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Interesting take on Benghazi.

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Interesting take on Benghazi. Empty Interesting take on Benghazi.

Post  fshnski Fri May 10, 2013 5:56 pm

President Obama has led an administration that so far has avoided a headline-grabbing, signature scandal. But now he's learning how one begins to take shape.

In many ways, the Benghazi story is following the arc of many Washington scandals of the past. It's rarely the initial incident that gets politicians in trouble. Instead, it's the way in which they respond to it.

After months of relative inattention, the media are seizing on missteps surrounding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September, during which Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American officials were killed.

Republicans have been howling for months that the administration misled the public with its initial accounts of the event. Those claims are now gaining traction in the media, thanks in part to a high-profile hearing on Wednesday that clearly fostered a sense among reporters that there was indeed substance to the allegations of wrongdoing.

That Capitol Hill spectacle included news that a to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have dressed down a career official for briefing a member of Congress, and was followed up Friday by ABC News and The Weekly Standard reporting that had been made to talking points as they evolved.

"The media's interest has grown," says Brendan Nyhan, a government professor at Dartmouth College and a media critic. "That seems to be a function of both the documents the congressional investigation has been able to unearth as well as Hillary Clinton's relevance to this story and its potential implications for 2016."

What Did Who Know?

The slow unfolding of the Benghazi story is not all that different from the course taken by what might be the most serious scandal the Obama administration has suffered to date, the bungled gun-swapping operation known as Fast and Furious, suggests Scott Basinger, a University of Houston political scientist.

"Interest focused initially on who approved of allowing guns to be taken across the border into Mexico, but then it became a question of what did [Attorney General] Eric Holder know, and when did he know it," Basinger says.

That, of course, is a reference to the famous question posed by Howard Baker during the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, as a special committee sought to ascertain whether President Richard M. Nixon had personal involvement in a cover-up.

In so many scandals since — the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, the Whitewater investigation and the subsequent news that President Bill Clinton had an affair with an intern — press coverage and legal interest veered far from the initial transgression to the question of who knew what when.

"In every scandal, first there has to be a transgression," Basinger says. "Second, there has to be some denial of that transgression."

Failing Public Relations

It's Public Relations 101. When you have bad news, you want to get it all out there yourself as completely and quickly as possible, so you can start to move on.

This is a technique rarely practiced in government, however.

"Administrations try to put the best light on embarrassing outcomes of any sort," Nyhan says. "Cover-up here is a really tricky word, because all organizations try to put the best light on their actions."

There's been some criticism of the administration about security failures at Benghazi, but much more attention has been paid to the questions of whether officials sought to fudge the story and spin it for political purposes.

Most of the controversy, after all, has been about how the administration framed talking points, which are themselves tools for public relations.

Even there, it's not entirely clear why administration insistence on blaming an anti-Muslim video for provoking the attack, rather than consistently labeling the event as terrorism right away, is cause for grave concern, says Robert Entman, a professor of media and international affairs at George Washington University.

"We all know in the moment, when a crisis like this happens, there's a lot of uncertainty," he says. "It's really a perfect example of how the scandal machine is disconnected from the underlying seriousness of the harm."

For Political Ends

At this juncture, the question is whether Obama — or those close to him — may be guilty of doing what the Republicans have been accused of doing. Namely, putting a spin on events in Benghazi with an eye toward an election that was less than two months away.

"Was there something of a cover-up by either State or the White House or both? No doubt," says Larry Sabato, a government professor at the University of Virginia. "That's the usual impulse, especially during a tough election campaign."

Whether Benghazi will ever become the sort of scandal that outrages the nation as a whole remains to be seen. Much will depend on finding evidence of malicious intent to deceive on the part of the administration, as opposed to individuals following an apparently irresistible impulse to try to put the best face on a confusing and dangerous situation.

But now reporters are on the hunt for willful wrongdoing. Every email and document that comes out will be carefully scrutinized.

And, as in previous scandals, any attempt to control the story and cover tracks will look worse in hindsight, once more is known.

"There's a process that happens when the opposition party and the media latch on to a story jointly," Nyhan says. "That's when a scandal story starts to take off."

Alan Greenblatt NPR

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Post  WHL Fri May 10, 2013 6:26 pm

Nixon quit for breaking and entering!?? And this guy allowed people to be murdered!!! If he gets away with it, it is just awful! But I bet he does.
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Post  News Hawk Fri May 10, 2013 9:04 pm

Nixon and Obama just wanted to get re-elected...

study
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Interesting take on Benghazi. Empty The most transparent presidency ever?????

Post  WHL Sat May 11, 2013 4:10 pm

In the White House’s latest efforts at transparency, the administration announced to reporters that it would brief reporters on the latest shocking developments about the Benghazi situation … behind closed doors. Politico reports that the meeting started at approximately 12:45 PM ET, and that it moved the normal press briefing to 1:45 PM ET. Jay Carney, White House press secretary, did not comment on whether the meeting took place.
Politico reports:
The off-the-record session was announced to reporters in the wake of an ABC News report showing that White House and State Dept. officials were involved in revising the now-discredited CIA talking points about the attack on Benghazi.
The administration routinely exerts pressure on reporters it feels are not kind enough in their coverage. Reporters like Cheryl Attkisson of CBS News have felt the hand of their bosses for “wading dangerously close to advocacy” with regard to Benghazi. No doubt this “off-the-record” meeting was designed to get all the president’s horses and all the president’s men to put the Benghazi humpty dumpty together again.
UPDATE: Reporters not invited to the off-the-record briefing are reportedly incredibly unhappy about it:
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Post  News Hawk Sat May 11, 2013 9:18 pm

Interesting take on Benghazi. 051113
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Post  News Hawk Sat May 11, 2013 9:24 pm

News Hawk wrote:Nixon and Obama just wanted to get re-elected...

study

Obama didn't care if it took American lives to do it...

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Post  WHL Sun May 12, 2013 8:03 am

No, Obama only cares for himself.
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Post  News Buzzard Mon May 13, 2013 1:40 pm

The chief headhunter on the Benghazi witchhunt, Darrell Issa, wants to take sworn depositions from Thomas Pickering and Mike Mullen, the 2 gentlemen who investigated the incident for the State Department. The top Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings, wants them to testify at a public hearing, just like the other day. I agree, let's get these guys out in the open and have them testify to the situation in Benghazi, including the funding levels that the State Department got from Congress, and have them do a re-hash of what led up to the talking points, which were developed 4 days after the incident. I wonder how much of a complete investigation can be done in 4 days? I wonder if anyone could have been hurt or killed in Benghazi after only 4 days if too much information was released? Was everybody certain after only 4 days that a particular sect of al qaeda was involved? Let's get it out in the open, and not just from folks who the Republicans labeled as whistleblowers.

http://news.yahoo.com/top-dem-calls-public-testimony-benghazi-143654356.html

Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, was interviewed on CBS, and he stated that he would have treated the incident the same way. His interview is 18 minutes, and if anyone wants to go to school on great statesmanship, I suggest you watch it. The interview covers a lot of areas and I have to point out that Bob Gates is a Republican!

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3460_162-57584087/gates-some-benghazi-critics-have-cartoonish-view-of-military-capability/



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Post  fshnski Mon May 13, 2013 1:48 pm

That's the problem with good liars. They can convince even intelligent people that what they're saying is true.

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Post  News Buzzard Mon May 13, 2013 2:10 pm

John Boehner was invited to see the E-mails on the talking points on March 19th, but he didn't show up! He sent staff to look at them!

http://gma.yahoo.com/boehner-staff-saw-benghazi-emails-153431203--abc-news-politics.html

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Post  WHL Mon May 13, 2013 4:54 pm

fshnski wrote:That's the problem with good liars. They can convince even intelligent people that what they're saying is true.

Yes, I heard Obama say that he didn't say it was not terrorism. Another lie? Does the man know when he is lying? I don't think chronic liers even know they are lying they get so used to it.

Why do you keep falling for it, NB? Is there ever a chance that you will believe anything but the best about Obama?
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Post  News Buzzard Wed May 15, 2013 10:19 am

When does a scandal become a non-scandal, and who leaked the White House E-mails? Is this a deliberate attempt to throttle Hillary? (that's not going to happen anyway)

http://news.yahoo.com/white-house-email-proof-no-benghazi-cover-191300865.html

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