The Washington Post editorial board is quite upset with “Republicans and conservative media obsessed” with the “phony” issue of the administration’s misleading public explanation of the nature of the attacks in Benghazi. In a lengthy editorial, the Post makes a haughtier and more condescending version of a complaint we’ve heard from others. So it’s worth a response.
The piece begins with a complaint that critics charged that “Susan E. Rice ‘willfully or incompetently misled the American public’ when she appeared on news programs Sept. 16 and described the attackers as having emerged from a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video.” That argument is wrong, the Post avers, because “it was established that Ms. Rice was simply repeating talking points prepared by the intelligence community.”
That’s incorrect, and for an editorial devoted to much harrumphing that “actual facts don’t seem to matter much to the scandal mongers,” it’s an inauspicious start.
It has not “been established” that Rice was simply repeating talking points prepared by the intelligence community. While the IC wrote the original draft, the version provided Rice before her Sunday show appearances had been heavily rewritten following objections from the State Department. In an internal CIA email, an official from the Office of Public Affairs cited “major reservations” from the State Department and reported “we revised the document with their concerns in mind.”
In all, objections from Obama officials resulted in all or part of four paragraphs of the six-paragraph talking points being removed. That’s 148 of 248 words. These were not simply “talking points prepared by the intelligence community.” (The Post later implicitly concedes the point, when it asks: “So why were those talking points eventually edited?”)
Beyond that, even a cursory look at Rice’s Sunday show performances demonstrates that she did far more than simply repeat the scrubbed talking points. Instead, she offered a narrative that went well beyond them, built on misleading claims that an anti-Islam YouTube video led to the violence in Benghazi that evolved into an attack. “What sparked the violence was a very hateful video on the Internet. It was a reaction to a video that had nothing to do with the United States.” None of the drafts of the talking points mentions a video. And aside from two passing mentions – once on a list of cables and once as a subject line of an email describing a White House meeting – neither does it appear in the nearly 100 pages of email discussions released this week by the administration. If the video were, in fact, the proximate cause of the Benghazi attacks, one imagines it might have come up.
So, the talking points Rice used weren’t simply “prepared by the intelligence community,” and the YouTube video she emphasized wasn’t in the talking points.
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Among the questions the Internal Revenue Service asked an pro-life conservative group in Iowa: What do you pray about? Chris Moody at Yahoo! Newshas the story:
On June 22, 2009, the Coalition for Life of Iowa received a letter from the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio that oversees tax exemptions requesting details about how often members pray and whether their prayers are "considered educational."
"Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood, are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3)," reads the letter, made public by the Thomas More Society, a public interest law firm that collected evidence about the IRS practices. "Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organizations spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization."
The IRS is currently under fire for allegedly targeting conservative groups that applied for non-profit status in recent years. In response, two IRS officials have stepped down, including Acting Commissioner Steven Miller.
She made the announcement hours before the first day of a two-day state Republican convention. She becomes the fourth formal GOP candidate for the spot, with U.S. Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston.
Handel's campaign had sent strong signals that she wouldn't enter the race this week, but that was before businessman David Perdue, also a Republican, announced the formation of an exploratory committee. Handel and Perdue share some of the same support.
Handel, the AJC's Jim Galloway goes on to note, struggled to gain support among pro-life voters in her 2010 bid for governor, leading her to lose a close primary match-up against Nathan Deal. But Handel's subsequent work at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, during which she endorsed the group pulling back from supporting Planned Parenthood, earned Handel nationwide recognition among conservatives.
Galloway has Handel's whole statement, below:
I have been incredibly fortunate and blessed in my life. Only in America could I have the life I have. I'm running for U.S. Senate because I want to make sure that the next young person who ends up on his or her own at 17 will have the opportunity to prosper and achieve. But that won't happen unless we make some big changes in Washington.
“States, especially those with Republican governors, are doing a good job -- they are balancing budgets with targeted spending cuts, creating jobs, and tackling tax reform. The biggest problems we face today are in Washington, and that's where we so desperately need fresh thinking, bold solutions, and real leadership.
“Out of control spending has left us with a crushing debt. It's time to deal with it and stop kicking the can down the road -- this cannot be the legacy we leave to future generations. So many Georgians are still unemployed or underemployed. To really unleash our economic potential, we need prosperity driven by free market solutions -- not prosperity propped up with government spending and bailouts. Businesses, especially our small businesses, need government to get off their backs and out of the way, so that they can do what they do best: innovate and create jobs.
“Georgians want a conservative Senator with the courage to take on the status quo, to fight for them and our constitutional ideals, to be accountable to them -- and not Washington.”
In his prepared remarks on the IRS’s targeting of his political opponents, President Obama said that “we’re going to hold the responsible parties accountable,” but only once we determine “who is responsible.” In today’s Wall Street Journal, Kim Strassel offers some helpful thoughts on determining responsibility, writing that it’s really not all that hard — and, indeed, it’s not.
According to the IRS’s own website, “The IRS is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury.” Under the heading, “Statutory Authority,” the IRS site reads:
“The IRS is organized to carry out the responsibilities of the secretary of the Treasury under section 7801 of the Internal Revenue Code. The secretary has full authority to administer and enforce the internal revenue laws and has the power to create an agency to enforce these laws. The IRS was created based on this legislative grant.”
The Department of the Treasury, in turn, was established in 1789, the same year that the government under our Constitution began. The Treasury website reads,
“The First Congress of the United States was called to convene in New York on March 4, 1789, marking the beginning of government under the Constitution. On September 2, 1789, Congress created a permanent institution for the management of government finances:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be a Department of Treasury, in which shall be the following officers, namely: a Secretary of the Treasury, to be deemed head of the department; a Comptroller, an Auditor, a Treasurer, a Register, and an Assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury, which assistant shall be appointed by the said Secretary.”
As this language suggests, Congress was empowered to establish the Department of the Treasury and the offices that would compose its leadership. However, the decisions about who should fill those posts (made with the advice and consent of the Senate), and the responsibility for how to run the department (or any executive department), was not Congress’s to grant. Rather, that power was granted by the Constitution itself, which reads, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”
So, in short, the IRS is a part of the Treasury Department, the Treasury Department exercises a part of the executive power, the executive power — in its entirety — is vested in the president, and Barack Obama is president.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says it's "been a good week." He made the comment to the New York Times.
“Honestly, I find it enjoyable,” Carney says of coming under fire this week . “I find it challenging. It’s hard, but it’s better than 45 to 60 minutes of calling on reporters who are kind of sleepy and disinterested. For me personally, it has been a good week.”
The pressures began two weeks ago with the growing controversy over the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, in which four Americans were killed.
Mr. Carney is far from the center of that controversy. But Republicans turned their focus on his November assertion that the administration’s original talking points on the episode, “originated from the intelligence community,” further insisting that the White House edited only a couple of words in the memo.
Recently revealed e-mails demonstrate a more coordinated process in which the White House and State Department were intimately involved. While Mr. Carney “appreciated” the questions about the inconsistencies, he did little to clear them up.
“The downside for Jay on this is his own, repeated statements are cast under a considerable cloud,” said Ann Compton of ABC News Radio, who has covered the White House since 1974. “The flip side is he does not appear to be a policy voice arguing on behalf of fuzzing up the facts.”
The tensions continued with Mr. Carney’s defense of the White House in the investigation over whether the I.R.S. inappropriately targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny and his push back on questions relating to the the seizure of telephone records of Associated Press journalists, over which the press relentlessly grilled him.
Carney told the paper he doesn't "take it personally."
At a Capitol Hill hearing today, IRS commissioner Steven Miller said a bigger budget would be helpful:
A congressman asked, "What do you need to make it so that this wouldn't have happened?"
"So there are two things, sir," said Miller. "And I appreciate the kind words for our people because we are incredibly hard working and honest group, frankly, and that seems to be forgotten in all of this. With respect to political activity, it would be a wonderful thing to get better rules, to get more clear rules. And in terms of our ability to get to this work it would be good to have a little budget that would allow us to get more than the number of people we have to do 70,000 applications and to do our job and looking at whether an organization is tax exempt or not."
Another celebration planned at the White House. This one will take place next week, and will honor Carole King:
PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY TO HOST CONCERT HONORING
CAROLE KING IN THE EAST ROOM
Wednesday, May 22 * White House – As part of their “In Performance at the White House” series, the President and First Lady will host a concert in the East Room honoring singer-songwriter Carole King, who will be awarded the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. President Obama will present the award as he did when the Library of Congress honored Stevie Wonder (2009), Sir Paul McCartney (2010), and the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David (2012). The program will include performances by King, as well as Gloria Estefan, Billy Joel, Jesse McCartney, Emeli Sandé, James Taylor and Trisha Yearwood.
The President’s remarks will be pooled press and the entire event will be streamed live on www.whitehouse.gov/live starting at 7:00 PM ET. “Carole King: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize In Performance at the White House” will be broadcast Tuesday, May 28 at 8:00 PM ET on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings). The program will also be broadcast at a later date via the American Forces Network to American service men and women and civilians at U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.
This will be the first time the Gershwin Prize honor has been awarded to a woman. The Gershwin Prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins.
The White House concert caps off two days of events celebrating the recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. On Tuesday, May 21st at 7:00 PM ET, the Library of Congress will host an invitation-only concert at their Coolidge Auditorium in honor of Carole King. The all-star tribute will include performances by Patti Austin, Colbie Caillat, Michael Feinstein, Siedah Garrett, Louise Goffin, Shelby Lynne, Gian Marco, Arturo Sandoval and a special performance by honoree Carole King. This event will be open to press, but space is limited. Members of the media who wish to cover this event must contact Sheryl Cannady ...
NBC's Lisa Myers reported this morning that the IRS deliberately chose not to reveal that it had wrongly targeted conservative groups until after the 2012 presidential election:
The IRS commissioner "has known for at least a year that this was going on," said Myers, "and that this had happened. And did he share any of that information with the White House? But even more importantly, Congress is going to ask him, why did you mislead us for an entire year? Members of Congress were saying conservatives are being targeted. What's going on here? The IRS denied it. Then when -- after these officials are briefed by the IG that this is going on, they don't disclose it. In fact, the commissioner sent a letter to Congress in September on this subject and did not reveal this. Imagine if we -- if you can -- what would have happened if this fact came out in September 2012, in the middle of a presidential election? The terrain would have looked very different."
On TV this morning, Bob Woodward made the case for not dismissing Benghazi and compared the scandal to Watergate:
"You were talking earlier about kind of dismissing the Benghazi issue as one that's just political and the president recently said it's a sideshow," said Woodward. "But if you read through all these e-mails, you see that everyone in the government is saying, 'Oh, let's not tell the public that terrorists were involved, people connected to al Qaeda. Let's not tell the public that there were warnings.' I hate to show, this is one of the documents with the editing that one of the people in the state department said, 'Oh, let's not let these things out.' And I have to go back 40 years to Watergate when Nixon put out his edited transcripts to the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, 'Oh, let's not tell this, let's not show this.' I would not dismiss Benghazi. It's a very serious issue. As people keep saying, four people were killed. You look at the hydraulic pressure that was in the system to not tell the truth, and, you know, we use this term and the government uses this term, talking points. Talking points, as we know, are like legal briefs. They're an argument on one side. What we need to get rid of talking point and they need to put out statements or papers that are truth documents. Okay, this is all we know."