Home > Political Game-Playing, Right-Wing Lies > It Long Ago Stopped Being About What Matters

It Long Ago Stopped Being About What Matters

May 17th, 2013

Last Friday, Republicans leaked what they claimed were exact quotes from administration emails showing the alteration of talking points. The emails appeared to be somewhat damning, suggesting that “the changes suggest administration officials were interested in sparing the State Department from political criticism in the wake of the attack.”

One email leaked by Republicans, from Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser to President Obama, read thus:

We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.

The problem? He didn’t write that. The administration released the actual emails today. In the email quoted above, the genuine quote is:

We need to resolve this in a way that respects all the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.

Just a wee bit different, wouldn’t you say?

Turns out that CBS, which received the leaked emails and reported them on May 10, were none too pleased at having been lied to. Their original report did not specify where they had gotten the emails.

This is a common game in D.C.: partisan players leak info damaging to the other side, but demand anonymity so that it won’t look like a partisan attack. The news agency reports the information without naming the biased source, thus presenting the appearance that the information is more trustworthy and not part of a political attack.

Except in this case, the release included intentionally faked information to make the administration look bad—meaning that Republicans hoodwinked CBS into making a false political smear against the administration.

So today, they not only noted the altered emails, they also revealed their source as having been Republicans.

Another alteration, this one of an email purportedly written by State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland, read:

…and the penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency [CIA] about al-Qaeda’s presence and activities of al-Qaeda…[which] could be abused by members of Congress to fault the State Department for not paying attention… so why would we want to cede that, either?

The actual email:

…and the penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings, so why would we want to cede that, either?

The main point that Republicans are making is that the Obama administration altered information given to the public for political purposes. Which is exactly what the Republicans did here.

You might wonder, “Why is this at all important? The changes don’t seem too great, and it’s not as big an impact as the government misinforming the people in the midst of a presidential election.”

The answer is that, in the case of the administration reports before the election, it is virtually impossible that different reporting by the administration could have altered the election. After all, Republicans were making great hay about Benghazi in the final weeks of the election; had there been 100% perfect transmission of information from the administration from Day One, there would have been far less damage to the administration—and yet, despite the greater damage, Obama still won handily. In short, the impact of the claimed distortions was petty, at best.

On the other hand, Republicans would clearly love to impeach Obama over this controversy; failing that, they wish to damage Obama at least to the degree of derailing his political agenda and bringing even more gridlock and delay to government policies intended to repair the economy and fix the problems we face. In which case, faked information could have a substantially significant impact.

In the end, however, this entire affair comes down to nothing more than sordid and contemptible political game-playing—which means that facts have little impact on what will happen. It’s has moved from a matter of saying and doing things with meaning, to a reprehensible game of creating and fighting back against absurd partisan narratives.

We no longer have a functioning government. But then, that is hardly news.

UPDATE: New Headline!


The accusation against Mrs. Clinton drew a strong response from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.—S. Carolina): “There’s been a concerted effort by Hillary Clinton to cover up her role in President Lincoln’s murder. She has said nothing about it. This is bigger than Watergate, the Cuban missile crisis, and the Second World War put together.”

  1. Troy
    May 17th, 2013 at 12:26 | #1

    We no longer have a functioning polity.

    While the Republican 16-seat majority got that way by gerrymandering and other forms of BS back in 2010-12, and their current public polling is pretty bad in the general:

    “A new Pew Research Center poll gives Obama a job approval rating of 51%, while only 22% approve of the job Republican leaders are doing in Congress.”

    . . .

    “Overall, 42% say the Republican Party could do the better job dealing with the economy, while 38% say the Democratic Party,” the pollsters write. “The public is similarly divided over which party could better handle gun-control policy and immigration policy.”

    it remains to be seen if they can crawl back into complete control of Congress after just 8 years out of power . . . that’s probably long enough for the electorate to forgive them for 1995-2006.

  2. Tim
    May 17th, 2013 at 13:35 | #2

    Famous last words:

    “Please, continue governor.”

    Unfortunately, I bet Fox does not bring up Benghazi ever again.

  3. Troy
    May 18th, 2013 at 05:27 | #3

    The poll, from Farleigh Dickinson University’s Public Mind, surveyed a random sampling of 863 registered voters and had a margin of error of plus-minus 3.4 percentage points.

    It found 44 percent of registered Republicans believed an armed rebellion could come in the next few years. But only 18 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents agreed.

    Moreover, only 24 percent of Republicans believed new gun laws were necessary — compared to 73 percent of Democrats.

    Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2013/may/2/republicans-say-us-headed-toward-armed-revolution-/#ixzz2TaFg833x
    Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

  4. Luis
    May 18th, 2013 at 12:13 | #4

    It found 44 percent of registered Republicans believed an armed rebellion could come in the next few years. But only 18 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents agreed.

    Yeah, I saw that. What surprised me was not so much that 44% of Republicans thought that, but 18% of Democrats thought that.

    Of course, the question in the survey was not asking people if they actually expected one to happen, but rather that an armed revolution might be necessary to protect our liberties. A bit different; the question was about what could be required if the people wanted to stop the government from doing things that erode our freedoms, and people on all sides agree, for one reason or another, that our freedoms are being eroded.

    Of course, the whole “armed revolution” idea is a fallacy. How many successful armed national revolutions have there been in the past 50 years? Especially ones that depend upon personally-owned firearms and not military-grade munitions?

    Look at the significant revolutions of the past half-century, and you will find that most of them relied on popular will, not on people bearing AK-47s.

    And that’s the secret behind an “American revolution” that no one seems to get: we have the power to sweep back the government right now, without a single shot being fired. It’s called “voting.” The problem: the people are too stupid to see beyond the BS thrown forth by people with money to get people to make the wrong choices. It’s about misinformation, apathy, and people just being resigned to accepting what exists and believing that nothing can be done about it.

  5. Troy
    May 19th, 2013 at 07:41 | #5


    and people just being resigned to accepting what exists and believing that nothing can be done about it.

    and too many DLC Clintons and Obamas and not enough Bernie Sanders.

    The rightward bias of our system is breath-taking, really. The propaganda has got 50%+ of the country completly snowed, thinking Obama is the extreme left option.

    I don’t blame Obama per se, had I been elected in 2008 I doubt I could have navigated the minefield that is the American Psyche half as well.

    Just need to remember how easily and completely the system slammed Gore in 2000 and Howard Dean in 2004, man.

    I’m an idealist to the end, but maybe 20-30% of the Republican coalition just realizes things are fucked and that’s the way it’s going to be so why die on a hill that’s not going to change anything.

  6. Troy
    May 19th, 2013 at 07:42 | #6

    LOL, echo chamber at the end, I forgot that was your original point!

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