scandalOne of the most popular dramas on  TV land today is Scandal.  Scandal is an American political thriller series starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.  Olivia and her team focuses on crisis management where she dedicates her life to protecting the public images of the nation’s elite and making sure their secrets never get out. Pope and her team seem to be able to resolve any scandal brought to her attention from murder to sensitive situations and issues involving the White House and other affluent politicians.  Olivia has so much clout that she is able to exert influence over some of the most influential political leaders in Washington including the Senate, Supreme Court and White House.Scandal, however, is nothing more than a series of made up events to entertain its viewers similar to the made up “scandals” recently perpetuated by Senate and House Republican leaders as well as the extreme right-wing.

One Republican scandal involves the tragedy in Benghazi where four Americans were murdered.On May 10, 2013, ABC News commentator Jonathan Karl reported that they had “obtained 12 different versions of the talking points that show they were extensively edited as they evolved from the drafts first written entirely by the CIA to the final version distributed to Congress and to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice before she appeared on five talk shows.”  The changes made to the talking points, according to the report, appear to directly contradict what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said about them in November 2012. On the May 12 episode of ABC News This Week, Karl said that when then-CIA Director David Petraeus saw the final talking points the Saturday before Rice went on the Sunday talk shows he said they were “essentially useless.” Karl went on to quote from an e-mail in which Petraeus said of the talking points: “I would just as soon not use them, but it’s their [the White House’s] call.”  A “scandal” has developed.

In response to Republican pressure as well as respond to their “scandal” assertions, the White House released the entire set of emails related to the Benghazi media talking points.  The most provocative charge directed at the president was that to insulate himself in an election year, he and his team made up a fake story about a “spontaneous uprising” in Benghazi and downplayed intelligence that it could have been a premeditated attack by known terrorist organizations. However, the emails show a lot of CIA and State Department action but little White House involvement other than a minor non-substantive change. 

The Congressional Republicans argued that the Obama team put United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice on the Sunday talk shows to promote a lie about a link between the violence in Benghazi and the demonstrations in Cairo over an anti-Islamic video. However, the most consistent thing throughout the talking-point editing process was the first sentence of the CIA assessment: “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.”

This “scandal” relies on the premise that Obama administration officials pushed the idea of spontaneity to obscure the fact that they had missed warnings of a planned terrorist attack. But there’s no evidence in the emails that the idea of spontaneity was initiated by anyone associated with President Obama, the White House, or the president’s wider political fortunes.

Republicans also claimed that the president and his team removed the references to al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations as well as references to prior warnings about terrorist activity.  However, there is nothing in the emails to support that accusation.  In fact, the opposite is true. In the initial round of emails, one CIA official reported that the White House signed off right away on the full initial CIA assessment. “The White House cleared quickly, but State has major concerns,” reads an email that a CIA official sent to CIA director Petraeus.  The White House did not have a problem with the talking points mentioning Ansar al-Sharia, al-Qaida, and that the CIA had produced numerous warnings about extremists in Benghazi. White House aides reviewed the talking points, made no substantive changes, and moved them along.

When the language does eventually change in the talking points, it is clear that it is at the request of State Department officials, not anyone in the White House. One State Department official writes, “Talked to [NSC spokesman] Tommy [Vietor], we can make edits.” This is hardly the vision of a campaign-obsessed Obama operation pushing a storyline. What’s clear from the email exchanges is that the State Department insisted on the certain changes that had nothing to do with the President or anyone else in the White House. 

Former Secretary Clinton accepted responsibility for the terror acts that occurred in Benghazi and the killing of four U.S. government personnel, and the State Department is implementing all of the recommendations by the Accountability Review Board that investigated and examined the facts surrounding the Benghazi attacks.  But Congress has to shoulder some of the blame because State Department requests for additional funding to “beef up” embassy were repeated denied.  So much for the “made-up” Benghazi scandal.



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