Mendacious or incompetent? That is the question that Senators McCain and Graham have been asking about Susan Rice — either she didn’t know that what she said on those five TV appearances about the movie-hating mob attacking the Benghazi consulate was not true, in which case she was incompetent, or she did, in which case she was lying, presumably at the White House’s bequest. Rice’s meeting with those senators yesterday, joined by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, appeared to amplify rather than eliminate those questions, but given its incredible (literally) coverage of that meeting that same question now needs to asked of the New York Times.
In their front page article, “Rice Concedes Error on Libya; GOP Digs In,” reporters Mark Landler and Jeremy W. Peters write:
WASHINGTON — Susan E. Rice may have hoped that paying a conciliatory call on three hostile Senate Republicans on Tuesday would smooth over a festering dispute about the deadly attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and clear a roadblock to her nomination as secretary of state.
But the senators seemed anything but mollified, signaling instead that they would still oppose Ms. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, if she is nominated by President Obama, even after she conceded errors in the account of the assault she gave on Sunday morning television programs shortly after it occurred in September….
In a statement after the meeting, Ms. Rice said she incorrectly described the attack in Benghazi, which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, as a spontaneous protest gone awry rather than a premeditated terrorist attack. But she said she based her remarks on the intelligence then available — intelligence that changed over time.
“Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in the process,” said Ms. Rice, who was accompanied at the 10 a.m. meeting by the acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Michael J. Morell.
According to the Times, in short, those highly partisan, ideologically rigid Republicans are determined to cook Rice even after her “conciliatory” approach to them and acknowlegement of error, if in fact relying on what the intelligence agencies told her was error.
Now compare the above story to what one of the senators in the meeting, Kelly Ayotte, told reporters, as reported by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post:
[Ayotte] credited Rice with saying up front that the “spontaneous demonstration” story was wrong, but then she began a detailed discussion of the questions that are multiplying. She noted that Rice had used the unclassified talking points. She however continued, “But as part of her responsibilities she receives daily intelligence briefings and in fact got them 6 days a week.” That classified intelligence included the phrase later deleted from the unclassified talking points that “individuals with ties to Al Qaeda were involved in the attacks.” Rice noted that not only did she leave that out, but that on Meet the Press and Face the Nation, ”She also made the statement Al Qaeda had been decimated.” That Ayotte said leaves a “very different impression” with the American people than what she knew to be the truth.
In short, prior to the meeting Ayotte didn’t know if Rice only had access to the unclassified talking points. Now she knows Rice had the accurate and complete story and is left with “many questions that have to be answered.”
Apparently the New York Times still doesn’t know that Rice had access to the classified and accurate intelligence reports well before her parade before the Sunday TV cameras purveying a different and false story.
Or maybe, like Rice, it knows and is just choosing to tell a different story.