Accountabilty Check: President Obama’s Bizarre Defense of Susan Rice

“Don’t pick on my poor. defenseless, untrustworthy ambassador!”

Add to the list of the Top Ten Outrageous Remarks of President Obama this stunner, the low-light of his first full press conference since March.

“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody they should go after me. For them to go after the UN ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi…to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”

“Accountability” continues to be an alien ethical concept to the President, and this proves it. U.N. Ambassador Rice went on the Sunday morning TV shows four days after the deadly Benghazi attack and after U.S. intelligence had determined that the attack that killed the American ambassador in Libya was not a spontaneous demonstration sparked by an anti-Islam video, but a planned, organized, terrorist enterprise. She did this while asserting in no uncertain terms that the attack was not what U.S. intelligence had told the State Department and the White House that it was. Rice, in making this mistaken or dishonest case on behalf of the administration, put her name, her status, her credibility and her position behind it. From the moment she became the Administration’s spokesperson on Benghazi, she had something to do with Benghazi. A lot, in fact. She was either lying, telling journalists and the public what she knew was untrue, or irresponsibly passing on information as true, using her credibility and reputation to do so, without adequately determining whether it was in fact true. Either way, her performance that fateful Sunday wounded her credibility and trustworthiness, which is certainly relevant to her fitness to become Secretary of State.. For President Obama to act offended that U.S. Senators like McCain and Graham would threaten to hold a U.S. Ambassador accountable and responsible for her own words is astounding.

Equally astounding is that the assembled “reporters” allowed him to get away with this bluster and diversion, when the obvious and necessary question to be asked on the spot was, “If Susan Rice had nothing to do with Benghazi, why was she touring the news shows telling the public what happened in Benghazi?”

Brava to Kirsten Powers, the Fox News house Democrat (but she’s pretty and blonde, so  naturally she gravitates to Fox), who correctly detected the inherent sexism in Obama’s tactic:

“Obviously caught up in his own silly yarn about meanie Senators and helpless U.N. Ambassadors, the President complained, “When they go after the U.N. ambassador apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me.”   Imagine George Bush saying that people criticized John Bolton because he was an “easy target.” He wouldn’t.  It’s absurd and chauvinistic for Obama to talk about the woman he thinks should be Secretary of State of the United States as if she needs the big strong man to come to her defense because a couple of Senators are criticizing her.”

Almost as absurd, in fact, as arguing that the U.N. Ambassador isn’t responsible for the words that come out of her own mouth.

__________________________________________

Graphic: Mother Jones

25 thoughts on “Accountabilty Check: President Obama’s Bizarre Defense of Susan Rice

  1. Thank you for this post. My brain was exploding as I watched the President make these remarks. I expected at least a weak challenge from the audience. But, alas, crickets…

  2. She was ordered to run interference for Obama and she did. After the powerless shouting in the House is over, she’ll be confirmed by the Senate as the next Secretary of State. Her reward for loyalty to the Leader.

  3. The possibility occurs to me that Rice was actually acting in good faith and was simply passing on what she was told from the upper echelons in the White House. In other words, I believe it’s entirely possible – actually, I consider it probable – that she was deliberately fed incorrect information by Obama and his handlers.

    If this is what actually happened, the question then becomes: if she is nominated, would she have the personal integrity to turn the job down after being used like that?

    The rest of Jack’s argument is, IMO, spot on.

  4. The assembled reporters after Obama gave his egotistical thrashing for trying to besmirch his whipping girl, looked like a movie set for “The Stepford Wives” .The “reporters” sat trance like while they were getting chastised for questioning whatever the heck was going on at OUR American embassy. Obama, his egotistical manner, fueled by the win, the anger obvious in his eyes flashing his contempt that a reporter would actually question a messenger sent from no less,,, than HIM., And these questions could actually expose someone of lying and their reputation might be. . .in danger of being besmirched. If he wants to save Ms. Rice from a besmirched reputation,(hail to the chief). a perfect opportunity to go right to the top. . . But the reporters just sat there . . .possibly in danger of being besmirched.

  5. Some guy on Twitter just sent me a “retort” saying. “What’s really bizarre is your misunderstanding.” What is there to misunderstand? Can anyone give me a single justification for ever taking the postilion that a public figure is not 100% accountable for what he or she says in public? Ever?

    • Yes. Some public figures are subordinate to liars. If they have not yet come to the realization that they, themselves, have been the victim of a lie, they might find their position compromised… well, naivete is not a crime.

      Been there, done that, used the tee shirt to wax the truck. Admittedly, I was a lot younger than Rice when it happened to me. But while earnest true believers might be stupid and blind, they are not ipso facto unethical. I’ll suspend judgment for the nonce.

  6. U.N. Ambassador Rice went on the Sunday morning TV shows four days after U.S. intelligence had determined that the attack that killed the American ambassador in Libya was not a spontaneous demonstration sparked by an anti-Islam video, but an organized, terrorist enterprise.

    Actually, she was on Sunday morning TV four days after the attack happened. For your statements to make sense, we’d have to believe that US Intelligence had determined with certainty what had happened either while the attack was ongoing or within hours afterward, neither of which is true.

    What Rice said seems to be pretty much what the CIA had told her just the day before.

    Also, your claim that Rich spoke in “no uncertain terms” is not reasonable or fair. Here’s what Rice said:

    Well, let us– let me tell you the– the best information we have at present. First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing. And we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video. What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya. And it escalated into a much more violent episode. Obviously, that’s– that’s our best judgment now. We’ll await the results of the investigation.

    Those are extremely uncertain terms, frankly. (And rightly so.)

    • That first part was an error on my part. I added the four days after the sentence had already been posted. Just fixed it. But the fact is, and it is disingenuous to deny it, is that this WASN’T “the best information” she/they/ the Administration/ “we” had. And Obama’s defense of the Administration obfuscations has been that, oh, no, he implied that it was not a spontaneous attack from the start—he said it was “an act of terror.” Remember Candy?

      And the point of the post, which you can’t spin your way out of, Barry, and I don’t know why you would want to, is that SHE IS ACCOUNTABLE, and Obama’s statement to the contrary is complete and utter, ethics-deluded, dishonest, manipulative, silly nonsense—even if she was correct in what she said when she said it, which the CIA has implied is untrue.

      See this? Why are you insisting that what any objective observer would see is obvious is other than it is? The Administration—WE—knew. Either Rice was lying, or she was deliberately kept in the dark, and either scenario destroys her credibility. For Obama to say that it’s “outrageous” for her to pay a price for being part of a deception when the deception came from her lips is indefensible. Naturally, you defend it.

      • Jack, it would be helpful to me if you did what I do – used direct quotes or links to back up your assertions. I haven’t followed this story closely, and there may well be things that I’m not aware of; but I’m not going to accept that something is true merely on your uncorroborated say-so.

        But the fact is, and it is disingenuous to deny it, is that this WASN’T “the best information” she/they/ the Administration/ “we” had.

        This is a statement that needs back-up.

        …which the CIA has implied is untrue.

        Another statement that needs back-up.

        I certainly agree with you that Rice is accountable for what she says. However, from what I can tell, what she said on Meet The Press was reasonable. If I’m mistaken about that, okay. But I’m more likely to be persuaded by calm explanations and citations of evidence, than by lists of hyperbolic adjectives (” utter, ethics-deluded, dishoenst, amnipulative, silly”).

      • Rice certainly should have gone out and stated the truth. We were running a secret detention facility for terrorists in Libya, holding them without any Geneva protections and quite possibly in violation of US law. She clearly should have disclosed Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI) on national TV instead of making a statement which was over broad.

        • Maybe yes, maybe no. The point is, she’s accountable for what she said, right or wr0ng, and Obama’s indignant statement to the contrary was idiotic and unethical… and competent journalists not serving as flack for the Presidents had a duty to challenge him.

          • It depends on how you interpret the Republican attacks on Rice.

            If you interpret the Republican attacks on Rice as a reasonable, proportional response to Rice’s alleged egregious acts (which is obviously how you do interpret it), then what Obama said was totally ridiculous.

            If you interpret the Republican threats to filibuster Rice as obvious partisan anti-Obama politicking, even though Rice did nothing that was particularly blameworthy, then Obama’s response was reasonable.

            • I’m sorry, Barry, their point is that it is always blameworthy to go before the public and put your name and reputation behind a version of “facts” that you have no first hand evidence about, that you should know are inherently shaky and fluid, and haven’t done your own due diligence to confirm. It’s bad judgment, or it’s dishonest—there’s no middle position. She agreed to be a prop. Trustworthy appointees don’t do that. “Politically motivated” is such a reflex and hackneyed defense to these things. Of course its politically motivated—everything is. The question is whether it is justifiable criticism. Of course it is. And in a sane system, Democrats would be objecting as much as Republicans.

              • Jack, that’s ridiculous. The only people who have firsthand knowledge are the low-level people who were there on the ground, and the FBI’s field investigators (many of whom probably don’t want to be identified as such in public). High officials we see talking to the public NEVER have firsthand knowledge of any foreign crisis, or even of any foreign event other than high-level meetings with another country’s officials. And any recent or ongoing event will have areas of fluidity in what we know.

                If we take your claim seriously, then, it is always blameworthy when any high government official to speak in public about any recent or ongoing foreign event or crisis. Apparently no one from the executive branch should ever speak publicly on any foreign crisis until months later, when the investigations are over. Can you see how ridiculous you’re being in your desperate attempt to find a reason to blame Rice?

                Rice went on TV and identified what she was saying as “the best information we have at present,” but said “there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing,” and that until that investigation finished she couldn’t give “definitive word as to what transpired.” She then gave what she said was “our current assessment” of what happened, but cautioned again “Obviously, that’s– that’s our best judgment now. We’ll await the results of the investigation.”

                So not only did she know that her information was “shaky and fluid,” she explicitly explained that. How can telling the public “this is the information we have right now, but the investigation is ongoing and might change our assessment” dishonest?

                It’s bad judgment, or it’s dishonest—there’s no middle position.

                There is an obvious middle position – which is to say “here’s what we think happened, but we’re still investigating and our conclusions might change.” Which is what Rice did.

                The question is whether it is justifiable criticism. Of course it is.

                So far, you’ve been unable to back up any of the factual claims against Rice with links to actual evidence. That strongly implies that the criticism is not justified and very likely isn’t truthful.

                • Ampersand, there is a third possibility, and one which appears increasingly likely – at least to me: Obama and the campaign were USING Rice as a foil.

                  You wrote:

                  Rice went on TV and identified what she was saying as “the best information we have at present,” but said “there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing,” and that until that investigation finished she couldn’t give “definitive word as to what transpired.” She then gave what she said was “our current assessment” of what happened, but cautioned again “Obviously, that’s– that’s our best judgment now. We’ll await the results of the investigation.”

                  The problem here is that while she said “the best information WE [emphasis mine] have available”, subsequent news reports show that’s indeed NOT the case. It is simply not believable that intelligence community would NOT have told the White House that this wasn’t a protest that got out of hand.

                  It could have been the best information SHE had available – as in, the upper echelons of the admin provided her with the talking points, and either due to blind trust or laziness on her part, she passed that on without question. But obviously, it was NOT the best information “we” had available.

                  All the rest is weasel words. Of course the investigation was ongoing. The fact remains that the intelligence community and, one may presume, the White House and the State Department knew one hell of a lot more than that. Why they chose to obfuscate is one of the big mysteries here.

                  So not only did she know that her information was “shaky and fluid,” she explicitly explained that. How can telling the public “this is the information we have right now, but the investigation is ongoing and might change our assessment” dishonest?

                  Again, it may not have been dishonest of HER to say that, but it was clearly dishonest on the Administration’s part to put that message out there. They knew better – a lot better.

                  The question really boils down to whether she was knowingly lying or an honest fool. In neither case should she be SOS, IMO.

                  • “It is simply not believable that intelligence community would NOT have told the White House that this wasn’t a protest that got out of hand.”

                    Are you claiming that it’s unbelievable that the intelligence community could mistakenly believe a rumor to be true, three days after an event occurred?

                    I think you have a much greater faith in the speed and perfection of our intelligence services than I do. When it comes to an investigation taking place that far away, with that many uncertainties, it’s not at all clear that perfect knowledge with no mistakes is achieved within three days. And I’m not slagging the intelligence services by saying this; investigations aren’t easy to do, and a good investigation takes more than three days.

                    Do you have any EVIDENCE establishing that Rice, or the people above her in the administration, knew for a fact that the rumors of demonstrations were wrong by three days after the attack? (I say three days instead of four because networks recorded their interviews with Rice on Saturday, as I understand it.) Or EVIDENCE establishing that the intelligence services knew for sure there where no demonstrations by three days after?

                    Also, what would anyone in intelligence or in the administration have to gain by deliberately lying about this?

                    • Are you claiming that it’s unbelievable that the intelligence community could mistakenly believe a rumor to be true, three days after an event occurred?

                      I’m saying that they had good reports from intelligence well within that three day window you’re so fond of citing, and I’m saying it’s unbelievable that they wouldn’t have passed them on to the White House.

                      You can start with the following link. You might not like the Weekly Standard, in that it’s a conservative outlet, but this story links directly to a CNN report and CNN is anything but.

                      http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/petraeus-knew-almost-immediately-al-qaeda-linked-group-responsible-benghazi_663458.html

                      Also, what would anyone in intelligence or in the administration have to gain by deliberately lying about this?

                      I don’t think Intelligence manipulated the information. The admin is another story, and your question is cogent. “What would they have to gain?” Well, for one thing, there was a highly contentious Presidential election not long after the attack. Clearly, the administration didn’t want the attack to impact its chances in that election. There have been several theories advanced, including that the attack undermined the admin’s claims about al-Qaeda, and another one which suggests that the CIA was actually holding several militants, in contravention of US policy, and that the attack was actually a rescue attempt.

                      We simply don’t know. But it’s clear that the White House went to significant lengths to make this attack appear like something other than it what it was.

                    • Arthur, that link is to a story about an anonymous person who claimed to know what Petraeus would say in his upcoming testimony. (Hey, remember when Petraeus resigned as part of a conspiracy to prevent him from testifying?)

                      But we don’t need to rely on an unnamed person’s speculation about Petraeus’ forthcoming testimony, since Petraeus has now testified. And the reports of what Petraeus actually said don’t support what the anonymous source in the article you linked to claim, and they don’t support the case against Rice.

                      As for the “theories advanced,” they seem pretty much on the level of theories about Obama’s birth certificate being a forgery. If there’s no evidence for the theories, then they’re really nothing but a partisan smear job.

  7. I’m starting to become more aware of the masterful way Obama is using his shield of subordinates. When he’s attacked, they’re quick to jump in and take the hit for him, and he’s quick to let them. When they’re attacked, he’s quick to jump in and yell that the fight should be with him, only to be shuttled back to another subordinate once the hit of ‘those meanies are attacking innocent people’ has landed. Meanwhile, the fact that there are so few actual attacks from an interested media keeps the shell game going. He’s better at it than Clinton was.

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