Sunday, November 18, 2012

Memo to John McCain: Looks like there won't be any "Watergate-style" hearings on Benghazi

Posted By on Sun, Nov 18, 2012 at 2:08 PM

Susan Rice
  • Susan Rice
There were a slew of (mostly) older white men on Sunday morning television talking about Benghazi, Susan Rice, David Petraeus and all other things associated with the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on September 11 — attacks which led to the deaths of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans.

But New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman summed up what seemed to be the consensus of Washington D.C. convention wisdom when he said, "Libya is not a scandal. It's a tragedy."

Of course, not everybody agrees with that summation, most prominently South Carolina Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. Along with his close friend John McCain, the pair have been the loudest critics on Capitol Hill blasting the Obama administration for the way they initially described what happened in Benghazi, and in the immediate aftermath.

Graham went on a tear on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday, saying that the White House deliberately withheld the fact that it was a terrorist attack in Libya because it would damage the image that they had helped eliminate Al Qaeda.

"Well, I think one of the reasons that Susan Rice told the stories that she did is, if the truth came out a few weeks before the election that our consulate in Benghazi, Libya had been overrun by an Al-Qaeda-sponsored or affiliated militia, that destroys the narrative that we've been hearing for months that Al Qaeda has been dismantled, bin Laden's dead. We're safer."

Going further, Graham said the reason he feels that the White House intentionally had Rice spin a false narrative about the Benghazi attacks (Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., had gone on network and cable television on September 16 indicating that spontaneous rage from anti-Muslim video had led to the uprising) is because the administration has carefully leaked positive information that showed how strong they were in combating terrorism.

"When the bin Laden raid occurred, they leaked every detail about the raid. We have a Pakistani doctor in custody because they told about the role he played; the underwear bomber case, where we stopped a plot in Yemen, came out of the New York Times. They told us how this administration the role of cyber attacks in Iranian's nuclear weapons program, and three weeks we heard a lot of details about classified information to make this president look good. So if they would leak classified information to make him look good, would they withhold information to prevent him from looking bad?"

But earlier on MTP, California Senator Diane Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, disputed that notion, as well as the idea promulgated by Mike Rogers, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, that President Obama must have known about the sexual affair involving CIA Director David Petraeus which led to his resignation earlier this month.

The narrative that the public has been told is that Obama himself didn't know about Petraeus' situation until after the election. But conservatives have said they don't buy it, even though they have no proof so far to prove otherwise.

“I’m not sure the president was not told before Election Day," Rogers said. "The attorney general knew months before this. There was no formal notice to either Congress or the intelligence community,” he added. “We just need to ask the question, I hope he'll come up and talk to us.”

Feinstein strongly disagreed with that allegation, saying, "I spoke to the attorney general, he explained the process that the FBI carried out,” she said. “There’s a reason for not disclosing it, so that there is no manipulation, that there is an ability to move ahead without anything political weigh-in on any side.”

Last week Graham, McCain and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire called for a Watergate-style select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. But on Fox News Sunday, the GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Saxby Chambliss, and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, both close allies to Graham and McCain, told host Chris Wallace that they don't believe a select committee is needed at this time.

CHAMBLISS: Well first of all these two guys are two of my best friends and two of Joe’s best friends. We travel a lot together to some very dangerous places but the committees within the United States Senate are very capable of investigating this in the right way and this is one time I have a slight disagreement with my good friends.

LIEBERMAN: Yeah I respectfully separate from my two amigos on this one and I agree with Saxby. This was a tragedy but it doesn’t rise to the level of 9/11/01. Our committees can handle this and come up with answers.

On Friday Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid made it plain there would be no special committee, writing that “I refuse to allow the Senate to be used as a venue for baseless partisan attacks."

Over on ABC's This Week, Michigan Senator Carl Levin stepped up big for Susan Rice, whose possible promotion to becoming President Obama's Secretary of State could now be in trouble if President Obama opts to nominate her to replace Hillary Clinton. Levin told ABC's Martha Raddatz he had Rice's back, and oh yeah, he also didn't think there needed to be any Watergate type hearings.

RADDATZ: Senator Levin, there are some who are calling for Watergate-style hearings because of this. First, your reaction about Susan Rice.

LEVIN: Well, it's one of the most unfair attacks I've ever seen in Washington in 34 years. Susan Rice was using the unclassified talking points, which were provided by the intelligence community. They were a consensus report. They...

RADDATZ: Why didn't they send out Hillary Clinton? Tell me why they didn't send out the secretary of state?

LEVIN: I have no idea. But that's not...

RADDATZ: Shouldn't she have been out there?

LEVIN: That's not the issue. The issue is whether or not Susan Rice should be pilloried for using a intelligence report which David Petraeus signed off on, which the DNI, the director of national intelligence, Mr. Clapper, signed off on. Were they part of a cover-up? Did they do something wrong?

On Friday a dozen female Congressional Democrats also stood up for Rice, such as Wisconsin Representative Gwen Moore, who said "The baseless ad hominem attacks on Ambassador Rice by several members of the Senate — most notably Sen. John McCain - calling into question her very character, basic level of intelligence, trustworthiness, and qualifications is not only disingenuous but at odds with the actions and stances they have taken in the past, with other potential nominees."

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