reconsidering Idea Of Voting For Rand Paul Due To His Denial Of Climate Change

Bill Maher has previously said he might consider voting for Rand Paul if he were to run against Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. It is certainly understandable why someone might give this a thought in light of Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy views but this idea breaks down with a closer look at Rand Paul. Maher found that Paul is not as anti-war as he would prefer, but another issue is a real deal-breaker:

Maher said he was most attracted to Paul because of the senator’s general views on foreign policy, though he’s not a fan of his recent support for bombing ISIS.

“He’s great on ending the empire, not getting into any more foreign entanglements — I’m even to the left of him on the bombing (of ISIS); he wants to keep bombing ISIS, I want us to stop bombing altogether,” he said.

While Maher donated $1 million to a super PAC backing President Barack Obama in 2012, he has been less than enthusiastic about a potential Clinton presidency, especially when it comes to her foreign policy.

But Maher told Salon there’s stark daylight between him and Paul on a different issue.

“I had drinks with him about two weeks ago. He’s a nice guy, he’s a smart guy. My big problem is I asked him about the environment, which is my big issue,” Maher said. “He had made a comment that was very similar to what Dick Cheney said about a month or two ago, which was basically, ‘Why are we talking the environment when ISIS is out there?’ I said, ‘Senator, y’know, you sounded just like Dick Cheney.’ “

Last month, Paul blasted Clinton for saying climate change marked the “most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.”

“I don’t think we really want a commander in chief who’s battling climate change instead of terrorism,” Paul said on Fox News.

Maher said that Paul’s answer on the environment was “wholly unsatisfactory” and that the senator would lose his vote based entirely on that issue unless Paul comes up with a better answer.

“This is the deal-breaker issue with me. You’ve got to be good on this or, I’m sorry, not going to happen,” Maher said.

In an ideal world, we would be able to exclude someone such as Hillary Clinton who backed the Iraq war with claims of a connection between Sadaam and al Qaeda. However in such an ideal world, we would also not have a major political party which denies science, including the scientific consensus on climate change. In addition to drumming up fear about terrorism, it makes no sense to say we cannot deal with climate change due to the presence of another problem. It is as if Paul and Cheney are unable to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Salon has more on Rand Paul’s anti-scientific views, related to both climate change and Ebola:

In a breathless “exclusive,” Breitbart News revealed that Paul thinks the Obama administration is misleading the public about the nature of the threat and how the disease is spread. “They’re downplaying and underplaying the risk of this,” Paul claimed. “They keep emphasizing that it’s so hard to transmit. Well if it’s so hard to transmit why are doctors getting it with masks, gloves, boots and hats—the whole works?”

You might think an ophthalmologist (though he’s not board certified) would be more responsible about spreading health panic. But you’d be wrong. “Could we have a worldwide pandemic? The Spanish flu in 1918 killed 21 million people, the plague in the 14th century killed 25 million people; I’m not saying that’s going to happen, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I think we should have travel restrictions at this point in time coming from Africa,” Paul added.

Health experts shot Paul down almost immediately. “I don’t think that there’s data to tell us that that’s a correct statement, with all due respect,” NIH veteran Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We have had experience since 1976 with how Ebola is transmitted. And it is clear that it’s transmitted by direct contact with body fluids, blood, diarrhea, vomit, or what have you.

“And there’s no indication that there is another insidious way that it’s transmitted that we’re missing because of the experience that we’ve had. So, we’ve really gotta go with the evidence base. There’s always hypothesis and surmising about that, but there’s no scientific evidence,” Fauci added.

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Strange Reporting At Politico

Politico has always strayed from strong journalistic standards but has really had a couple of weak stories recently. A report on the recent problems revealed regarding the Secret Service initially ended with:

Agents tell me it’s a miracle an assassination has not already occurred. Sadly, given Obama’s colossal lack of management judgment, that calamity may be the only catalyst that will reform the Secret Service.

Josh Marshall criticized this:

So Obama is at fault for his inevitable assassination, or he’s the only thing standing in the way of cleaning up the agency responsible for his inevitable assassination.There’s a lot packed into that two sentence flourish. But all of it is deeply f’d up.

The story was subsequently revised and a note from the editor was added

Agents tell me it’s a miracle an assassination has not already occurred. In typical Washington fashion, nothing gets reformed until a disaster happens. If anything unites Republicans and Democrats, it is that nobody wants to see a tragedy: We all just want the Secret Service fixed.

Editor’s note: Some readers have misinterpreted the original last line of Kessler’s article as somehow suggesting that the president should be held responsible in the event of his own assassination. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and we’re sorry if anyone interpreted Kessler’s meaning in any other way.

If this was their only recent fault it would be easier to forgive a hastily written conclusion to an article which gives the wrong impression. It is far harder to justify how they covered the birth of Chelsea Clinton’s daughter:

Leading astrologers say that Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky is destined for a future working on social justice and will enjoy a strong relationship with her proud grandparents, Hillary and Bill…

Consulting with astrologers! There’s no way to explain this or claim the author was misinterpreted.

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Hillary Clinton Was Born In Kenya

The right wing has come up with letters tying Hillary to Saul Alinsky when young–just like Muslim Socialist Barack Obama. It is only a matter of time until someone uncover’s Hillary Clinton’s secret Kenyan birth certificate.

The right wing blogosphere is salivating over these letters. To them, this proves she is a radical leftist, no matter how conservative the left considers Clinton to be. The average voter is asking, “Saul who?” or perhaps “Is he the guy Carrie hung out with on Homeland?” or maybe “Isn’t Saul Walter White’s lawyer?”

It is also strange that to the right these  innocuous letters suggest that she is secretly a radical leftist, but her past as a Goldwater Girl doesn’t mean she is  secretly a Goldwater conservative.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, following her recent trip to Iowa, is next going to New Hampshire. To believe she is mounting a campaign for the nomination is certainly not a wacky conspiracy theory.

(Post revised when cross posted at The Moderate Voice)

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Joe Biden’s Gaffe’s: Someone In Media Gets It

Joe BIden

Joe Biden has certainly made a number of gaffes lately, and of course these are far more likely to make the headlines than more important stories about Biden, such as the many times he countered Hillary Clinton’s hawkish views in the Obama administration. I have also become more tolerant of Biden’s verbal gaffes since he did such an excellent job when really needed, the Vice Presidential debate in 2012 after Obama did a poor job in the first debate.

The headline on Biden’s gaffes which is most worth reading is at The National Journal: Why Joe Biden’s Gaffes Don’t Matter. Rebecca Nelson summarized some of Biden’s recent gaffes, such as the use of Shylocks and calling Asia the Orient.

But does any of it really matter? Sure, the Anti-Defamation League called the Shylock misstep “offensive” and said Biden “should have been more careful.” And the White House will certainly walk back on Biden’s off-message troops remark. But Biden has a long history of saying the wrong thing, and hasn’t suffered serious, career-killing backlash for any of it.

Research shows that news media tends to overhype gaffes. Despite saturated coverage of politicians’ misspeaks, according to the United States Project, they ultimately don’t make much of a difference in elections. After President Obama said the private sector was “doing fine” in the thick of the 2012 election, Gallup showed an increase in the president’s numbers, from 46 percent three days before the so-called gaffe to 49 percent three days post.

When a gaffe does matter, FiveThirtyEight noted earlier this year, is when it motivates the base. In the 2006 Virginia Senate race, all signs pointed to Sen. George Allen winning an easy reelection against Democratic challenger Jim Webb. That is, until he called a campaign tracker—a man of Indian descent—a “macaca,” a racial slur. That fired up Webb’s supporters, whose contributions to the campaign spiked, and added to Allen’s already-established reputation of racial intolerance.

Biden doesn’t have a history of antisemitism or racism toward Asian people. “Clearly, there was no ill intent here,” said Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, of Biden’s Shylock comment. “There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden.”

Normally I would have more comment surrounding a quote from another article, but this is really says it all quite well. It was refreshing to see someone in the media recognize that what the media concentrates on is not necessarily what is important.

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Quote of the Day: Bill Maher on Mitt Romney

“Mitt Romney we think is going run again. He says he has no plans to run, but he said if he did run, this time things would turn out differently. Yes they would. This time he would get his ass kicked by a woman.” –Bill Maher

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Right Wing Recycles Old Benghazi Attacks

Hillary Clinton appears to have unofficially begun her campaign in Iowa over the past weekend, and the response from the right is loud and clear: “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.” The right wing Heritage Foundation put out an old, meaningless story by Sharyl Attkisson which made it to the top of Memeorandum thanks to all the right wing blogs repeating it.

Even Glenn Beck’s web site, The Blaze, did a better job of giving the other side of the story:

The State Department on Monday rejected a report saying that senior officials purposely withheld sensitive documents from the group that was investigating the 2012 attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Earlier in the day, the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal reported that senior officials worked to identify and withhold potentially damaging documents from the Accountability Review Board, which was investigating the incident. That story said former Deputy Assistance Secretary Ray Maxwell watched State Department officials and even some top aides to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sift through documents.

But when asked about that report, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf rejected the entire story, and said the ARB had open access to all documents.

“The ARB had full and direct access to State Department employees and documents,” she told reporters. “Any accounts to the contrary, like that one you mentioned, are completely without merit, completely ill-informed.”

“These reports show a complete lack of understanding of how the ARB functioned,” she added.

Harf said the ARB had the authority to collect documents directly from “anybody in the department,” and said everyone in the department was told to provide documents to the body directly.

“That’s what happened,” she said, adding that ARB’s own cochairmen have said they had “unfettered access to all the information they needed, period.”

Otherwise reporting fell along ideological grounds as expected. Fox reported this as being news, and Media Matters debunked the story:

…Attkisson’s report has several flaws. It is based solely on conjecture from Maxwell, who does not claim and cannot prove that any documents were withheld from the ARB in its investigation, but rather only speculates about the fate of the documents that were reviewed.

The State Department has already denied Maxwell’s speculation in a statement to Attkisson — State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach called “the implication that documents were withheld ‘totally without merit,'” emphasizing that the “range of sources that the ARB’s investigation drew on would have made it impossible for anyone outside of the ARB to control its access to information.” Other allegations that the ARB investigation was biased have been repeatedly disproven.

Maxwell himself is a dubious source. He was placed on administrative leave after the Accountability Review Board’s investigation found a “lack of proactive leadership” and pointed specifically to Maxwell’s department, saying some officials in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.” A House Oversight Committee report released findings from the classified version of the ARB report, which revealed that the ARB’s board members “were troubled by the NEA DAS for Maghreb Affairs’ lack of leadership and engagement on staffing and security issues in Benghazi.”

Disgruntled over being “the only official in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), which had responsibility for Libya, to lose his job,” Maxwell spoke to The Daily Beast in May 2013 in an attempt to “restore” his “honor.” Maxwell, who had filed official grievances regarding his treatment, expressed anger that Mills — the same staff member Maxwell speculated was involved in hiding potentially damaging documents — “reneged” on a deal to eventually bring Maxwell back to the NEA after his leave.

While Maxwell has previously been interviewed by the ARB, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the Daily Beast, and Examiner.com, this is curiously the first time this allegation has been made public. FoxNews.com reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) had confirmed “that Maxwell told him and other lawmakers the same story when they privately interviewed him last year.” The claim is absent from the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi Attacks: Investigative Update Report on the Accountability Review Board, which was based in part on Maxwell’s 2013 testimony.

Attkisson, too, has been roundly discredited and is well known for her shoddy reporting, both during her time at CBS News and after leaving the network. Attkisson supported CBS’ disastrous Benghazi reporting, for which the network ultimately had to apologize and retract. And CBS executives reportedly saw her as “wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue.”

Fox’s adoption of this story as a major new development is not surprising given the network’s history of relying on discredited Benghazihoaxsters and using “bombshell” to describe everything but new developments in the story.

There are plenty of real reasons to criticize Clinton, but the right wing is hardly going to criticize her for being overly hawkish, conservative on civil liberties,  or for being too cozy with Wall Street. Instead they have to resort to continuing to raise the disproven Benghazi attacks.

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Martin O’Malley Organizing In Iowa For 2016 Campaign

Martin OMalley Iowa

Earlier in the month I noted fund initial fund raising by Martin O’Malley which may have been the start of a potential challenge to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination. It looks like he is serious, being the first to start organizing a campaign in Iowa:

Martin O’Malley’s incipient presidential campaign already has 11 staffers on the ground in Iowa, working to elect Democrats and build valuable connections for 2016.

Several sources have told The Daily Beast that the Maryland governor, a War of 1812 aficionado, has placed staffers through the Iowa Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign, the umbrella organization that runs field efforts for all the Democratic candidates. That’s in addition to the campaigns of the Democratic nominee for governor, Jack Hatch, and Democratic nominee for secretary of state, Brad Anderson, as previously reported by the Des Moines Register. The staffers are focused on either field efforts or political outreach.

O’Malley, who was the first Democratic presidential hopeful to appear in the Hawkeye State is the only Democrat with staff on the ground in Iowa. He also has sent staffers through his political action committee, the O’Say Can You See PAC, to New Hampshire and South Carolina. In Iowa, O’Malley is mirroring former Indiana senator Evan Bayh, who in 2006 sent a number of paid staff to help Hawkeye State Democrats before eventually deciding not to run for president.

The staffers O’Malley has placed will give him a head start if he chooses to run for president. They will be able to identify potential supporters far in advance, as well as build lists of volunteers key to the grassroots organizing necessary in the Iowa caucuses. And deploying staffers allows O’Malley to earn chits with Iowa Democrats and build a reservoir of goodwill that he can use in the future.

“He’s committed to electing Democrats in 2014, and this commitment of staff in Iowa is part of that strategy,” said Lis Smith, a spokesman for O’Malley.

Hillary Clinton will be appearing in Iowa on Saturday, with The New York Times reporting that she is looking like she is planning to run.

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