Friday, May 09, 2014

How dumb is Rich Lowry?

Dumb enough to write this:

The Democrats and their allies are in the grips of Benghazi denial. They think the Republican notion of a scandal is a complete hoax. Yes, a mistake was made here or there, but otherwise, nothing to see here.

The deniers evidently believe:

An administration should be able to make erroneous statements about a terror attack that killed a U.S. ambassador in the weeks before a presidential election and expect everyone to accept its good intentions afterward.

An administration should be able to withhold a bombshell White House email from congressional investigators and expect everyone to greet its long-delayed release with a yawn.

An administration should be able to send out its press secretary to abase himself with absurd denials of the obvious and expect everyone to consider its credibility solidly intact.

I'll take each of those "evidently believe" points one at a time. For each one, I will even assume that the rightwing version of what happened on September 11, 2012 is correct (that is, I will assume that the Obama administration intentionally misrepresented what happened for political gain):

(1) No, an administration should not be able to make erroneous statements about a terrorist attack that killed a U.S. ambassador in the weeks before a presidential election. I'll even go further and say that an administration should not make erroneous statements about a terrorist attack at any time, at least not if they can help it. But the "should not" is in the sense that it's not something that the public would approve of the president doing. There's no legal crime in doing that and, in fact, just about every administration has not told the whole truth about terrorist attacks that occurred on its watch. That's a bad thing. I wish they would be better about coming clean with the American people.

But that's a far cry from the "high crimes and misdemeanors" required for impeachment. This isn't the multiple felonies that President Bush committed when he authorized surveillance in violation of FISA. This isn't authorizing the burglary of the opposing party's offices. This isn't even lying in a deposition in a civil lawsuit. The only penalty for an administration that makes erroneous statements to the American people is the possibility that the opposing party might make hay of it in the press. The Republicans have been doing that for the past two and one half years for this incident. So why do we need another investigation?

(2) The bombshell email is only a bombshell because people like Lowry keep calling it a "bombshell." I have worked my way through the emails and tried to fit them into the Official Wingnut Benghazi!tm timeline and I still don't get how anyone can see them as all that explosive. The best explanation of how they do fit in is this post from Weigel. In essence, the email said "we believe based on currently available information that the attacks in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo..." and that "Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa'ida participated in the attack." The email doesn't mention the infamous "Innocence of the Muslims" YouTube video by name, so I guess the idea is that the administration lied when it mentioned the video to the press. Except that the Cairo protests that the emails mention were a protest against the video. By referencing the Cairo protests, the emails are directly referring to the video controversy. You can parse the language of the email and the talking points all you want, but it is extremely difficult to see how the email changes anything. And if it doesn't change anything, why does it matter if it was not released until now?

(3) Abasing himself with absurd denials is what the job of White House Press Secretary is all about. The whole White House gaggle thing is a ridiculous Washington tradition that adds pretty much nothing of value to the news. That hardly started with this administration, and a stupid tradition in which an agent of the president tries to avoid giving real answers to the press is not worth a congressional investigation.

I have spent much too much time over the past two and one-half years digging into the absurd details of wingnut Benghazi!tm outrage. I still have not been able to find a non-stupid explanation for why this is a scandal.

(via Memeorandum)