05.16.13 3:25 PM ET
The Benghazi Emails and the Dark Hole
The Times' account is this:
E-mails released by the White House on Wednesday revealed a fierce internal jostling over the government’s official talking points in the aftermath of last September’s attack in Benghazi, Libya, not only between the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency, but at the highest levels of the C.I.A.
The 100 pages of e-mails showed a disagreement between David H. Petraeus, then the director of the C.I.A., and his deputy, Michael J. Morell, over how much to disclose in the talking points, which were used by Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, in television appearances days after the attack.
The paper goes on to describe the disagreement, which seems to me profoundly unimportant. It was about how much detail go into for a Democratic member of Congress who asked the CIA for guidance about what he should say to the media. Hoop de do. The fate of the nation turns on such question as this? Give me a break.
Naturally, Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard sees a much more sinister picture. In his interpretation, the emails "directly contradict" the White House. Apparently something Jay Carney said in one of the grillings he's endured on this wasn't right. Honestly. The rest of his indictment, so far as I can see, is grounded chiefly in speculation.
We're really going down a dark hole now. But the different reactions to the email release proves that this story will never go away. There will always be some little thread, some unanswered question, that will keep the right-wing press going on this. It's impossible to answer all questions, especially since some of them are either nonsensical or designed not to be answered but just to keep the thing going.
Meanwhile Jeff Goldberg has a column up that nicely explains why Lindsey Graham owes Susan Rice a big apology:
Rice actually had nothing to do with the writing and editing of the talking points she delivered that Sunday. They were a product of the intelligence community; they originated in a request by members of Congress to David Petraeus, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, for an unclassified version of the summary of events he had presented to them on Sept. 14. The talking points were edited and re-edited, then sent to the State Department, whose spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, read them. In his New York Times column, David Brooks noted that the talking points -- each iteration of them, in fact -- stated that the attacks were inspired by protests in Cairo, and that al-Qaeda-linked radicals had participated in the attacks. Brooks said Nuland “was just kicking the process up to the policy-maker level.”
The day before Rice’s fateful talk-show appearances, there was more haggling over what the talking points should say, and they were watered down further.
Rice is not really expecting an apology, needless to say. Here's hoping she lands the national security adviser job (doesn't require Senate confirmation). She certainly deserves a second chance in government so that her reputation isn't defined by a bunch of howling lies told by people who don't really care a whit about diplomatic security and to whom everything, everything, everything is political.