Tuesday Reads: Benghazi Will Never Die and Other NewsPosted: October 20, 2015
I’m getting a very late start this morning because of some computer problems, but as far as I can tell, Joe Biden is still playing games with the press corps. I suppose that could go on for at least the rest of the week, since Hillary is testifying before the Benghazi! Committee on Thursday. I doubt if she will suddenly implode, but apparently Biden is hoping for a major meltdown of some kind.
Last night Rachel Maddow announced that she will be interviewing Hillary on her Friday show, so that should be interesting. Meanwhile, ABC News was forced to admit that Hillary’s poll numbers have gone up against both Bernie Sanders and Biden, according to their latest survey of voters.
Hillary Clinton has followed a successful debate performance by rebounding in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, regaining ground against Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden alike.
With anticipation surrounding Biden at a peak, Clinton has 54 percent support in interviews Thursday through Sunday, compared with Sanders’ 23 percent and Biden’s 16 percent. That’s 12 percentage points better for Clinton than her position a month ago, bringing her halfway back to her level of support in the spring and summer, before her September stumble.
In anticipation of Hillary’s testimony on Thursday, Democratic members of the Benghazi “special committee” released a 146-page report detailing the results of the investigation so far from their point of view. CBS News: Democrats: Benghazi committee interviews discredit GOP claims about Clinton.
“This report shows that no witnesses we interviewed substantiated these wild Republican conspiracy theories about Secretary Clinton and Benghazi. It’s time to bring this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition to an end,” Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said in a statement accompanying the 146-page report.
Following through on a recent threat, the Democrats released excerpts from the panel’s 54 interviews, but still called on Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, to release full transcripts and depositions….
Based on 54 interviews, the Democrats said the committee found no evidence that Clinton ordered the military to stand down on the night of the attacks, no evidence she personally approved a reduction in security before the attacks and no evidence Clinton or her aides oversaw an operation to scrub or destroy documents related to Benghazi, among other findings.
Documents obtained by the committee confirmed Clinton’s earlier testimony about her actions that night, the report said, as did the interviews with Mills and Sullivan.
Many more details at the link.
As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the Benghazi committee is falling about anyway, thanks to the stupidity of its chairman Trey Gowdy. At The New Republic, Brian Beutler writes: The Benghazi Witch-Hunt Against Hillary Is Backfiring Just Like Bill Clinton’s Impeachment.
When the committee began to drift from its nominal investigative purpose—the 2012 attack on a U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed—and focus on unrelated aspects of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state from 2009-2013, it invited comparisons to the GOP-led fishing expeditions of the 1990s, which culminated in the partisan impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and discredited his leading critics.
The comparison became inescapable this weekend, when the top Democrat on the Benghazi committee revealed that its Republican chairman, Trey Gowdy, had fabricated a redaction to Clinton’s emails to make it look like she’d endangered a spy, and the CIA had busted her. Gowdy even mimicked intelligence community vernacular, designating the redaction as undertaken to protect “sources and methods,” without disclosing that he was the redactor or that the CIA had cleared the name he redacted for release.
This flagrant misconduct has barely pierced the consciousness of the political scribes who have treated every selective Benghazi leak with as much credulity and legitimacy as lower-fanfare congressional investigations, even after their media peers have been burned—repeatedly—by intentionally deceptive leaks. Conservatives, too, are ignoring or brushing off the impropriety. But Benghazi committee errors are piling up so rapidly, and timed so impeccably for Hillary Clinton’s public testimony before the committee this Thursday, that it seems for once like Republicans might tamp down on the Hillary misdirection of their own volition, much as they did in the 1990s when a similarly unfocused obsession with the Clintons damaged their party.
Back in 1998, House Republican leaders had to dial back an investigation into the Clintons’ campaign finance practices after then-oversight committee chairman Dan Burton tried to hoodwink the press with heavily edited transcripts meant to implicate Hillary. That botched operation forced Burton to fire his top aide David Bossie, who went on to become president of Citizens United, and prompted an angry backlash from Speaker Newt Gingrich on behalf of an embarrassed Republican conference.
The recent blows to the Benghazi committee’s self-styled credibility are at least as severe, beginning with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s admission that Republicans empaneled it to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, running through well-substantiated allegations that Republicans have been using committee resources to investigate Clinton at the expense of the actual attacks on the U.S. facility in Libya.
I am sooooooo looking forward to Hillary’s appearance on Thursday!
According to CNN, Jim Webb will hold a press conference today to announce he is dropping out of the Democratic primary race and that he does not plan to run as an independent.
Jim Webb will end his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination at a press conference Tuesday, according to two sources with knowledge of the decision.
The former Virginia senator who launched a longshot presidential bid earlier this year is considering an independent run, according to his campaign. Craig Crawford, Webb’s spokesman, declined to comment on whether the senator was dropping out of the Democratic race, however.
“Jim will have the first word at 1 p.m.,” Crawford said, referring to the senator’s press conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
After a prolonged exploration of a presidential bid, Webb used an more than 2,000-word blog post to announce his run.
His campaign, however, never really got off the ground and was seen by even some close Webb aides as more of a vanity play than an actual presidential bid. In total, Webb spent four days campaigning in New Hampshire and 20 days in Iowa, far fewer than the senator’s challengers.
Webb also expressed outright frustration with the Democratic Party during his run, questioning their strategy and the support they were providing him. During the first Democratic debate earlier this month, Webb spent considerable time complaining about the amount of time he was given to speak.
On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina is struggling and Donald Trump and Ben Carson are still running neck and neck. Politico reports: Fiorina’s support collapses, Trump leads in CNN poll.
Carly Fiorina’s time near the top of the Republican polls may have come to an end, as another national CNN/ORC poll out Tuesday suggests. Just 4 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning voters said they would cast their votes for her in a primary election, down from 15 percent in September.
Overall, Donald Trump led the field with 27 percent, followed again by Ben Carson with 22 percent, up 8 points from last month’s survey. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio each earned 8 percent, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 5 percent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Fiorina pulled in 4 percent, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich earned 3 percent, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum 2 percent and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham 1 percent.
Appearing later in the morning on CNN’s “New Day,” Trump commented that he and Carson have both “hit a chord” in the electorate.
[Trump’s] latest ugly truth came during a Bloomberg TV interview last Friday, when he said George W. Bush deserves responsibility for the fact that “the World Trade Center came down during his time.” Politicians and journalists erupted in indignation. Jeb Bush called Trump’s comments “pathetic.” Ben Carson dubbed them “ridiculous.”
Oh yes, you can. There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close.
When the Bush administration took office in January 2001, CIA Director George Tenet and National Security Council counterterrorism “czar” Richard Clarke both warned its incoming officials that al-Qaeda represented a grave threat. During a transition briefing early that month at Blair House, according to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, Tenet and his deputy James Pavitt listed Osama bin Laden as one of America’s three most serious national-security challenges. That same month, Clarke presented National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice with a plan he had been working on since al-Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole the previous October. It called for freezing the network’s assets, closing affiliated charities, funneling money to the governments of Uzbekistan, the Philippines and Yemen to fight al-Qaeda cells in their country, initiating air strikes and covert operations against al-Qaeda sites in Afghanistan, and dramatically increasing aid to the Northern Alliance, which was battling al-Qaeda and the Taliban there.
But both Clarke and Tenet grew deeply frustrated by the way top Bush officials responded. Clarke recounts that when he briefed Rice about al-Qaeda, “her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before.” On January 25, Clarke sent Rice a memo declaring that, “we urgently need…a Principals [Cabinet] level review on the al Qida [sic] network.” Instead, Clarke got a sub-cabinet, Deputies level, meeting in April, two months after the one on Iraq.
When that April meeting finally occurred, according to Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz objected that “I just don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.” Clarke responded that, “We are talking about a network of terrorist organizations called al-Qaeda, that happens to be led by bin Laden, and we are talking about that network because it and it alone poses an immediate and serious threat to the United States.” To which Wolfowitz replied, “Well, there are others that do as well, at least as much. Iraqi terrorism for example.”
By early summer, Clarke was so despondent that he asked to be reassigned. “This administration,” he later testified, “didn’t either believe me that there was an urgent problem or was unprepared to act as though there were an urgent problem.
And so on . . . we all know the story from the 9/11 committee hearings but you can read more about it at The Atlantic. Actually all Trump really said was that Bush was president when 9/11 happened. That’s pretty difficult to deny.
Interestingly, Andrew Kaczynsky points out that Trump actually predicted that something bad was likely to happen: “Over A Year Before 9/11, Trump Wrote Of Terror Threat With Remarkable Clarity.” Read about it at Buzzfeed. Finally, The Hill reports that the DNC is using Beinart’s story in The Atlantic to “bash” poor Jeb. I wonder how much longer he can keep going?
What else is happening? Let us know in the comment thread and have a great day!