Sunday, November 18, 2012

NYT's Maureen Dowd Plays Inside Beltway Game

HAS ANYONE READ MAUREEN DOWD'S LATEST COLUMN, "IS RICE COOKED"? The title, by itself, is revealing, and it's more interesting than most of Dowd's usual fluff of clever phrases and breezy, opinionated assessments of her subjects. This time, Dowd was actually fed information on "background" by "one administration official" and "one intelligence official" who signaled their desire to throw UN Ambassador Susan Rice under the bus, through Dowd's more than willing and flattered auspices. The "beheaded Head Spook David Petraeus" (visions of Ichabod Crane) — who did speak on the record at those not-so-closed sessions of the intelligence committees —
"said the C.I.A. knew quickly that the Benghazi raid was a terrorist attack.

“It was such a no-brainer,” one intelligence official (emphasis mine) told me." [Oh, really?]
Maureen is obviously getting a rise out of playing the inside Beltway cloakroom-and-backstab-dagger "spook" game, with her precious anonymous sources ... and everything. Obviously, the vermin who spoke to Dowd anonymously (one, a Petraeus, possibly GOP, loyalist, and the other, who knows, an administration double- or triple-agent) have their own ox to gore, which is to throw Susan Rice under the bus. But here's the kicker: All of a sudden, Dowd embellishes by feeding us largely unsubstantiated "dirt" on Susan Rice. Whose conclusion was it that Rice, "[a]mbitious to be secretary of state ... wanted to prove she had the gravitas for the job and help out the White House"?

Perhaps Susan Rice was the designated point person, period, rather than her boss Hillary Clinton, our current Secretary of State. Could it be that the administration did not wish to elevate the profile of its response, while they were still gathering intelligence on the matter? So rather than send out their heavy hitter, Hillary, with sketchy talking points, they designated their junior diplomat for the job, in the spirit of informing the public of what they (the intelligence agencies) knew at the time, and could divulge. Government bureaucracies typically respond in this fashion; longstanding protocols dictate it, with nothing more nefarious going on. Actually, a departure from established protocol would be the more unusual response.

Instead, Dowd the intelligence and foreign policy expert, claims:
"An Africa expert, Rice should have realized that when a gang showed up with R.P.G.’s and mortars in a place known as a hotbed of Qaeda sympathizers and Islamic extremist training camps, it was not anger over a movie. She should have been savvy enough to wonder why the wily Hillary was avoiding the talk shows."(Emphasis mine.)
Please. First of all, Maureen should have been well enough informed that Libya, post-Qaddafhi, is a country teeming with RPGs, mortars, and weapons of all sorts; a virtual arsenal, which is of great concern to the U.S. It does not follow that their use alone signaled an organized Al Qaeda attack, at least in the initial stages. And that is precisely the intelligence that was provided to Amb. Rice. Secondly, as stated above, the "wily" Secretary of State was following established protocol by not weighing in on the attack until more was known.

Maureen's flights of fancy don't stop here, though. She tells us "[s]ome have wondered if Rice, who has a bull-in-a-china-shop reputation, is diplomatic enough for the top diplomatic job." C'mon, Dowd. CUT THE BULLSHIT. First of all, I love it when members of the Beltway commentariat refer to "some" people, as if it's common knowledge that they are expert analysts with irrefutable inside knowledge. For all we know, "some" of these people could be Chuck Todd, or Moron Joe, or Mark Halperin, or Dick Morris. Get my drift?

Secondly, Susan Rice's supposed "bull-in-a-china-shop reputation" is the first I've heard of it. Not that we, the informed public, follow Amb. Rice's career at the UN that closely, but the President's laudatory adjectives — "exemplary" and "grace" — describing her are certainly much closer to her public image. Word of advice, Maureen: If you're going to use such charged language, please provide specific examples. After all, you write for the venerable New York Times. Maybe a note to their ombudsman is in order.

Dowd's fantasies, no doubt propelled by her pet anonymous Susan Rice backstabbers, continued with unfounded speculation of "zealous" White House staffers with a "tendency to gild the lily" and cast the President in a more "flattering" light vis-a-vis Al Qaeda. She speculated breathlessly, "[d]id administration officials foolishly assume that if affiliates of Al Qaeda were to blame, it would dilute the credit the president got for decimating Al Qaeda?"

It seems an absurd premise, given that the attack was widely described (1) as an intelligence failure, so the President's actions were not at fault, and (2) the administration has always cautioned, or issued the caveat, that while Al Qaeda may be "decimated" its operational capability, particularly in the region, is not. Therefore, we should not take our foot off the accelerator in going after them.

Maureen is apparently baffled by the "virile flare" of the President's "fierce defense" of Amb. Rice. Once again acting as mouthpiece for her pet anonymous Rice backstabbers, she argues the President "might have been better off leaving it to aides, so he did not end up going mano a mano with his nemesis John McCain on an appointment he hasn’t even made (though now Obama might feel compelled to, just to prove that he can’t be pushed around), and so he could focus on fiscal cliff bipartisanship."

In short, the President should have thrown Amb. Rice under the bus, rather than tackle his formidable "nemesis" John McCain. Funny, but to most of us outside observers, the President's "nemesis" has come across as an embittered, pathetic old fool, who is no match for the President's ire. Moreover, the President's reaction wouldn't be so baffling, rather a normal and human expression of anger if he actually believes Amb. Rice wasn't playing for "venerable" but following instructions from her boss. Being a good soldier Rice got a raw deal from an old fart calling for her scalp. One can see how the President would be pissed in such circumstances. Here's Maureen's grand finale:
"His argument that Rice “had nothing to do with Benghazi,” raises the question: Then why was she the point person? [ASKED AND ANSWERED, DOWD.]

The president’s protecting a diplomatic damsel in distress made Rice look more vulnerable, when her reason for doing those shows in the first place was to look more venerable."
Really? Nice alliteration, Maureen, but you have missed the point: As the saying goes, "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

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