Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's testimony on the Benghazi consulate attack.
Prior to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's diagnosis of a blood clot, some conservative critics mocked her for having the "benghazi flu" after she suffered a concussion. Now there are demands of an apology from those who said Mrs. Clinton was faking her illness to avoid testifying about the Benghazi tragedy. This morning host of CNN's Reliable Sources and Washington Bureau Chief at Newsweek- Daily Beast Howard Kurtz and Daily Beast contributor and Editor in Chief of the Daily Download Lauren Ashburn join “Starting Point” to discuss whether there should be boundaries on political mockery when someone's health is involved.
Kurtz says that while Clinton’s critics probably feel some embarrassment, “There is a media and political culture now of meanness that kind of rewards this stuff.” He adds, “if you’re some public figure, if you’re some back benching member of congress if you’re some wannabe pundit the more outrageous you are, the meaner you are the more incendiary you are, the more you’re likely to get on TV or be retweeted.” Kurtz goes on to say that it is important to “make a distinction between… the normal political lampooning which goes back to the early days of the Republic and this kind of mean-spirited” behavior in modern-day politics.
Ashburn says this “culture of meanness” has always existed but, “with social media its amplified.” She adds, “You have people who do not have to put their names and attach their names to something that they say that is hateful.”
While Kurtz stresses that everyone should get their say he says the claims “the Secretary of State was making up the fact that she had a concussion – that’s just defensive.” Ashburn adds that perhaps “people don’t realize that if they’re on TV that they’ve gone a little bit too far…they’re looking for the sound bite, the ‘Benghazi flu’ sound bite and then they maybe step off and say ‘wow I think I just called her a liar.”
With President Barack Obama’s upcoming inauguration around the corner some politicians and pundits have already began to look towards 2016. Ashburn says in Clinton’s case there are many who believe she will run for president and “people are already beginning the attack” and laying the groundwork for the 2016 election.
On Tuesday a 39-page review of the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was released. The blistering report blames "systemic failures" at the State Department for the terrorist attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi which resulted in the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. An independent review board concluded that the security at the facility was "grossly inadequate" and officials in Washington, D.C. ignored "repeated requests" to beef up personnel there. The report also said there was a "lack of transparency, responsiveness and leadership at the senior levels," in Washington, Tripoli and Benghazi. This morning Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) joins “Starting Point” to weigh in on the report as well as the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington.
Cole says the independent report is a very “damning indictment on State Department performance.” Some parts of the report however point fingers toward Congress and the spending cuts they approved but Cole says, “There’s usually a lot of latitude within the State Department budget about where they put resources. So giving the State Department less money doesn’t mean there’s less money for security. It means maybe they should reprioritize where they’re putting some of their dollars.” He adds, “There’s clearly a lot of blame to go around” but that “the administration is responsible here. That’s what the executive branch does is run these departments and in this case frankly they failed and it had tragic consequences.”
The report also states that the board found no U.S. government employee engaged in misconduct and as a result did not recommend any individual be disciplined. In response to this Cole says, “When you don’t say somebody was responsible – there were all these failures, it was a terrible situation but nobody was responsible – that just doesn’t square with the facts… and somebody didn’t get the job done.”
On the topic of the fiscal cliff Cole says, “I think the two sides are still a ways apart…but I think at the end of the day if you look at where both sides were Friday and where they were yesterday morning the differences are narrower in the last 72 hours.” He adds that’s the latest negotiations “doesn’t mean we have a solution but we’re moving toward one another.”
This morning on "Starting Point," Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) addresses the criticism of Amb. Susan Rice in the wake of the September attack on a U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He explains why he signed a letter with 97 lawmakers in the House standing against Rice as a possible candidate for Secretary of State.
"From where I sit right now, the credibility for Susan Rice to be our Secretary of State has been damaged by this," Rep. Burgess says. "It may have been damaged by the administration itself. It may have been an error for the administration to put her out there rather than someone from the State Department or rather than a campaign spokesperson."
"But what it appeared to - to the great masses out here is that Susan Rice was put out there to place a story line into the - into the print or into the national media that was, in fact, inconsistent with the facts. And that is something that has been very, very difficult for her to get around," he adds.
Rep. Burgess also criticizes media outlets for not showing more scrutiny in the days after the attack in Benghazi.
"I don't understand why - why you in the media have not been more critical of the fact that your outlets were used in a way to put forward information that, you know, everybody now believes was not correct and we believe it was known that it was not correct at the time it was put out there. So that's what's so troubling about this," Rep. Burgess says.
Soledad counters that media outlets in general have been working to figure out what happened in Benghazi, and as is now reported members of the intelligence community have said that they gave Rice talking points that were altered. Soledad asks if the intelligence community should bear the bulk of the blame.
"Well, it had to fit within the narrative of the President's campaign at the time that al Qaeda was on the run. It was no longer a threat. So to have put someone out there, saying al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia was responsible for this or was sponsored by al Qaeda that would have been - they would have fit with the narrative that had been really the main talking point since the Democratic convention," Rep. Burgess says.
Soledad asks if race or sexism has anything to do with the criticism against Amb. Rice. Rep. Burgess says that's "absolutely false."
Rush transcript available after the jump.
This morning on "Starting Point," Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) addresses criticism against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and her handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in September. He says he's frustrated by the criticism and implies there may be a racial component behind the attacks when terms like 'incompetent.'
“These are code words," Rep. Clyburn tells Soledad O'Brien. "We heard them during the campaign. During this recent campaign, we heard Sununu calling our President ‘lazy,’ ‘incompetent.’ These kinds of terms that those of us – especially those of us who were born and raised in the South – we’ve been hearing these little words and phrases all of our lives and we get insulted by them. Susan Rice is as competent as anybody that you will find."
"I don’t like those words. Say that she was wrong for doing it, but don’t call her incompetent. That is something totally different. A lot of very competent people sometimes make errors, and to say that she erroneously did it, I don’t have a problem with it. But to call her incompetent, a Ph.D. Rhodes Scholar, being called incompetent by someone who can’t hold a candle to her intellectually," he says.
"By someone who said, and Senator McCain called her incompetent as well. But he told us that Sarah Palin was a very competent person to be Vice President of the United States. That ought to tell you a little bit about his judgment,” Clyburn adds.