The Odd Case Against Susan Rice

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Erika Johnsen over at Hot Air is not buying Susan Rice's explanation:
She relied "solely and squarely" on info from the intelligence community? That seems a bit odd, considering that the intelligence community suspected terrorism from the very beginning, which means that something doesn't fit here -- and the most obvious possibility for that missing link is that somebody high up in the food chain tweaked the talking points on a very inconvenient situation with only weeks to go before a close presidential election, although the White House has denied having done so.
The post goes on to allege that Rice was part of a "cover-up." Johnsen's factual rebuttal to Rice is linked in an NBC News story headlined, "Intelligence Officials: We knew attack in Benghazi was terrorist attack from the beginning." The piece is presented as thought it contradicts Susan Rice's claim that she was following her talking points. But that isn't what the story actually says:
Officials said that although there was no question that the attack was terrorism, they did not know whether they were spontaneous or planned long in advance. They also did not have the suspects' identities.  That's why, they said, they kept their unclassified talking points for Rice vague to avoid compromising future legal proceedings.

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So why were those unclassified talking points created in the first place?

Officials say they were produced in response to requests from the House Select Committee on Intelligence for language that could be used in media interviews. The main purpose was to provide talking points sensitive to the fact that there could be legal proceedings in the future, the senior official said. Initial intelligence was tenuous, and affiliations were unclear. Investigators also worried the investigation could be compromised if they provided too much information.
In cases like this find it always worthwhile to revisit the original statements. From Susan Rice:
On Sept. 16, Rice said on Meet the Press that the violence sweeping the Islamic world at the time was "a spontaneous reaction to a video, and it's not dissimilar but, perhaps, on a slightly larger scale than what we have seen in the past with 'The Satanic Verses' with the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad."

She then elaborated on the specific attack on the US consulate in Libya: "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 the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video."

Rice added, "Obviously, that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation."
This is deceptive. And perhaps you believe that the White House, no matter the opinion of the intelligence community, has the responsibility to say all that it thinks it knows as forthrightly as possible, as soon as possible. But that isn't what Republicans are arguing. They are arguing that the CIA was the honest broker, and the White House intentionally played dumb in order to reap the political benefit of not saying America is under attack by terrorists.

But it's not clear that that there was any political benefit to this strategy at all. On the contrary, terrorists attacks on America routinely rally support for the commander in chief. The idea that renewing the war against Al Qaeda somehow hurts the president who oversaw the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and helps the candidate who bumbled the England and Israel wondering "What this button do?" is bizarre.

Thus moving The Washington Post to ask the natural question when faced with spectacle of the white populist party lobbing conspiracy theories at people who happen to be intelligent and black:
The oddity of the Republican response to what happened in Benghazi is partly this focus on half-baked conspiracy theories rather than on the real evidence of failures by the State Department, Pentagon and CIA in protecting the Benghazi mission. What's even stranger is the singling out of Ms. Rice, a Rhodes scholar and seasoned policymaker who, whatever her failings, is no one's fool.

Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can't know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy. You'd think that before launching their broadside, members of Congress would have taken care not to propagate any falsehoods of their own.
Republicans are certainly not attacking Rice simply because she is a black woman. But it is certainly likely that they are attacking her because she is a black woman, allied with a black man, who represents the party which black America believes is the best vehicle for its particular interests, and the broader interests of the country. In other words the question isn't "Is Senator Lindsey Graham racist?" so much as it's "Who does Senator Lindsey Graham represent?"

The answer is Graham represents a party whose candidate for the presidency believes black Obama voters are guilty of the sin of electoral bribery, while white Romney voters are simply guilty of loving their country too hard. Graham represents the party of birther claims and birther jokes; the party which thinks attempting to restrict the votes of black and brown people is good use of their resources. The notion that you can separate who Republicans target, from how their base tends to evaluate those targets is willfully naive.

It does not matter what dwells in Lindsay Graham's heart. No one knows. The hard interests are what matter.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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