Quote of the Day

“Republicans are already trying to paint Hillary Clinton as too old to be president. In fact, a new ad claims she’s so old that she could be a Republican.” –Conan O’Brien

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CNN Finds That Someone Altered The “Incriminating” Benghazi Email

There was very little to the Benghazi scandal which the Republicans were trying to promote when I wrote about it yesterday. They have even less today now that it has been exposed that the email the Republicans have been so excited about had been altered according to a report from Jake Tapper.

CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama about White House reaction to the deadly attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that apparently differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.

The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department…

Steve Benen commented:

So, let me get this straight. Someone — we don’t know who — leaked misleading information to ABC and the Weekly Standard, they ran it, other news organizations embraced it, we’ve had several days of “scandal” based on it, and the information wasn’t true?

Tapper put it this way: “Whoever provided those quotes seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”

In other words, we’re not dealing with a mistake, so much as we’re dealing with a political actor deliberately misrepresenting key details to journalists, who in turn misled other journalists, who in turn created a controversy where none existed.

Greg Sargent’s take on this rings true.

This would seem to do still more damage to the notion that there was any kind of cover up here…. It’s increasingly clear that this was merely a bureaucratic turf war at work, in which State wanted to get rid of the CIA’s efforts to insert into the talking points stuff that preempts blame against the agency. This new revelation from Tapper takes this even further — it suggests the administration didn’t even prioritize State’s demands and was simply looking to get agencies on the same page to prevent the spreading of misinformation.

Indeed, the email explicitly cites worry about the “significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.” That suggests, again, that this internal debate was mainly about not getting out too far ahead of what was actually known — which could actually be a desirable thing under such circumstances.

Indeed, if this report bears out, it weakens the underpinning of this supposed scandal considerably.

Andrew Sullivan concluded:  “Just an early, failing attempt to smear Hillary for 2016. Because the GOP has no relevant policies for our times, just politics.”

We finally might have a real scandal here, but the scandal is over who is altering email to fabricate right wing attacks.

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Republicans Overplaying Their Hand On Benghazi: Military Experts And Public Don’t Believe Them

Here’s a few quick links in case you are getting lost in all the Republican noise on Benghazi, such as Darrel Issa attacking Barack Obama for describing  the killing of Americans in Libya as an “act of terror” rather than a “terrorist attack.” Here’s a partial run down of people who are not very impressed with the Republican arguments:

The military isn’t impressed. A National Security column in Foreign Policy argues that military force would not have been successful in response to the attack.

Don’t want to believe a columnist who might be a Democrat? How about a Republican who has been Secretary of Defense:

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates forcefully defended the Obama administration on Sunday against charges that it did not do enough to prevent the tragedy in Benghazi, telling CBS’ “Face the Nation” that some critics of the administration have a “cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces.”

Gates, a Republican who was appointed by then-President George W. Bush in 2006 and agreed to stay through more than two years of President Obama’s first term, repeatedly declined to criticize the policymakers who devised a response to the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

“Frankly, had I been in the job at the time, I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were,” said Gates, now the chancellor of the College of William and Mary.

“We don’t have a ready force standing by in the Middle East, and so getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible.” he explained.

Suggestions that we could have flown a fighter jet over the attackers to “scare them with the noise or something,” Gates said, ignored the “number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from [former Libyan leader] Qaddafi’s arsenals.”

“I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances,” he said.

Another suggestion posed by some critics of the administration, to, as Gates said, “send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, would have been very dangerous.”

“It’s sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces,” he said. “The one thing that our forces are noted for is planning and preparation before we send people in harm’s way, and there just wasn’t time to do that.”

Gates said he could not speak to allegations that the State Department refused requests for additional security in the months prior to the attack. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been increasingly targeted for criticism by Republicans for her handling of the crisis and the government’s response, with some even raising the possibility that the State Department engineered a coverup to protect her political future.

But when Gates was asked whether he thought that might be a possibility, he replied flatly, “No.”

“I worked with Secretary Clinton pretty closely for two and a half years, and I wouldn’t want to try and be somebody…trying to convince her to say something she did not think was true,” he said, adding that he has not spoken with Clinton about the events in Benghazi.

The public is also unimpressed by these transparently political attacks. Republicans believe they can harm Hillary Clinton politically over Benghazi, but so far there is no evidence of this . Public Policy Polling found that more people trust Clinton than the Republican Congress:

PPP’s newest national poll finds that Republicans aren’t getting much traction with their focus on Benghazi over the last week. Voters trust Hillary Clinton over Congressional Republicans on the issue of Benghazi by a 49/39 margin and Clinton’s +8 net favorability rating at 52/44 is identical to what it was on our last national poll in late March. Meanwhile Congressional Republicans remain very unpopular with a 36/57 favorability rating.

Voters think Congress should be more focused on other major issues right now rather than Benghazi. By a 56/38 margin they say passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill is more important than continuing to focus on Benghazi, and by a 52/43 spread they think passing a bill requiring background checks for all gun sales should be a higher priority.

This part sounds like a Sarah Palin joke:

One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history is that 39% of them don’t actually know where it is. 10% think it’s in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.

I bet they also don’t know what happened there, or that it was the Republicans who cut funding for embassy security.

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Quote of the Day

“This week on the ‘Today’ show, Chelsea Clinton said she’s open to running for political office one day. When she heard that, Sasha Obama was like, ‘Cool. How does secretary of state sound?’” –Jimmy Fallon

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Quotes of the Day: Letterman and Fallon on the Resignation of Pope Benedict

As everyone probably knows, the big news last week was that Pope Benedict resigned in order to spend more time with his family. I believe he will wind up as a commentator for Fox. Here’s some other predictions as to what will happen next:

“Big news coming out of the Vatican. Pope Benedict resigned. And they’re busy looking for replacements. The smart money is on Tim Tebow.” –David Letterman

“With the Pope retiring, more than 100 cardinals will sequester themselves in the Sistine Chapel to choose the next Pope. They’ll send out white smoke if they’ve chosen somebody, black smoke if they haven’t chosen somebody, and a text message when they find out that it’s 2013.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Pope Benedict is resigning. And you know what that means: Hillary in 2013?” –Jimmy Fallon

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Right Wingers And Out Of Context Quotes

Taking statements out of context, and sometimes even changing the words, is a common tactic among right wingers, and some sites such as Breitbart.com make a special effort to find statements to distort and attack. Steve M. looks at a distortion from Hillary Clinton’s testimony at the Benghazi hearings. Steve introduced the story in this manner:

I haven’t been able to watch the Benghazi hearings, but I’ve checked my Twitter feed, and the lefties who’ve been watching are 100% convinced that Hillary Clinton has been wiping the floor with the Republicans who are trying to take her down.

The righties in my feed have a very different perspective. They have what they want: a soundbite they can rip from context and use as a cudgel to beat the administration and Secretary Clinton with. I’m not sure if they really expect their efforts to color mainstream coverage of this story, but it’s clear that that’s what they’re hoping. They have a new “you didn’t build that,” a new “spread the wealth around,” and they’re going to wring everything they can out of it.

You can follow the link for the full story. I’m primarily posting this to help keep Steve’s post at the top of the page of Memeorandum for as long as possible.

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Right Wing Paranoia

It may be a new year, but we have the same old right wing paranoia, as is seen in several stories today. First there is the warning in an email from the American Family Association (via Think Progress)  that within 50 years Christians will be treated like African Americans during the Jim Crow era:

What will religion look like in the year 2060?

Conservative Christians will be treated as second class citizens, much like African Americans were prior to civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Family as we know it will be drastically changed with the state taking charge of the children beginning at birth.

Marriage will include two, three, four or any number of participants. Marriage will not be important, with individuals moving in and out of a “family” group at will.

Churchbuildings will be little used, with many sold to secular buyers and the money received going to the government.

Churches will not be allowed to discuss any political issues, even if it affects the church directly.

Tax credit given to churches and non-profit organizations will cease.

Christian broadcasting will be declared illegal based on the separation of church and state. The airwaves belong to the government, therefore they cannot be used for any religious purpose.

We will have, or have had, a Muslim president.

Cities with a name from the Bible such as St. Petersburg, Bethlehem, etc. will be forced to change their name due to separation of church and state.

Groups connected to any religious affiliation will be forced out of health care. Health centers get tax money from the state, making it a violation of church and state.

Get involved! Sign THE STATEMENT.

Sincerely,

Donald E. Wildmon

Think Progress pointed out that such extremism has been common among the AFA:

As absurd as they may be, these 2060 predictions may not even rank among the AFA’s most extreme ideas. The group’s spokesman has called for kidnapping the children of same-sex couples through a modern-day “Underground Railroad” system. When one man heeded this advice and aided a woman in kidnapping the daughter of a lesbian woman, the group advised him to flout American laws and flee the country. AFA also organizes against any individual or company that shows the slightest tolerance for LGBT people, including Office Depot, Urban Outfitters, Home Depot, JC Penney, and Google.

Some additional examples of right wing paranoia in the news and blogs:

Wisconsin state Senator Glenn Grothman has issued a press release waging a War on Kwanzaa, which he describes as a fake holiday aimed at dividing blacks and whites. He also says

“Of course, almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa — just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people’s throats in an effort to divide Americans,” Grothman said. “Irresponsible public school districts such as Green Bay and Madison … try to tell a new generation that blacks have a separate holiday than Christians.”

Grothman adds Karenga “didn’t like the idea that Christ died for all of our sins, so he felt blacks should have their own holiday — hence, Kwanzaa.”

Conor Friderersdorf described the conservative interest in Second Amendment solutions:

In the National Review, Kevin Williamson argues that nearly everyone calling for gun control either doesn’t understand or refuses to address the actual purpose of the 2nd Amendment. They talk, he says, as if there’s no legitimate reason for an American to have military grade weapons, as if the 2nd Amendment protects mere hunting and home security. “The purpose of having citizens armed with paramilitary weapons is to allow them to engage in paramilitary actions,” Williamson writes. “There is no legitimate exception to the Second Amendment for military-style weapons, because military-style weapons are precisely what the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to secure our ability to oppose enemies foreign and domestic, a guarantee against disorder and tyranny.”

Walter E. Williams makes a similar argument in a Townhall column. “There have been people who’ve ridiculed the protections afforded by the Second Amendment, asking what chance would citizens have against the military might of the U.S. government,” he writes. “Military might isn’t always the deciding factor. Our 1776 War of Independence was against the mightiest nation on the face of the earth — Great Britain. In Syria, the rebels are making life uncomfortable for the much-better-equipped Syrian regime. Today’s Americans are vastly better-armed than our founders, Warsaw Ghetto Jews and Syrian rebels. There are about 300 million privately held firearms owned by Americans. That’s nothing to sneeze at. And notice that the people who support gun control are the very people who want to control and dictate our lives.”

I note that this is occurring during a time of record gun sales.

Beyond the absurdity of thinking they can, or should, take on the United States militarily, Conor pointed out the conservative inconsistency in backing Second Amendment solutions while they “actively oppose so many other important attempts to safeguard liberty.”

Finally (for the purposes of this post–conservative paranoia extends much further), Amanda Marcotte links the belief of many conservatives that Hillary Clinton faked her concussion to avoiding testimony with other forms of wingnuttery and conspiracy theories:

It’s worth noting that most conspiracy theorists identify as “skeptics”, but of course they’re doing the opposite of skepticism, which requires evidence to support extraordinary and implausible claims, such as the claim that hundreds of people could come together to help Secretary Clinton fake a series of illnesses without a single person blowing the whistle. Remember: Bill Clinton couldn’t even keep the lid on an affair that had only two witnesses to the actual acts of it. Althouse may feel entitled to full information on demand of any Clinton body part she desires, but that doesn’t actually mean doctors have to violate federal law to give it to her.

Of course, wingnuttery nowadays is entirely dependent on the asinine belief that widespread conspiracies are a daily occurrence. These folks believe that thousands of scientists worldwide have been in cahoots for decades to perpetuate the false claim that global warming is real for no other reason than a vague hatred of capitalism, and that not one has ever thought to blow the whistle on this evil scheme. Marshaling the State Department and the staff of a major hospital into a conspiracy theory seems like tiddlywinks compared to that.

But riddle me this, wingnuts: If Secretary Clinton is such an evil mastermind that she can repeatedly bend so many people to her will with full confidence that not a one will ever blow the whistle, why couldn’t she just get up and say whatever the hell she wants under oath if she did testify? Seems like a conspiracy of one would be easier to pull off than repeated faked hospitalizations. Why do you believe someone who would supposedly create one elaborate scheme after another to avoid testifying would suddenly start spilling truths only she knows under oath? Do you believe that taking an oath is like a magic spell that causes the person who did it to be incapable of lying? (Not that I think she has anything to lie about, honestly, just curious what the fuck they think is going on here.) If that’s so, why did you demand that Bill Clinton be impeached for perjury?

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John Kerry Reportedly To Be Chosen As Secretary of State

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Barack Obama has chosen John Kerry to be Secretary of State. This comes as no surprise after Susan Rice withdrew her name form consideration. There is also speculation that Obama had planned to choose Kerry but was forced into defending Rice following the dishonest smear campaign launched against her by Republicans such as John McCain.

Kerry was the best choice four years ago if not for the importance of getting Hillary Clinton out of the Senate. Politically getting Hillary into the administration, as opposed to being a source of potential opposition in the Senate, was extremely important. It was also necessary that Obama’s health care reform not be tainted by HillaryCare–otherwise Obama would not have obtained the support of organizations such as the AMA. Despite the attacks from the right, the plan which passed was essentially the conservative response to Hillary Clinton’s plan.

As an added, and major benefit, having Hillary Clinton in the administration set up the situation where Bill Clinton became a significant source in Obama’s reelection campaign.  Bill Clinton’s fantastic convention speech and subsequent  campaigning in battleground states was a tremendous help to Obama. Now Obama has become free to choose the person who is most qualified for the position, and most likely his preferred choice since 2008.

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Michigan Votes For Republicans Today But Is Now Less Likely To Vote Republican In The Fall

The Republican primary battle is ending in Michigan and the candidates will be moving on to suck up to the voters of different states. Just watch. Tomorrow Mitt Romney will be telling the residents of other states that their trees are the ones which are the right height. At the moment it is not possible to predict the winner. Romney retook the lead in most polls but a Public Policy Polling survey did show momentum moving in Santorum’s direction at the last minute. Another last minute poll from Mitchell Research/Rosetta Stone shows Romney taking a slight lead in a race which could go either way.

In what might be a sign that Romney’s internal polls are not going well,  Romney is talking about the possibility of a Santorum victory:

Battling for his critical home state of Michigan on Tuesday, Mitt Romney accused Republican rival Rick Santorum of trying to “kidnap our primary process” by getting Democrats to tip the very tight race in favor of Pennsylvania’s former senator.

Flanked by volunteers at his campaign headquarters, Romney conceded that — as recent polls suggest — Santorum might win, and he pointed to his rival’s robo-calls encouraging Democratic crossover voters to turn out in the open primary.

“I think the hardest thing about predicting what’s going to happen today is whether Senator Santorum’s effort to call Democrat households and tell them to come out and vote against Mitt Romney is going to be successful or not. I think Republicans have to recognize there’s a real effort to kidnap our primary process. And if we want Republicans to nominate the Republican who takes on Barack Obama, I need Republicans to get out and vote and say ‘no’ to the dirty tricks of a desperate campaign,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

This is yet another flip-flop for Romney who has admitted to crossing over to vote in a past Democratic primary for strategic reasons:

ABC News’ Jonathan Greenberger Reports: Republican presidential candididate Mitt Romney offered a new explanation today for why he supported a Democrat in 1992.

That year, Romney, then a registered independent, voted for former Sen. Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary.  He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in an interview that will air Sunday on “This Week,” that his vote was meant as a tactical maneuver aimed at finding the weakest opponent for incumbent President George H.W. Bush.

“In Massachusetts, if you register as an independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary,” said Romney, who until he made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1994 had spent his adult life as a registered independent. “When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I’d vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican.”

It would be devastating for the Republicans should Romney lose. Matthew Dowd raised the possibility of Republicans looking for another candidate:

“If Rick Santorum wins tonight it’s the equivalent of a 9.0 on a Richter scale. I mean it is going to shake Washington, it’s going to shake Republican establishment it’s just going to shake things to their very core,” Dowd told me. “And I think what you’re going to see are the conversations that have been going on behind quiet doors saying we need another candidate in this race.”

It is possible that GOP leaders could fudge the rules, which are vague as to the commitment of delegates to a candidate, to enable another candidate to win. Should they do this, I wonder how many unhappy supporters of the current candidates will feel betrayed by the party and stay home or vote Democratic. Keep in mind how angry many of the PUMA’s were about the defeat of Hillary Clinton, which was done fairly under party rules. Resentment could be even greater if party leaders alter rules to help a new candidate. Even should Romney win, the fact that Santorum has posed such a challenge to Romney has highlighted his weaknesses. Should Romney win narrowly, it might be important as to whether the media presents this as a win for Romney or a close win where Romney looked weak and failed to meet earlier expectations.

I doubt that Michigan would have voted Republican in the general election, but the state had been listed as a battle ground state. Dowd says this is no longer the case:

Ten days ago, Michigan was a major battleground state for the general election, Mitt Romney was looking to reconnect with the middle class in his home state, and Rick Santorum was gaining momentum after three big wins and looking at maybe becoming the first Catholic nominated by the Republican party. The Obama campaign was so concerned about Michigan being in play for the fall that it brought President Obama there to give a major speech and made plans to spend valuable ad dollars in the state.

But that was then.

Now, after the Romney and Santorum campaigns, Michigan is likely off the fall map of battleground states.  It looks again reliably Democratic – not because of anything the Obama team has done, but because of the nature of the contest between Romney and Santorum, which has alienated many independent voters and created a tremendous divide.  This isn’t a good sign as the Republican nomination contest moves into other battleground states like Ohio next week.

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Gingrich Becoming The Next Not-Romney Candidate

There might be a major shake-up underway in the Republican nomination race. Polls such as the McClatchy-Marist poll show Cain falling and Gingrich now turning it into a three-way race.  If Gingrich doesn’t self-destruct like Perry and Cain, it is possible that Gingrich could win the nomination.

There are enough conservatives who do not want Mitt Romney to win that, should they unite behind one, Romney could still be denied the nomination. At this point Romney is looking a lot like Hillary Clinton did four years ago.  If Gingrich could win in Iowa, come in a respectable second in New Hampshire, and then go on to win in South Carolina, he could go on to win the nomination. There might be a protracted fight between Gingrich and Romney, with other conservatives also picking up votes, with Romney unable to gain over fifty percent of the delegates. The questions will be whether Gingrich can maintain his momentum when he becomes the target of other candidates and whether enough conservatives start to back him.

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