After watching this week's The PBS Newshour, it was really hard to decide which portion of this segment with David Brooks and his supposed "liberal" counterpart, Mark Shields, upset me the most. I think it would have to be the way Brooks almost nonchalantly brushed off the fact that the Bush administration did lie about the WMDs in Iraq and that it was not a failure by the intelligence agencies, but the Bush administration misrepresenting that intelligence.
Dick Cheney was out there making weekly visits to the CIA and pushing them to put out intelligence that fit the administration's justification for attacking Iraq, and any comparison between that and Susan Rice not putting out before the public information that might have compromised our intelligence assets in Libya is just ridiculous, to put it mildly. I'm sure Brooks knows better, but apparently he doesn't have enough respect for his audience to assume they do as well.
Right behind Brooks' revisionist history, we had Mark Shields first excusing Lindsey Graham's attacks on Susan Rice over the Benghazi drummed-up fake controversy, and telling the audience that it couldn't possibly be racism or sexism, because after all, Graham allowed Justices Kagan and Sotomayor to be appointed. Or in other words, it's the Stephen Colbert, I've got one black friend, so I can't be a racist excuse for why their attacks on her could not possibly be racist, or sexist.
And then there's Shields claiming that there are "liberal press people come out citing the shortcomings, personality shortcomings of Susan Rice." I assume the "liberal press people" he's talking about amount to one Dana Milbank, who wrote an op-ed which Kathleen Geier took down quite nicely at The Washington Monthly last week.
This is gratifying; Democratic women have gone to bat for UN Ambassador Susan Rice, defending her against racist, sexist attacks by conservative Republican critics. In case you missed it, as part of the right’s pathetic campaign to gin up a huge scandal over Benghazi, leading Republicans have lately been directing their fire at Rice. Their criticism has been not only nasty but unusually personal. John McCain, for example, called her “not very bright” and “not qualified.” Lindsay Graham portrayed her as a dizzy, delusional untrustworthy broad, alleging that “She is so disconnected from reality that I don’t trust her.” Both have pledged to do “whatever is in our power” to block Rice’s appointment as Secretary of State, should President Obama nominate her.
This isn’t the only heavy-handed, sexist, racist criticism that has been aimed at Rice. It’s not just conservative lawmakers who been going after Rice; the Villagers clearly have the knives out for her as well. Villager-in-good-standing Dana Millbank has impugned Rice’s allegedly “tarnished resume” and apparently finds her behavior most unladylike (though the euphemism he prefers to use is “undiplomatic”). Among Rice’s sins, according to Millbank, is this:
Back when she was an assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, she appalled colleagues by flipping her middle finger at Richard Holbrooke during a meeting with senior staff at the State Department, according to witnesses. Colleagues talk of shouting matches and insults.
Oh noes! Bring out the smelling salts! This stuff is especially odd coming from Millbank, known for writing nauseating fanboy drivel about Rahm Emanuel, a man not exactly famous for his dainty language or decorous approach to politics. Read on...
If PBS doesn't want themselves to be branded as Fox-lite, they might want to reconsider their weekly segments with Mark Shields and David Brooks, and include some actual liberal commentators to balance either of them, but I expect that to happen about the time hell freezes over.
Full transcript below the fold.
JEFFREY BROWN: Mark, he does, the president, that is, find himself still embroiled in this question of Benghazi, and particularly focused on Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador.
MARK SHIELDS: He does.
And just one point that David made I wanted to follow up on, and that is, the Arab spring has made it impossible for any leader -- Mubarak could really ignore Hamas.
But now, given the Arab spring and the democratization of policy, even though we see Mr. Morsi today sort of reversing that policy, proving that both elected and unelected leaders can be dictatorial, that Hamas got a preeminence and a prominence that it had not had before in this showdown, that we had Tunisia, we had Egypt, we had Turkey all basically endorsing, much to the demise and disadvantage of the Palestinian Authority and its decline.
So, I think that's a real -- the Benghazi thing is fascinating to me, basically because I think the charge against Lindsey Graham, for example, is unfair, that somehow he's driven by terminal sexism. This is a senator, a Republican senator from South Carolina, who did vote for the confirmation of Elena Kagan and for Justice Sotomayor as well.
JEFFREY BROWN: You're referring to him coming out against Susan Rice.
MARK SHIELDS: Coming out and threatening -- threatening this filibuster with John McCain, which I think is an irrational act on their part. I really do, not simply because presidents have an option and should have the benefit of the doubt on a confirmation to the Cabinet.
This isn't a judicial lifetime appointment. And I don't think either Senator Graham or Senator McCain was particularly vocal when Secretary Condoleezza Rice was nominated for that position, having been national security adviser, and predicted the arrival of the mushroom cloud because of the nuclear weapons that Iran -- that Iraq was then, under Saddam Hussein, harboring.
So, there seems to be a degree of irrationality. The president has now made it a big fight. And we have seen liberal press people come out citing the shortcomings, personality shortcomings of Susan Rice. I mean, it's just a -- it's sort of a bizarre season, and I can't figure out where this is going.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, David, what do you think? Why have Republicans made this such -- made her such a focal part and made this such a fight?
DAVID BROOKS: I guess my theory is that she's a sharp-tongued, blunt person, and, in the past, she has taken some shots at John McCain and others. And so this is their chance.
They have no wellspring of sympathy with her, the way they actually probably do with John Kerry, her potential rival to be the next secretary of state, having taken a bunch of delegation trips with Kerry around the world. And so I suspect there's a lot of old history here that is bubbling up.
Personally, I don't think it should be disqualifying if Obama decides to choose her as the next secretary of state. Listen, she's ambassador to U.N. She's not in charge of intelligence, and she's not in charge of intelligence reports.
It is simultaneously true that they do seem to have scrubbed the intelligence report that she got of any al-Qaida mention. That was probably done within the intelligence community herself.
Her job as U.N. ambassador was just to tell what that intelligence report said on the Sunday shows, and that's what she did.
So, I don't think there's any reason to disqualify her based on anything that's happened in the last year. And, frankly, I guess I would cut her a little slack for some of the political attacks she's taken. So, I guess I don't agree with Graham and McCain on this one.
But if you're going to be a diplomat, you should probably be diplomatic all the way around.
DAVID BROOKS: And if not, you're going to come in for a little criticism.
JEFFREY BROWN: Right.
MARK SHIELDS: And Benghazi has almost taken on a Yalta-like fascination, or who lost China. I mean, that it seems to -- there's no question there are legislate questions about why the security was so inadequate, but the idea that this was some master conspiracy hatched in some foreign capital just seems a little bit beyond...
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, guys, I just...
DAVID BROOKS: I...
JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead. David, you wanted to jump in?
DAVID BROOKS: Oh, I just would say I think this is echoes of the WMD thing, where the Bush administration was accused of lying when I think they were just being led by -- misled by intelligence, and now they're trying to put the glove on the other hand.