September 30, 2012

More Obama Reelect-Presumptive Coverage at the Politico: ‘America’s Next Top Diplomat’ As Susan Rice or Kerry

Does anyone remember anybody in the establishment press speculating over who might hold Cabinet positions during a second Bush 43 term in the fall of 2004 without qualifying it with “if Bush is reelected”? Neither do I.

But at the Politico on Thursday, the closest Josh Rogin got in an item found at the web site’s “The Cable” section speculating on whether John Kerry or Susan Rice is better positioned to be Obama’s nominee to be “America’s next top diplomat” (i.e., Secretary of State) was quoting a Republican Senate aide who merely referred to the possible fireworks “if it’s the beginning of a second Obama term.” That doesn’t even qualify as a qualifier either, because a victorious Obama might attempt to confirm a new nominee to replace Hillary Clinton during a lame-duck session. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):

Kerry, Rice position themselves on Benghazi attack

The two most discussed candidates to be America’s next top diplomat now find themselves on opposite sides of the Libya issue, with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the role of defending the administration’s narrative and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) promising tough congressional oversight while giving the State Department room to conduct its own investigation.

As the controversy over the administration’s handling of the issue grows, Rice’s comments on the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi are coming under increasing attack. Her insistence on a number of Sunday talk shows Sept. 16 that, according to the best information available at the time, the attack was an unplanned assault and the result of an anti-Islam video is facing harsh criticism from senators. Administration officials, including most recently Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have since called it a “terrorist attack,” and even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has indicated that al Qaeda affiliated groups were involved.

“First of all, there’s an FBI investigation which is ongoing and we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired. But putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video,” Rice said Sept. 16 on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) accused Rice of jumping the gun and disseminating false information about the attack in a letter Wednesday by quoting Rice’s comments selectively, leaving out the context where she caveated the information as being based on initial assessments.

Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), has taken a far more cautious position on the Benghazi attack, joining with his Senate colleagues in calling for transparency and accountability from the administration but not going so far as to criticize the Obama administration’s handling of the issue outright.

… Privately, however, Kerry has been pressing the administration for answers.

… Already, GOP offices on Capitol Hill say they are preparing to focus on the Benghazi issue if Rice were nominated to succeed Clinton.

“Benghazi is now to Rice what Syria is to John Kerry,” one senior GOP Senate aide told The Cable, alluding to Kerry’s controversial past statements about Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.”Senators feel misled and given the emotions surrounding this issue. I can’t imagine a Rice nomination sailing through without a floor fight. And if it’s the beginning of a second Obama term, he will not want a battle over his nominee, which could weaken him right out of the gate.”

The most obvious question arising from all of this is: “What is (or has been) the administration’s narrative?”

It depends on who you ask and what day it is. As of two days ago, President Obama hadn’t yet characterized the Benghazi attacks as terrorism. Katrino Trinko at National Review noted on Thursday that “no official used the term ‘terrorism’ until September 19th, when National Counterterrorism Center director Matthew Olsen said in a congressional testimony, ‘I would say yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.’” If this were a Republican or conservative administration, the press would be treating this situation as a group  of people “freelancing” with foreign policy “in disarray.” But not now.

As to Kerry, what a cynical opportunist. He won’t criticize the administration “publicly,” but “privately” — so “private” that a Politico reporter knows it and spreads the word around to those who need to know for nomination protection purposes — he’s really, really going after the truth. Give me a break.

But of course, Rogin never, ever notes that his coverage of the political maneuvering may all be for naught if Barack Obama isn’t reelected. The press’s presumptive “Obama is inevitable” narrative cannot be disturbed.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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