As we near the anniversary of the first fake #Benghazi email scandal, version 2.0 was again a hot topic of discussion at Monday’s White House daily briefing. Press Secretary Jay Carney even referenced the “emails” that ABC News’ Jon Karl said he had “obtained” last year (which turned out to be spoon-fed Republican paraphrases of emails) in casting the scandal as a “partisan effort,” but when challenged directly about Karl’s bad reporting, said “Our interest, really, is not in playing that game.”
“It’s been almost a year to the day now when there were reporters saying that they had ‘obtained emails’ that proved that the White House had politicized the creation of the talking points,” I said, adding “It turned out, as you said, these were not emails, they were inaccurate summaries that were fed to them by Republicans in Congress.”
This is not my left-wing liberal assessment. These are facts. Jake Tapper, in reporting on the actual emails, called the narrative in the Karl fakes “invented,” and Major Garrett reported on the significance of the differences between the fakes and the real emails, and on the significant failure of these reporters to attribute the fakes to Republican sources. “There is no evidence, Scott, the White House orchestrated these changes,” Garrett said at the time. These are not lions of the left, they are as respected as any White House reporter ever has been.
“Fast-forward a year later, and you’ve got the same reporters saying that they now have an email that proves the same thing,” I continued, and asked “How do you expect (the American people) to believe that the same guy is wrong about the exact same thing, two years in a row?”
“Our interest, really, is not in playing that game,” Carney said. “It’s in making sure that we’re focused on the things that I talked about: ensuring that our diplomats are secure,” and in “continuing the investigation and the effort to bring to justice those who killed four Americans.”
“The rest of this, or so much of the rest of this,” Carney continued, “is so clearly and unfortunately partisan that I suspect that no matter how many committees look into it, and how many investigations of investigations of investigations there are, or how many highly-credentialed and admired people in the military and civilian service testify to the facts, when the facts won’t be enough, the political partisan process will continue.”
He added that “that’s unfortunate for only one reason,” which is, as I’ve often said, it keeps us from actually getting anything important done.
What you can’t really here there is that, throughout Carney’s answer, I tried to re-direct him back to my original question, to no avail. Carney takes bank shots at bad reporting all the time, but I suspected he wouldn’t want to directly engage Karl’s bad reporting. That’s probably smart, because then these things get cast as personal or ideological feuds, but casting #Benghazi as a purely “partisan effort” is a problem.
The “partisan effort” line was a frequent theme for Carney today, as reporters tried to pin him down about whether the White House would cooperate with John Boehner’s new #Benghazi investigation of the #Benghazi investigation (this isn’t a circle-jerk anymore, it’s Spirograph-bation). Carney tried to draw a distinction between “legitimate oversight” and the sort of “partisan effort” that has occupied the House for lo these several years now.
The problem is that, if all this were just Republicans Republicaning, we wouldn’t still be talking about this, or we’d be talking about it the way we did the birther issue. When average, lightly-engaged Americans hear a reporter from an ostensibly objective news network making the same charge year after year, though, that is what gives the thing oxygen. They think “Well, if he really lied about obtaining emails, there’s no way he’d still be sitting there a year later, and he certainly wouldn’t have the stones to try and make the same thing stick again. Maybe there’s something to this.”
There is not. If anything, the raft of emails that have been released about those talking points are remarkable for their complete lack of political content, given the intense political attacks that Republicans were waging from the very first hours of the crisis, which Carney also referenced today. Unfortunately, Carney has to fight this fight with one hand tied behind his back.
Update: See, this is exactly my point. Some idiot at Real Clear Politics declared my question a “personal attack” on Jon Karl. See, “idiot at Real Clear Politics” is a personal attack. Pointing out gross journalistic malfeasance is not. It’s telling that RCP idiot didn’t even try to defend Karl’s conduct, because even for a deranged goat-fucking RCP idiot, that conduct is indefensible.