Benghazi, Hillary 2016 and a Predictable Media
09 May 2013
Yesterday, Representative Darrell Issa led his Oversight Committee through hours of questioning of Benghazi whistleblowers with one goal in mind – to ruin any hope Hillary Clinton has of running in 2016. It could be argued Issa was also aiming to take down the Obama administration, but from the Kabuki theatre offered by both parties, who posture on the floors of Congress only to pass legislation benefiting themselves and protecting their benefactors, with an already re-elected President Obama on board, I doubt he is their ultimate target. Republicans have no one on the bench polling near Hillary, so they want to take her out early.
As to Benghazi reportage in the media, apart from notable exceptions like Sharyl Attkisson of CBS, few are straying from their respective reservations. On one side, we have FOX News and Drudge Report, hammering every sound bite of the whistleblowers 24/7; every word a “smoking gun.” Meanwhile, the bulk of the liberal-leaning mainstream media has offered defensive coverage hinting at a “witch hunt” and even the kook factor.
Congressman Issa does not help his cause by disingenuously holding up a cable that Hillary “signed,” knowing that thousands of cables coming from the State Department bear the word Clinton, whether or not she had anything to do with them. The Washington Post gave Issa a “4 Pinocchio” rating for his trouble. He also curries no favor by ignoring Ambassador Pickering, who chaired the Accountability Review Board and offered to testify at these new hearings. Then again, the five minutes per person Q & A format is no more effective at these proceedings than they were during Secretary Clinton’s exhaustive testimony in January.
Hillary Clinton has already taken responsibility for what happened under her watch at the State Department. It is interesting that when she tried to fall on her sword before the 2012 election, Republican Senators McCain, Graham and Ayotte would have none of it, calling hers a “laudable gesture” but complaining that responsibility rested with the Obama administration. Even former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, along with past Head of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Republicans all, had defended her. But with 2016 looming in the distance…
‘Hillary lied!’ ‘She doesn’t care about the four dead in Benghazi!’ She said, “What difference does it make!” It matters even less that this “quote” of hers has been truncated and misstated to misrepresent the intent of her larger statement. Let’s leave that for the moment. Ultimately the bumper stickers and subsequent hay the right will make out of her statement are not the issue.
Should we investigate? Of course. Will we ever get to the bottom of who knew what when and what the motives were? Doubtful. We will either be distracted with a new crisis or both sides will keep firing at one another while the public is far more concerned with pocketbook issues. What should matter are the tragic murders of four Americans. What does matter, fair or not, is how the largest number of media outlets spin this in the long term. They say that he who loves the most wins. In this case, they who have the most number of stories leaning in a certain direction most often dictate the way the country will react.
This has happened before. It will happen again.
In the Presidential primaries of 2008, a swooning media fawned shamelessly over a man with two years tenure in the Senate and spent the live long day bashing his more capable and experienced opponent, Hillary Clinton using an arsenal of sex bias. They neglected to analyze her better crafted policy prescriptions, instead painting her as shrew who hung out at round-the-world “tea parties.” They got the desired result.
As a Hillary supporter, I knew for the first time what it felt like to be a Conservative. The likes of Wapo’s Dana Milbank, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann painted people like me with the same filthy brush they used on her. My protests for fair media coverage went unanswered. I was invisible.
At the time, Republicans were more than happy to let it all happen though many like Senator Graham, oddly enough, now admit Hillary’s work ethic is second to none. Looking back over these past four years, one wonders in hindsight if Republicans are still happy with the way Clinton or McCain/Palin were battered.
Old news? Who cares about this now? This matters for two reasons.
First, what’s past is prologue.
Second, FOX News, Drudge, HotAir, and Breitbart are far outnumbered by The New York Times/WaPo, CBS, NBC, ABC, Huffington Post and so on. In other words, if FOX News says a tree fell in the woods and the bunch on the other side says “I didn’t hear anything” – then it did not happen. Look at the “right wing entertainment complex” of 2012 to see how Romney voters were sold a bill of goods about his winning in a landslide if you don’t believe me.
And the kindly coverage Hillary Clinton received in 2012 from media outlets who earlier trashed her was to entice women voters, hoping her reflected glow would help the media win re-election for their favored son. There was no sentiment involved. Just business.
So for those looking ahead to 2016 who lament “remember her role in Benghazi,” this is what you should remember: if the media once again decides to fall in love with a new “phenom,” they will be more than happy to join with FOX News and trash Hillary Clinton to keep her from the White House. If our corporate-owned media decides she is “the one,” Benghazi too will be made into “nothing to see here, folks.”
But let’s follow the money. President Obama was chosen in 2008 as the person with the most effective brand to sell us the rather unpalatable platter on which we have been dining these past four years. If a corporate-owned media made sure Hillary didn’t get in last time, I would argue that no new love for her has been cultivated. After all, it is easy for these outlets to praise her to serve their purposes now, when she is not running for anything.
The media picks our presidents. They craft the narrative and drive it home with each story they report. An exhausted public, scared and struggling, perhaps working several jobs if they are fortunate to be working at all, hasn’t the time to dig for the truth behind the spin.
Was there incompetence at senior staff levels and a lack of interagency communication or cooperation leading up to Benghazi? Yes, which has been reported and admitted. Were Ambassador Susan Rice’s Sunday talk show talking points in the run-up to the election nonsensical and deliberate? Surely. Could Republican denial of increased security funding have played a role? We may never know. Again, none of that matters in the larger scheme of things – horrid as that is. What winds up mattering is the pabulum that we are fed daily.
Many seem to suffer from short memories, so I am challenging those who don’t to file this away for three years. Come 2016, if Hillary Clinton indeed runs for the presidency and you see the self-same media outlets who now trumpet Hillary suddenly “remember” the horror of Benghazi and decide that she should be roasted over a spit for it, you’ll know that the other candidate is the one better willing to serve a corporate master – not her.
That should make voting interesting.
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