Monday, May 13, 2013

Both Siderism Gets A New Ally

For someone with a lifetime of experience in live stage comedy Bill Maher can be a  remarkably flaccid and clumsy debater.  Last Friday he came across as the worst kind of First Affirmative: competent at hitting his marks and saying his prepared funny bits, but after that, just useless and bored and shockingly unprepared to talk about a subject that he himself broached with guests he himself books -- instead contenting himself with laying back and waiting for a chance to potshot something smug and indignant about god or politics.  

And so were I judging the portion of "Real Time" during which they clashed over Islam and terrorism as an actual debate round between Messers Maher and Greenwald, I would say Mr. Greenwald won it walking away.  Mr. Maher staked out an indefensibly over-generalized position on Islam (a position which refuses to acknowledge that sometimes terrorism comes carrying a holy book and spouting scripture, and sometimes it comes carrying "The Turner Diaries" spouting quotes about the Tree of Liberty and the Blood of Tyrants) while at the same time trying to underplay the aggravating effect of decades of cavalier United States meddling in the internal affairs of countries all over the world.  In doing so, Mr. Maher opened himself up to a well-deserved beat-down at the hands of Mr. Greenwald, while at the same time stranding poor Joy Reid literally in the middle of what was a dumb argument to begin with.

If you are hungry for more, that segment of the show has already been parsed and critiqued thoroughly here, ably re-deconstructed by Digby here, and re-re-visited by the Washington Monthly here.

But it is an earlier portion of that same conversation that has received little or no attention which I found much more interesting -- the moment when it lurched inevitably to the subject of "Benghaaaazi!" and Mr. Maher asked Libertarian Goofus and National Review Online employee Charles Cooke what the actual Benghazi scandal was about.  

After watching Mr. Cooke flop around like a trout on the tarmac for awhile trying to explain the inexplicable, Mr. Greenwald attempted to air-lift Mr. Cooke out of the mess he was making with an intercession that included this:
So Fox News was "this is the worst scandal ever" and
MSNBC was "Obama did absolutely nothing wrong and was 

perfect as always".

The reality was something in-between... 
I'm not saying its a huge scandal. But there certainly are question when the  government and political officials six weeks before an election say things about a major event like that that prove to be untrue. 
There should be investigations even if Republicans are doing it for political ends -- the same was true when Democrats were investigating Bush official and saying "These are the worst scandals ever" and Republicans were saying nothing happened.
Now that is interesting.  It didn't go anywhere because a few seconds later Mr. Maher nailed the subject shut by declaring that he was "bored", but consider what might have happened if Mr. Maher had bothered to follow up on Mr. Greenwald's statement.

First, consider this list from Wikipedia of all the hearings and investigations that have taken place since the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Libya in September, 2012 -- a list Republicans promise will grow all summer long:

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The FBI opened its investigation soon after the attack and it remains ongoing. No arrests have been made. On May 2, 2013, the FBI released photos of three men from the Benghazi attack site, asking for help from the public in identifying the individuals.[209]

Five House Committees

Five House Committees (Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform) initiated their own inquiries soon after the attack. These five House Committees delivered an interim report on April 23, 2013.[210] The interim report was critical of the Obama Administration's actions before, during, and after the attack. Among dozens of findings, the report states that:
  • "Senior State Department officials knew that the threat environment in Benghazi was high and that the Benghazi compound was vulnerable and unable to withstand an attack, yet the department continued to systematically withdraw security personnel"
  • The "[Obama] Administration willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video."
  • "... after a White House Deputies Meeting on Saturday, September 15, 2012, the Administration altered the talking points to remove references to the likely participation of Islamic extremists in the attacks. The Administration also removed references to the threat of extremists linked to al-Qa’ida in Benghazi and eastern Libya...."
  • "The Administration deflected responsibility by blaming the IC [intelligence community] for the information it communicated to the public in both the talking points and the subsequent narrative it perpetuated."
Additional congressional hearings were conducted May 8, 2013 with three "whistleblower" witnesses: Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant Secretary of State for counterterrorism; Greg Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya; and Eric Nordstrom, former regional security officer in Libya.[211]

State Department Accountability Review Board

As required by the Omnibus Diplomatic and Antiterrorism Act of 1986, the State Department announced on October 4, 2012 an Accountability Review Board "to examine the facts and circumstances of the attacks."[212] Four members were selected by Clinton and another was selected by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickeringserved as the Chairman, Admiral Michael Mullen served as the Vice Chairman, also serving were Catherine BertiniRichard Shinnick, and Hugh Turner, who represented the intelligence community.[213]
The investigation report[213] was released December 20, 2012. It was seen as a sharp criticism of State Department officials in Washington for ignoring requests for more guards and safety upgrades, and for failing to adapt security procedures to a deteriorating security environment. "Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department ... resulted in a special mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," said the unclassified version of the report.[214] It also blamed too much reliance on local militias who failed to fend off the attackers that evening.[215] The Council on Foreign Relations in an initial report saw it as a refutation to the notion that the Obama administration delayed its response.[216] However, it confirmed that contrary to initial accounts, there was no protest outside the consulate. It placed responsibility for the incident solely upon the attackers, deemed as terrorists.[13]

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) opened an investigation in mid October 2012. Their final report was delivered December 31, 2012.[217] According to the report, "there was a high risk of a 'significant' terrorist attack on U.S. employees and facilities in Benghazi in the months before the September 11, 2012, assault on the Mission, and the State Department failed to take adequate steps to reduce the Mission’s vulnerability."

House Select Committee on the Terrorist Attack in Benghazi

On January 18, 2013, Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced a bill (HR 36) to establish a select committee to investigate and report on the attack.[218] As of May 9, 2013, the bill has nearly two-thirds support of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.[219] Also supporting the formation of a select committee are 700 special operations veterans[220] and Special Operations OPSEC.[221]
Perhaps Mr. Greenwald (or one of his fans) could let me know just how many more hearings Republicans should hold on the wording of a memo before it becomes too many.  Will two more do?  Five?  At what point has the legitimate need for an open, fair investigation been met?  At what point will further hearings serve no purpose but the desire to ratfuck a political enemy? 

Or, as Charlie Pierce surmises, have we already rocketed right past the point where such questions are fucking absurd?
We begin this week's tour of the Great Vapid Plains with a survey of the silliest coverage of the ongoing Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI! mummery, which dominated the weekend's proceedings, and which shows every sign of being a continuing summer miniseries starring Darrell Issa as the Concerned Suburban Dad and Jim Inhofe as the wacky neighbor who dresses up like a fencepost for church on Sunday. Pride of place here goes to the Dancin' Master, who labored long and hard to produce a really terrible historical parallel.
Second (and speaking of ratfucking) perhaps Mr. Greenwald or one of his fans could also identify a comparable witch-hunt or list of witch-hunts actually conducted in bad faith by actual Democrats during the actual Bush Administration that matches the witch-hunting qualities of Benghaaaazi...or Death Panels...or Birth Certificate-gate...or ACORN...or, for that matter, any of the dozens of wingnut drumheads conducted during the Clinton Administration.

Because unless someone can point to actual Democrats who have established an actual, y'know, record of inventing scandals by rubbing two copies of "The Socialist Worker's Daily" together...and then inflating them With Very Big Headlines wall-to-wall for weeks on end in every Liberal media outlet in America...and then point to actual cases where those artificial scandals have been transmogrified into actual Democratic congressional witch-hunts that promise to go on for months...then it seems to me that Mr. Greenwald is telling a Very Big Lie here.

Or perhaps Mr. Greenwald is not lying deliberately but just has an incredibly poor grasp of recent American history.

Or perhaps I am just wrong altogether, in which case comparable examples of low-grade Bush Administration errata which were ballooned up by rascally, political-advantage-seeking Democratic party theatrics into Unprecedentedly Horrors Unlike Anything This Country Had Ever Confronted and which Brought America To Its Lowest Moral Standing In History would clear the matter right up.

Third, as you go about demonstrating to me (as Mr. Greenwald asserts) that the Benghaaaaaazification of Benghazi is merely standard-issue, political-eye-poking of the kind that "both sides" do all the time by finding me comparable examples of low-grade Bush Administration errata which were ballooned up by rascally, political-advantage-seeking Democratic parlor tricks into Unprecedentedly Horrors Unlike Anything This Country Had Ever Confronted  and which Brought  America To Its Lowest Moral Standing In History...

...perhaps you could begin your search between the covers of a couple of best-selling books by a gentleman named "Glenn Greenwald" who, after becoming aware of the existence of American politics halfway thought the Bush Administration, penned two very fine tomes -- A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency and  How Would A Patriot Act? Defending American Values From A President Run Amok -- which both argue very persuasively that Bush Administration scandals were indeed unprecedented in their awfulness,.  

Quotes from Mr. Greenwald's books like this one
…some of the most amoral and ethically monstrous policies, justified as necessary as a means to achieve a morally imperative end. The Bush presidency, awash in moralistic rhetoric, has ushered in some of the most extremist, previously unthinkable and profoundly un-American practices—from indefinite, lawless detentions, to the use of torture, to bloody preventive wars of choice, to the abduction of innocent people literally off the street or from their homes, to radical new theories designed to vest in the president the power to break the law. 
These measures were pursued not despite the moralistic roots of the president’s agenda, but because of them. Those who believe that they are on the path of righteousness, who are crusaders for the objective Good, will frequently become convinced that there can be no limitations on the weapons used to achieve their ends. The moral imperative of their agenda justifies—even requires—all steps undertaken to fulfill it. As the president ceaselessly proclaimed the Goodness at the heart of America’s destiny and its role in the world, his actions have resulted in an almost full-scale destruction of America’s moral credibility in almost every country and on every continent. The same president who has insisted that core moralism drive him has brought America to its lowest moral standing in history.
and this one
Bush violated FISA [...] because he wanted to violate the law in order to establish the general 'principle' that he was not bound by the law, to show that he has the power to break the law, that he is more powerful than the law.
and this one
The NSA eavesdropping scandal, at its core, is not an eavesdropping scandal. It is a lawbreaking scandal, and it is unlike anything this country has confronted before.
and this one
A president who is burdened with a failed and unpopular war, and who has lost the trust of the country, simply can no longer govern. He is destined to become as much a failure as his war.
and this one
I never imagined that such a thing could happen in modern America—that a president would claim the right to order American citizens imprisoned with no charges and without the right to a trial. In China, the former Soviet Union, Iran, and countless other countries, the government can literally abduct its citizens and imprison them without a trial. But that cannot happen in the United States—at least it never could before....
and this one
What I discovered, to my genuine amazement and alarm, is that these actions had their roots in sweeping, extremist theories of presidential power that many administration officials had been advocating for years before George Bush was even elected.
and this one
The use of torture as an interrogation tool by the United States is yet another by-product of the president’s belief, grounded in the infamous Yoo memorandum, that nothing can limit the president’s decisions with regard to terrorism. The president is free to use torture, opined Yoo, regardless of whether it is illegal under the laws of the United States.
and this one
It defies credibility to claim that the president, in October 2001, ordered eavesdropping in violation of FISA because he perceived that the law imposed too many barriers to necessary eavesdropping. After all, he ordered this illegal eavesdropping at exactly the time, in October 2001, when Congress was amending FISA in accordance with the president’s requests, and the president was telling the nation that, as a result of those amendments, he had all the tools he needed to monitor the communications of terrorists. 
The president plainly broke the law, which is why the only defense available to him and his supporters is to claim that he has the right to do so.
and this one
As Congress devised the law, the FISA court plays two critical, independent functions—not just warrant approval but also, more critically, judicial oversight. FISA’s truly meaningful check on abuse in the eavesdropping process is that the president is prevented from engaging in improper eavesdropping because he knows that every instance of eavesdropping he orders will be known to a federal judge—a high-level judicial officer who is not subject to the president’s authority and whose constitutional duties are separate from the president’s. 
It is precisely that safeguard which President Bush simply abolished by fiat. In effect, President Bush changed the law all by himself, replacing the federal judges with his own employees at the NSA and abolishing the approval and warrant process entirely. 
To describe that conduct is to illustrate its jaw-dropping lawlessness and corruption.  It ought to go without saying that, at least in America, the president does not have the right to unilaterally change laws that he does not like. He cannot simply abolish his least favorite provisions and replace them with ones he likes better.
and this one
There is no time in America—whether in peace or at war—when the president has the powers that the Bush administration has attempted to seize.
are all easily available at an internet near you.

Fourth, in case you had any doubt what "Benghaaaazi!" is really all about, fresh off of Karl Rove's killing room floor, here comes the first ad of the 2016 Presidential race:


Bon appétit!


mahakal said...

Benghazi is such a nothingburger I don't know why we shouldn't just let the Republicans proceed.

Coldtype said...

You know Drifty, what I find most remarkable about those quotes from GG's notes on the Bush era outrages was how resolutely Obama, eager to "look forward rather than backward", has moved to institutionalize them. Dare I say it, he's even managed to upstage Bush and his bestiary of sociopaths by claiming the authority the kill or detain indefinitely anyone on earth including American citizens without due process, a power not granted his office by the Constitution yet acted upon.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

At what point has the legitimate need for an open, fair investigation been met?

Don't be silly. For both the Republican Crazees and the Purist scolds, that point will be when they have a scalp, of either brownish or womanish hue.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

I don't know why we shouldn't just let the Republicans proceed.

Dude4, Whitewater was a so-called nothingburger also. But the used the ramping up from "someone said something" to "Someone contradicted something" to someone MUST have been hiding something" to "firing the original prosecutor for not being crazy enough" to "spending 70 million dollars to find a stained dress" to "trapping the president in a prevarication that had nothing to do with the original charge, let alone anything approaching high crimes and/or misdemeanors" until they managed to hamstring a Democratic President.

THAT'S why.

JerryB said...

I just wish the Dems had done any amount of investigation of Bush. Conyers did before Dems took back the house. Had a binder full of, in his words "impeachable offenses" that he showed off to the media. But then, of course once the Dems had the house that binder disappeared and there was no more talk of accountability. I hate to use the term Stockholm Syndrome because it's so worn from over use but it's apt when discussing the Democratic party.

I'd be content to let these craven bastards (Dems) get creamed by the Republicans since they don't have the balls to fight back but the stakes for those of us who are part of the great unwashed are just to important.

And don't get me started about the complicit, duplicitous, corrupt media. Traitorous bastards.

mahakal said...

Well zrm, I guess nothing stops the Republicans from proceeding anyhow. GG has more or less said it is a nothingburger, not much of a scandal at all, so I don't know why all the knives are out for him. Also, what Coldtype said.

Swede said...

Is there a reason driftglass doesnt take his case to GG directly? It would be an big improvement over the usual bunch of GG critics.

Anonymous said...

Hah! I was hoping you would catch this episode of "Waste Time"..not just for the GG exchange but because the rest of it has become so predictably tedious.
The horrible fact is that Maher is just extraordinarily lazy. Given the massive resources of HBO, the ratings heft and ability to book big important names week after week, (and a massive paycheck to boot)...Maher squanders it time and time again because it is just too much trouble to actually read the research that his people must be putting in front of him.
It is a pity his bookers don't recognize his deficiencies and schedule guests able to easily counter those like GG and that smarmy National Review scumbag...but they almost never do. There really isn't any debate on that show anymore, just various talking points being yelled while Bill rifles through index cards like a high schooler who fired up right before forensics class started...
For instance..Sam Harris would have laid waste to Mr. Greenwald in about 10 seconds and actually made the point Maher was too inept to articulate.
He will probably be on next week opposite that hick congressman from Georgia.. and Bill Pullman...or some such shit...

Compound F said...

I recommend you read John Michael Greer's "Not the Future We Ordered," to help put your partisan sniping and grousing to rest. He actually says Reagan was a disaster; but also, Obama's "hope" was the most cynical campaign in history, or along such lines.

Your obsession with Greenwald, a man passionate about justice is making you the laughingstock of reason. I strongly recommend your stopping that, but carry on if you must.

Compound F said...

Sam Harris would have laid waste to Mr. Greenwald in about 10 seconds

Oh, boy. My daddy can beat your daddy.

The ass-wipe quotient grows strong.

Anonymous said...

"The ass-wipe quotient grows strong"
I guess with a name like "Compound W"...ass-wiping would be your sore point..

Pinkamena Panic said...

And the cocksuckers suck on.

GG's already got a boyfriend, kids, he's not going to be interested in you.

Lumpy Lang said...

Look, DG, how the quality of your readership politically degenerates as you drift more and more rightward to cover for the current occupant of the Whitehouse.

Each cheap new rhetorical attack on Greenwald attracts more clintonites and DLC types- who now buzz around this blog like flies around a steaming turd. After dropping by your blog nowadays, reading GG feels like showering in Spring rain.

The fact remains that whatever stupid literary flourishes you attempt, Greenwald can't be fitted for the centrist 'both sides' straitjacket you want to cram him into. He just holds the ruling class politicians - of whichever stripe - to the same ethical standard. A modest but valuable undertaking in these dark times.

I'd join the others in your dwindling leftist audience in appealing to your better nature... but evidently you see yourself on the brink of some type of 'success' and won't be deterred.

mahakal said...

Aand... "The Republican investigation seems to be self-defeating. The more they expose Benghazi’s “controversy” to the public, the more silly they look."

Read more:

Dear Republicans, proceed.

mahakal said...

Hey Limpy Lang, some of us long time readers and commenters enjoy DG's writing even when we don't agree 100%. And note bene, he very fairly described GG's smackdown of Maher. Finé.

Pinkamena Panic said...

If DG isn't True Pure Whitegressive enough for you, then leave. Nobody's forcing you to stay.

And when the grift is revealed - when you all realize how little Saint Glenn of Rio cares about what's actually important - don't come crawling back. You will not be welcomed.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Greenwald, a man passionate about justice

Objection. Insufficient evidence to support this claim.

OBS said...

Objection. Insufficient evidence to support this claim.

Dammit ZRM, I was just gonna add [citation needed] to that and you beat me to it.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

27 Days Later style zombie.

Unknown said...

Huh. I just read this posting, about an hour I left this comment on a Charles Pierce item:

``When did Ron Fournier ever cover a Bush scandal? What Bush scandal? The ones in our minds and the liberal blogs that never got more than a first-day and a day-after story in the press? Fournier and his fellow Beltway hacks made goddamned sure that every single one of a thousand potential scandals died of oxygen starvation in the mainstream media.''

It's just sickening how even a stalwart real-live lefty liberal like Glenn Greenwald can blunder into the same rhetorical cowflop the right-wing spinners have emptied onto the stage and roll around in it.