Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin is seizing on a recent poll showing that George W. Bush's approval numbers are up to declare "Bush is back," arguing that America is starting to appreciate Bush's policies in the light of what she calls the "rotten" Obama presidency. To make her case, Rubin neatly excises from Bush's record every single massive failure and disaster that resulted in Bush leaving office as one of the least popular presidents in history.
Rubin managed to cram so much misinformation and nonsense into seven short paragraphs that it's tough to pick a place to start, but this one is worthy of special attention:
Why the shift? Aside from the "memories fade" point, many of his supposed failures are mild compared to the current president (e.g. spending, debt). Unlike Obama's tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11. People do remember the big stuff -- rallying the country after the Twin Towers attack, 7 1/2 years of job growth and prosperity, millions of people saved from AIDS in Africa, a good faith try for immigration reform, education reform and a clear moral compass.
"Aside from the 'memories fade' point, many of his supposed failures are mild compared to the current president (e.g. spending, debt)." Funny thing about those "spending" and "debt" failures of Obama's that make Bush's supposedly seem so mild: Bush-era policies are responsible for the lion's share of the current public debt and will continue exacerbating the debt situation long after President Obama has left office.
"Unlike Obama's tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11." This is false. There were a number of successful terrorist attacks between 9-11 and the end of the Bush presidency, most prominently the DC-area sniper attacks of 2002. But I'm dodging the real problem, which is the phrase "after 9/11." Her argument -- an argument she's made before -- is that the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, despite happening on Bush's watch, doesn't count against Bush. Why? She doesn't say. Rubin doesn't allow Obama any terrorism Mulligans, calling his record "spotty at best with Benghazi, Libya, Boston and Fort Hood."
The argument by conservative media that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other survivors of gun violence who supported a failed Senate compromise to expand background checks on firearms sales are "props" of the Obama administration is both hypocritically partisan and logically flawed.
Right-wing media are unable to acknowledge that President Obama's gun violence prevention agenda mirrors the priorities of gun violence survivors, who are not mere "props," to pass stronger gun laws. As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post notes, "the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want":
All of this aside, the "props" line is actually an insult to the families, posing as a defense of them. It implies that the families, in lobbying on these issues, are not thinking for themselves. In reality, the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want. Indeed, one of the family members, Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel in the shooting, voluntarily stood with the president at the White House yesterday as Obama reacted to news of the Senate vote, and thanked Obama for his leadership. Needless to say, if Barden felt like he was being exploited or used as a prop, he wouldn't be thanking the president. [emphasis in original]
Logical flaws aside, those who would call Newtown families and other gun violence survivors "props" fail to acknowledge that presidents routinely evoke the experiences of victims in advocating for policies that would prevent future tragedies.
In 1991, former President Ronald Reagan evoked his own experience of being shot by a would-be assassin, as well as the experiences of others wounded in the 1981 attack in order to advocate for background checks on gun sales. In a New York Times op-ed Reagan wrote about his press secretary, Jim Brady, who was grievously wounded in the attack by a man who acquired a gun despite a lengthy history of serious mental illness. Brady would go on to lend his name to the legislation -- the Brady bill -- that mandated a background check for gun sales conducted by licensed dealers:
Conservatives in media gloated and launched political attacks in reaction to a coalition of largely Senate Republicans blocking a package of stronger gun laws, including compromise legislation on expanded background checks for gun sales -- a legislative proposal supported by roughly 90 percent of Americans.
Before, during, and after President Obama delivered a speech from the Rose Garden on April 17 vowing to continue the dialogue on gun laws, conservatives in media offered triumphal comments and launched vicious attacks on advocates for gun violence prevention, including family members of Newtown victims and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
As Politico noted, conservative bloggers "claimed victory ... saying that their ideology and principles were the keys to their success." The right-wing reaction, however, went beyond basic policy arguments:
In an op-ed for The Washington Times, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro opined that family members of Newtown victims -- many of whom advocated for the passage of stronger gun laws -- did not deserve to be heard because of his apparent belief that background checks infringe on the Second Amendment. Shapiro previously accused Obama of attempting to implement socialism in a piece for The New American, the magazine publication of the far-right John Birch Society. From Shapiro's April 18 op-ed:
I don't believe the families of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., deserve a vote.
It may sound harsh and uncaring, but even the greatest tragedies are not a valid reason to disregard the Supreme Court and the Constitution of the United States. If they were, our free speech and our rights against unreasonable search and seizure and against self-incrimination would have all been abolished long ago amid every crime wave in American history.
Five years ago, the Supreme Court settled the issue of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, making it clear that guns in "common use" were constitutionally protected. Nevertheless, President Obama recently flew several family members of Sandy Hook victims to Washington on Air Force One to pressure congressional legislators to enact new gun laws.
As the nation mourned the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon, media figures used the attacks to offer conspiracy theories, make Islamophobic comments, and push petty political and personal attacks.
Conspiracy Radio Host Alex Jones: U.S. Gov't Is "Prime Suspect" In Attack
Radio host and noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones responded to the bombings by suggesting that they may have been a "false flag" operation staged by the government:
In a special webcast on April 15, Jones expanded on the conspiracy, saying"You saw them stage Fast and Furious. Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook. The evidence is just overwhelming. And that's why I'm so desperate and freaked out. This is not fun, you know, getting up here telling you this. Somebody's got to tell you the truth."
WND Columnist Erik Rush's Attempt At "Sarcasm": Kill All Muslims In Response To Attack
Shortly following the bombings, WND columnist and occasional Fox News guest Erik Rush tweeted:
Rush lashed out at critics of his tweet and claimed it was "sarcasm" intended to show that liberals' "precious Islamists say the same about us EVERY DAY."
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, ever the astute observer of modern liberalism, is lashing out at the left for its reaction to the passing of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Identifying what she claims are the "ten liberal rules for deceased conservative giants," Rubin's indictment lacks coherence, and actually ends up impugning conservatives -- including herself.
Breaking down just a few of these rules shows how far off-base her criticisms are.
Rubin Rule #1: "The only good conservative is a dead one, primarily because they can be used to diminish contemporary conservatives. ('Unlike Reagan, that miserable X never...' is the surefire argument for leftists who never had a nice word to say about Ronald Reagan while he was alive.)"
Trying to diminish a current politician by comparing them unfavorably to a celebrated past politician isn't a "liberal" trick. It's "politics." One can hardly switch on cable news without hearing some wistful pundit damn the current lack of bipartisanship by bringing up Ronald Reagan's and Tip O'Neill's famously chummy relationship. (Looking at you, Morning Joe.)
The past politician doesn't even have to be dead! During the 2012 campaign conservatives tried to attack Barack Obama leading up to the Democratic National Convention by unfavorably comparing him to Bill Clinton.
On a personal level, Clinton was a deal-maker, a compromiser, a welfare reform signer, a budget balancer and never, ever remote or haughty. To the contrary, he perfected the affectation that he was one of us. Clinton is the un-Obama, the guy who worked with a Republican Congress and didn't alienate or demonize business. The Republicans are going to be in hog heaven splicing Clinton's language and accomplishments together with Obama's language and record.
Who wrote that? Jennifer Rubin. Clinton, being alive, was able to put to rest any talk of tension between himself and Obama when he spoke at the convention, at which point Rubin went back to calling Clinton a liar and a braggart.
The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin interviewed Tim Miller, executive director of a new conservative political action committee centered on opposition research, who reminisced about how conservative operatives successfully used blogger Matt Drudge to push debunked or thinly-researched smears against Democrats in 2004, describing it as a "great model" that needs to be updated.
In a March 24 post at Rubin's "Right Turn" blog, Miller described his organization, America Rising, as being dedicated to the "collection, dissemination and deployment of opposition research against Democrats," and uses Drudge's DrudgeReport.com circa 2004 as a model to return to (emphasis added):
Last week former Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and two young Republican sharpshooters, Tim Miller and Joe Pounder, announced they would set up a new organization, America Rising, devoted to the collection, dissemination and deployment of opposition research against Democrats and a counterpart to the hugely successful American Bridge on the left. On Friday I sat down with Miller and Pounder at a Capitol Hill Starbucks to talk about their new venture.
They plan on instigating nothing less than a revolution in the way the right does and uses oppo research. They are keen on connecting research to communication and every other aspect of campaigns. Pounder tells me, "It must be responsive to the news cycle and polling." Miller jokes that "research has been people sitting in a dungeon or going through trash cans" and then funneling the information up to a press person to send out in a mass e-mail. Miller says, "Now you have to drive the news cycle."
The Romney campaign was certainly hobbled by the Democrats' opposition machine, which cranked out information on everything from Bain to Cayman bank accounts, funneled it to friendly press outlets and the Obama super PAC, and kept the Romney team on perpetual defense. But the problem is not specific to the Romney campaign. Miller recalls, "We had a great model in 2004 -- research guys who fed to Drudge. Drudge drove the mainstream media." But, he says, "in a lot of ways we haven't done a good job of updating [that model]. Over time we rested on our laurels."
In 2006, ABC News highlighted Drudge's influence on media, particularly in the 2004 election cycle, saying, "Republican operatives keep an open line to Drudge, often using him to attack their opponents...And then the mainstream media often picks it up."
Drudge did help drive stories to Fox News, right-wing radio and other outlets during the 2004 presidential election, but much of the blogger's content -- which included discredited attacks on John Kerry's military service -- was thinly-researched, deceptively edited, or flat-out wrong.
Since the summer of 2010, the right-wing media has been obsessively promoting the absurd non-scandal involving the New Black Panther Party, in which the Obama Justice Department was alleged to have dropped voter intimidation charges against the fringe group owing to racial and political solidarity. One of the primary movers of this farce has been Jennifer Rubin, who authored one of the first reports on the story for The Weekly Standard and continued to write at length about DOJ's alleged perfidy at her Washington Post blog.
This month, the Justice Department's inspector general released the results of their investigation into the New Black Panthers affair and confirmed what everyone already knew to be true: the allegations against DOJ were bunk. Rubin is excitedly waving this report around, claiming it reflects poorly on President Obama's reported Labor Secretary nominee, and determinedly ignoring the parts that show pretty much every word she wrote about the New Black Panther story was rooted in falsehood.
Since the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its report, Rubin has written two Washington Post blog posts touting its findings to attack Perez. In a March 12 post, she wrote: "I won't revisit all the behavior of the Obama Justice Department but a nearly-300 page report has been released by the administration's own inspector general. The IG went out of the way to be even-handed, even when there was substantial evidence of politicization." The next day, she briefly referenced the OIG report's findings on the New Black Panther case, writing:
The IG declined to find a racial or political motive for dismissing the New Black Panther case but found actions surrounding that action "risked undermining confidence in the non-ideological enforcement of the voting rights laws." In other words, it sure looked partisan.
Rubin's twisted construction of the IG "declin[ing] to find a racial or political motive" is fairly comical, given how invested Rubin was in the existence of those motives. Again, she was one of the main drivers of this story. She wrote a lengthy Weekly Standard article in June 2010 (before J. Christian Adams resigned from DOJ claiming racially charged "corruption" in the case, which blew up the story) alleging that the "Obama Justice Department went to bat for the New Black Panther party -- and then covered it up." As the story slowly fell to pieces, Rubin held firm, insisting the critics were wrong. "The issue is whether a meritorious claim of voter intimidation was dismissed under pressure from left-leaning civil rights groups," she wrote in January 2011, "and whether there is reason to believe there is a sentiment against a color-blind application of civil rights laws."
First lady Michelle Obama has responded to conservative criticism over her Academy Awards appearance, saying it was "absolutely not surprising" that her participation in the ceremony set off a national conversation.
On February 24, Obama made a surprise appearance via satellite at the 85th Academy Awards where she helped announce the Best Picture Oscar winner. Academy officials invited the first lady to take part in the presentation.
Following the first lady's appearance, right-wing media falsely suggested that her participation was unprecedented, ignoring that former presidents and former first lady Laura Bush had previously participated in the ceremony. Right-wing media also smeared Obama, calling her appearance "obscene" and claiming she made the ceremony about her.
Obama responded to that criticism on Thursday, saying it was "absolutely not surprising." From the Associated Press:
Michelle Obama says it was "absolutely not surprising" to her that her satellite appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony provoked a national conversation about whether it was appropriate, after some conservative critics accused her of selfishly crashing the event in an attempt to upstage it.
She attributed the chatter to a culture shift that has spawned legions of bloggers, tweeters and others who talk about anything and everything all the time.
"Shoot, my bangs set off a national conversation. My shoes can set off a national conversation. That's just sort of where we are. We've got a lot of talking going on," the first lady said only somewhat jokingly Thursday before an appearance in Chicago, her hometown. "It's like everybody's kitchen-table conversation is now accessible to everybody else so there's a national conversation about anything."
Right-wing media are falsely suggesting that First Lady Michelle Obama's Academy Awards appearance is unprecedented, ignoring that former presidents and former First Lady Laura Bush have previously participated in the ceremony.
On Sunday, Obama made a surprise appearance via satellite at the 85th Academy Awards where she helped announce the Best Picture Oscar winner. According to a spokesman for Obama, the Academy contacted the first lady about being part of the ceremony.
Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin, however, accused Obama of "feel[ing] entitled" to "intrude" on the ceremony, arguing that Obama's "celebrity appearance" made her seem "small and grasping":
It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband's election). I'm sure the left will holler that once again conservatives are being grouchy and have it in for the Obamas. Seriously, if they really had their president's interests at heart, they'd steer away from encouraging these celebrity appearances. It makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping. In this case, it was just downright weird.
Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes likewise wrote on his Twitter feed that Obama "probably felt like she was entitled to upstage" the Oscars and accused the first lady of making the ceremony about her. Breitbart.com called her appearance "obscene, and rather frightening in what it suggests about how low we have fallen as a nation."
In fact, former presidents and former First Lady Laura Bush have participated in Academy Awards ceremonies. In 2002, Bush appeared at the Oscars in a taped appearance. From the Chicago Tribune:
The documentary history montage was put together by director Penelope Spheeris, whose remarkable "Decline of Western Civilization" rock documentaries likely have never been even close to nominated.
And the show's marvelous "What do the movies mean to you?" opening segment was done by director Errol Morris, whose groundbreaking work, from "Thin Blue Line" through "Fast, Cheap and Out of Control," has also been criminally neglected.
It was bracing to see people from Laura Bush to Jerry Brown to Mikhail Gorbachev interviewed, and mind-bending to hear film titles such as Russ Meyer's "Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill" and William Castle's "The Tingler" mentioned on usually sacrosanct Oscar airspace.
Frequently wrong Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin isn't particularly bullish on the Democrats' chances of picking up the Virginia governorship in 2013. The problem, she writes, is the "reflexive liberalism" of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, as evinced by his support of the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid, which she argues won't "fit well with Virginia's penchant for fiscal sobriety." That's a curious argument for a couple of reasons: conservative Republican governors across the country have been signing on for the Medicaid expansion, and the expansion itself is almost completely paid for with federal dollars.
But Democrats have their own problem: a nominee who might be the one party member who could lose to Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe. He lost badly in the gubernatorial primary in 2009. Since then he has done little to overcome his two main problems: He has no real Virginia profile (and in fact considered for a time running for governor of Florida), and he has no experience in or feel for governing. His declaration that he wants to go along with Medicaid expansion is typical of his reflexive liberalism. This plays well as head of the Democratic National Committee (a job he previously held), but it doesn't fit well with Virginia's penchant for fiscal sobriety. It also suggests some ignorance of the very real problems governors of both parties are experiencing with Medicaid.
If that makes McAuliffe "reflexively liberal," than he's joining the ranks of other well-known leftists such as Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ), Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV), Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI), and Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R-ND), all of whom have signed their states up for the ACA's Medicaid expansion. This has less to do with ideology than it does with practical concerns for underinsured state residents. Under the expansion the federal government pays 100 percent of the costs for new Medicaid enrollees until 2017. That share drops to 90 percent by 2020, and remains there going forward. As MSNBC's Steve Benen put it, "the way the Affordable Care Act is structured, Medicaid expansion is a great deal for states, and should be a no-brainer for governors who care about lowering health care costs, insuring low-income families, improving state finances, and helping state hospitals."
For Virginia specifically, the costs associated with opting in for the expansion are almost equal to the amount the state would spend on Medicaid anyway were it to opt out. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "if Virginia expands Medicaid, an estimated 372,000 to 504,000 adults will newly enroll into the program by 2019. [...]Virginia will spend between $499 million and $863 million to cover these adults during the first six years of the expansion. This additional spending is just 1.8% to 3.1% more than what Virginia would have spent on Medicaid during that timeframe without the expansion."
We're not yet a month into Barack Obama's second term, and already Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin can see the president's "second-term curse" taking shape. At its core, according to Rubin, is last year's terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya -- or rather, several audacious and blatant falsehoods about Benghazi that Rubin is trying to hang around Obama's neck.
Rubin wrote in a February 7 blog post [emphasis in original]:
We are barely out of January and all this has occurred: We learned the economy contracted in the 4th quarter of 2012. President Obama is trying to wriggle out of a sequester, which he insisted upon in the 2011 budget negotiations. The Congressional Budget Office says our debt is dangerously increasing. Obama was forced to push Susan Rice aside and should have pushed Chuck Hagel off the boat. Jack Lew is now under scrutiny for ignoring federal law regarding Medicare insolvency warnings. And Benghazi -- you remember the story the mainstream media would not cover? -- has turned into a debacle. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified today that the president was absent during the Benghazi, Libya, attack(s) and neither he nor Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to anyone in the White House after briefly telling the president an attack was underway. What?!?
None of this is particularly compelling, as far as "curses" go. The Q4 GDP contraction was due to decreases in government spending (mainly defense spending), and other leading economic indicators actually showed some good news. "Personal consumption, fixed investment, and equipment/software all grew nicely. This is the real economy humming along," wrote Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal. And as for Obama "trying to wriggle out of the sequester" that he "insisted upon in the 2011 budget negotiations," that's only half the story. The sequester was a compromise agreed to by both parties after the GOP took the debt limit hostage and demanded spending cuts in order to raise it. And it's true that Susan Rice is not Secretary of State, primarily due to the fact that she was never nominated. Instead Obama nominated John Kerry, who sailed through confirmation, and Hagel is looking like he'll be confirmed as well. That's some curse!
It is just over one week since Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma read Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel four questions suggested to him by Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin during Hagel's confirmation hearing. The substance of the questions Inhofe delivered to Hagel in the Senate chamber -- a typical Rubin laundry list of neoconservative wisdom gleaned from her January 28 post titled, "Our Dimwitted State Department" -- was quickly overshadowed by the public reaction of Post senior correspondent and associate editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran. When Inhofe described Rubin's post as "kind of an interesting article," Chandrasekaran shot off an angry tweet. "I hate it when senators refer to WP opinion blogger posts as articles," he growled. "@JRubinBlogger is NOT a WaPo reporter."
That he's right is a fortunate thing for the Post. If the daily employed Rubin to cover national security and international affairs, they'd have a bit of a Judith Miller problem. Since the Post hired Rubin in late 2010, she has routinely embarrassed the paper by putting bylines on Romney campaign press releases; endorsing blood-thirsty calls for revenge against Palestinians; and successfully experimenting with the manufacture of durable conservative fantasy narratives.
Chandrasekaran likely isn't the only Post editor displeased with Rubin's frequent assaults on the standards and reputation of his newspaper. But among Post brass, it seems right he'd be the one with the shortest fuse (he has not responded to repeated requests to discuss the tweet). Chandrasekaran spent much of the last decade reporting for the paper from the Middle East, including stints in Egypt, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He was a key part of the Post's widely praised all-star coverage of the Iraq war and occupation, serving as Baghdad bureau chief in 2003 and 2004.
While the Post failed its readers in many ways during the selling of the war, its coverage from Iraq was often unmatched. Chandrasekaran's reporting colleagues during those years included Steve Coll, Anthony Shadid, and Tom Ricks, who together wrote much of the first draft of the sordid history of the Bush administration's refusal to plan for the aftermath in Iraq and the widespread suffering that resulted.
Chandrasekaran's lasting contribution to this history is his book about Year One of the occupation, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a close examination of the ideology, corruption and incompetence that the Bush White House exported wholesale to the Green Zone. During his time in Iraq, Chandrasekaran lost a few close friends to the chaos and the violence.
All of which is to say that Chandrasekaran has a deeper understanding than Rubin of post-Saddam Iraq and the consequences of neoconservative ideology. And it is this -- not simply concern for the blurring categories of journalism in the Internet age -- that may explain the editor's Twitter rage that caught so many off-guard. It must not be easy to write a damning expose of the biggest foreign policy disaster in memory, then watch the arrival of a colleague who began writing only recently "as a lark" and who from the comfort of Northern Virginia whines about the U.S. drawdown in Iraq, attacks anyone who dared question or criticize the Bush/Cheney leadership, and asks with a straight face, "How much did the emergence of a democratic Iraq have to do with this popular revolt in Tunisia?"
A teapot tempest erupted today after Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) cited Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin by name today at Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel's Senate confirmation hearing. Post associate editor and senior correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran tweeted, "I hate it when senators refer to WP opinion blogger posts as articles. [Rubin] is NOT a WaPo reporter," which prompted Buzzfeed to proclaim that a "civil war" had broken out at the Post over "the newspaper's reputation for fairness and neutrality." This misses the point of what makes Rubin so problematic for the Post: it's not that she's conservative, or even that she's opinionated. She's dishonest, often flagrantly so, and that dishonesty tarnishes Washington Post's reputation.
Rubin, who essentially served as the Romney campaign's in-house blogger for the Washington Post during the 2012 presidential campaign, has recently led the charge against Hagel's nomination.
Here's a not-at-all exhaustive list of outright lies, misrepresentations, and self-contradictions Rubin has spun while speaking or writing on the Post's behalf:
Rubin invented the idea that State Department personnel in Washington, D.C., watched real-time video of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, a claim later debunked by Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple.
Washington Post media writer Erik Wemple has been working doggedly to correct one of Sean Hannity's favorite false claims about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi: that State Department officials watched "real-time" video of the assault from an office in Washington, DC. Wemple's efforts got an assist from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on January 23: "There was no monitor, there was no real time." As Wemple's debunking of the falsehood makes clear, Hannity has been the primary driver of this claim by repeating on a near-daily basis. But the "real-time" video falsehood did not start with the Fox News host. In fact, one of the first mentions -- perhaps the first -- of the spurious Benghazi video was on Jennifer Rubin's Washington Post blog.
The whole story starts with an October 10, 2012, hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. At that hearing, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs, had this exchange with Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), describing how she followed via telephone the developments in the Benghazi attack as they were happening:
LANKFORD: Mrs. Lamb, can you clarify for me, where -- where were you working September 11? Were you in the Washington area -- were -- in the main facility there?
LAMB: Yes sir. I was in the D.S. Command center on the evening of the event.
LANKFORD: You -- you -- you note that in your testimony that you were in the Diplomatic Security Command Center and then you make this statement, "I could follow what was happening almost in real time."
LAMB: That's correct.
LANKFORD: So once they hit the button in Benghazi, you're alerted, it says you could have. Did you follow what was happening in real time at that point?
LAMB: Sir, what was happening is they were making multiple phone calls and it was very important that they communicate with the annex in Tripoli because this is where additional resources were coming from. So they would hang up on us and then call back.
LANKFORD: But you're -- but you're tracking it back and forth what's going on.
LAMB: Yes absolutely. [Transcript via Nexis, emphasis added]
That night on Fox News' Hannity, Liz Cheney seized on Lamb's testimony, but characterized it correctly:
CHENEY: Today, we learned from Charlene Lamb under oath that she followed, you know, the diplomatic security official, that she followed what was going on, minute by minute. She was following it in real time. So the administration knew in real time, there wasn't a mob, they knew in real time that this was a well-coordinated attack. They knew in real time that it involved heavy weaponry, this was clearly a terrorist attack and the American people have clearly, as you've said, been lied to.
The following morning, October 11, Jennifer Rubin posted a video of Cheney's Hannity appearance in a post headlined "Real-time Libya: Who knew what, when?" In that post, Rubin claimed (citing no other sources) that Lamb had watched a "real-time video" of the attack -- something neither Lamb nor Cheney had said:
Seriously, something doesn't make sense. Do we think no one else ever got the benefit of that information that mid-level bureaucrat Charlene Lamb had? This was the most urgent issue of the moment in which everyone (the White House, the public, the media) wanted to know what happened in Benghazi. So why not look at the real-time video? Why not ask Lamb what she saw and heard?
That next day, October 12, CNBC host Lawrence Kudlow wrote in his syndicated column that "State Department officials saw the Benghazi attack in real time." [emphasis in original] Later that night on Fox News, Hannity made his first reference to "real time video" of the attack: "The president knew within 24 hours what the truth was, and what I am told, they actually saw this in real-time. There is a video, real-time, of everything that went down in Benghazi."
From that point forward, Hannity flogged away at the State Department for "watching" the attack unfold "real time," repeating it almost every day as it spread to other corners of the conservative media. Wemple debunked the allegation in November, citing a State Department official's denial that anyone at State "had the ability to watch either of the attacks in real time." According to an administration official quoted in Wemple's report, the Benghazi compound had closed-circuit video surveillance that could not be monitored from outside the facility.
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin jumps on the "picking fights" bandwagon and writes that the nomination of Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary shows that Obama is "going to seek confrontation" in his second term. This is a problematic line of reasoning, given that the Republican Senate minority is doing everything it can to ensure confrontation, but Rubin teases out a broader criticism of Obama's nominations thus far, writing in her January 10 post:
It is not merely that President Obama has put up confrontational nominees. He is also replacing senior people with standing and reputations derived independent of his administration (e.g., Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Tim Geithner) with confidants who are like-minded, disinclined to question the president or rebut his (often erroneous) thinking.
This is utter hogwash. Let's run down Obama's second term high-level nominees thus far: Sen. John Kerry for State; former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense; John Brennan for CIA director; and Jack Lew for Treasury.
Both Kerry and Hagel have standing and reputations derived from a combined 40 years spent in the Senate. Kerry and Obama obviously see eye-to-eye on most issues, but Hagel is a Republican and on more than a few topics he and the president are not "like-minded." Before his name was put forth as a potential Obama nominee Republican senators were singing Hagel's praises as someone who "understands the world better than almost anyone," and John McCain said Hagel would make a "great Secretary of State" in 2006, as McCain was preparing for his own presidential run.
As for Brennan and Lew, both have spent the last four years in the administration, but Brennan's "standing" and "reputation" come from a career spent in the CIA. He was also the first director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Jack Lew is the only nominee for whom Rubin's criticism is even close to accurate, but it's still a stretch. Lew was Bill Clinton's director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1998 -2001, a job he held again under Obama.
There are still at least two nominations to go, now that Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has tendered her resignation and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson has said she will step down. Given the trajectory of the commentary it seems likely that (for conservative bloggers at least) their replacements will be controversial and confrontational figures who owe their careers and reputations to Obama's largesse, no matter who they may be.