POLITICS

One more time: Rice, Benghazi and spontaneity

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

Slate’s Dave Weigel has a post up responding to my critique of his critique of Senator John McCain’s critique of Ambassador Susan Rice. (Don’t try this at home, folks! We are trained professionals.)

Weigel says he resents my implication that he based his post on one by Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum. It seemed logical to me because Weigel had touted the Mother Jones piece on Twitter but if he says his Slate piece was based on his own analysis of the Sunday news show transcripts, fine, I’ll take him at his word.

As to the main point of my piece – that Rice did in fact say that the attacks on the Benghazi compound were spontaneous during her appearances on the Sunday morning news shows on Sept. 16 -  Weigel notes one of my excerpts from the shows and responds:

To make his point, Higgins need(s) to overemphasize some phrases and under-emphasize others. “What this began as,” said Rice, was “a spontaneous response” in the form of a protest. The protest, she said, was used as a cover for “individual clusters of extremists.” The question really hangs on the issue of spontaneity — and Rice, in a lawyerly way, differentiated between the “Innocence of Muslims” protest and the attack, saying that there was an “an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed.”

Weigel is correct that the question “hangs on the issue of spontaneity.” The thing is, Rice repeatedly answered that. As I pointed out in my previous post, she told CBS: “We do not– we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.” She told Fox: “The best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack.” If they weren’t premeditated or preplanned, what else can they possibly be but spontaneous?

To reiterate: What Rice was arguing was that a spontaneous protest happened and then crazier people with big guns showed up. The clear implication is that if the Youtube video hadn’t riled the protesters up in the first place, then the attack would not have happened. (Needless to say, we now know those protests never happened.)

To make her scenario plausible, Rice even made a point of saying on CBS that these kinds of guns are commonly found lying around in Libya: “Heavy weapons… unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then (the protests) spun out of control.”

Rice did throw in some caveats that the investigation was still unfolding, but I don’t see how that changes the fact that she was clearly pushing a particular narrative.

Again, all of the above is in my prior post on this subject. Weigel offers no response other than saying I “overemphasize some phrases and under-emphasize others.” I don’t count this as much of a pushback. His post then goes on to discuss other things related to the Rice/Benghazi issue that I didn’t discuss in my post so I won’t bother with them.

To further clarify this matter, CBS reported today that it now has the CIA talking points that Rice relied on. The main one was:

The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.

So, at the time the CIA was claiming the protests were “spontaneously inspired” and then “evolved into a direct assault.” This is pretty much the same as what Rice was saying. I don’t know how anybody can interpret that as anything other than saying the attack itself was spontaneous.

Weigel concludes his latest post:

The questions: Was Rice accurately saying only what the administration had confirmed? And was this such an affront that Rice should immediately be blocked or filibustered from another job in government?

Err, that is not what I was responding to. I was responding to the fact that Weigel said it was a “lie” that Rice said the attacks were spontaneous. That is what he claimed. The transcripts say otherwise.

 

 

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