Tonight, Bret Baier of Fox News -- y'know, one of the channel's "serious" news people -- interviewed Hillary Clinton. Mediaite has posted a clip from the interview under the headline "Fox's Bret Baier Relentlessly Hammers Hillary Clinton on Benghazi." We're told that Baier "kicked off Tuesday's joint interview with Hillary Clinton by grilling on the details of the 2012 attack in Benghazi and did not let up eight solid minutes."
"The details of the attack"? No, not exactly.
I'm sorry I can't embed the clip, but Baier and Clinton spend the first minute and a half discussing the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala. There's the expected attempted gotcha -- as the Mediaite story explains, "Baier wanted to know why it took so long to arrest the alleged 'mastermind' of the attack when he had been 'hiding in plain sight.'"
That has nothing to do with the attack itself. And check out Baier's subsequent questions. I've transcribed them all below, except for his follow-up remarks. Notice that not one of these questions is about the attack, or about embassy security. Every single question is an attempt to nail either Hillary Clinton or President Obama for some stateside failing during or after the attack, an attempt to parse a timeline that's intimately familiar to dwellers of the right-wing fever swamps. The people who actually did the killing completely disappear from Baier's line of questioning:
You write in your book that as the attack is happening you're on the seventh floor of the State Department, and then you go to your Washington home, still in direct communication. Your deputy assistant secretary Charlene Lamb testified before Congress that on the night she was in the diplomatic security command center in Washington, was in real-time contact with the diplomatic security agency -- agent, rather -- who was manning the tactical operations center on the grounds in Benghazi. He had alerted the embassy in Tripoli, the CIA, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in Washington. Did you talk to Charlene Lamb that evening?What does this obsession with the minutiae of the administration's acts mean? It means that, to Fox News and its audience, Khattala and his allies aren't the real villains of Benghazi. The people who actually did the killing are an afterthought, because Obama, Clinton, and Rice are the true criminals. (It's no surprise that a Fox News host would say that the capture is "Good news ... I guess.")
Did you talk to Secretary Panetta that night?
Madam Secretary, in your testimony before the Senate on Benghazi in January 2013, you stated this: quote, "I certainly did not know of any reports that contradicted the intelligence community talking points at the time that Ambassador Rice went on the TV shows," the Sunday shows. Do you stand by that statement?
In the Benghazi chapter, you acknowledge that on the night of the attacks you received a State Department operations center bulletin in which -- in the book you say it's a report -- that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility. How did that report come to you?
The timeline suggests President Obama -- you had a conversation on the phone, roughly around ten P.M. Do you talk to him before you put out a statement or after?
Do you know where the president was through the attack?
One last Benghazi question from Baier:
Either before or after that, at 10:07 you put out this press release saying, quote, "I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.But let me be clear: there is never any justification for violent acts of this kind." Did you talk about the video with President Obama?This is about the initial (and, it turns out, apparently accurate) administration assertion that the YouTube "Innocence of Muslims" video inspired the attack, a notion makes Foxsters see red. But it's also Baier's attempt to portray Clinton and Obama as Islamophile fifth columnists.
Of course, there's nothing in this statement that wouldn't have been said by onetime Fox hero George W. Bush, who, in case you've forgotten, made a habit of asserting that Islam is a wonderful religion. Bush's administration took pains to post a collection of his quotes on Islam on WhiteHouse.gov; they're still archived. They include the following:
America treasures the relationship we have with our many Muslim friends, and we respect the vibrant faith of Islam which inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality.Any one of those statements would have set off howling if put forth by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. From Bush? No problem.
Islam brings hope and comfort to millions of people in my country, and to more than a billion people worldwide. Ramadan is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefited mankind.
Islam is a faith that brings comfort to people. It inspires them to lead lives based on honesty, and justice, and compassion.