Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I haven't been able to watch the Benghazi hearings, but I've checked my Twitter feed, and the lefties who've been watching are 100% convinced that Hillary Clinton has been wiping the floor with the Republicans who are trying to take her down.

The righties in my feed have a very different perspective. They have what they want: a soundbite they can rip from context and use as a cudgel to beat the administration and Secretary Clinton with. I'm not sure if they really expect their efforts to color mainstream coverage of this story, but it's clear that that's what they're hoping. They have a new "you didn't build that," a new "spread the wealth around," and they're going to wring everything they can out of it.

Clinton erupted as Senator Ron Johnson tried to press her on why details about the nature of the attack weren't released sooner.
"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," she said. "Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator. Now, honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this. The fact is that people were trying, in real time, to get to the best information."
The point of this is: Look, bad guys killed our people. You're arguing about whether the nature of the attack was initially mischaracterized. I just want the bad guys found and brought to justice, no matter how the attack unfolded.

But, of course, the ripped-from-context quote is "What difference, at this point, does it make?" It's already being seized on by National Review and Fox News and The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard and Glenn Beck's Blaze and Michelle Malkin's Twitchy and the Free Beacon and, of course, Breitbart. There's already a popular hashtag, #whatdifferencedoesitmake.

Now, sometimes these things never attain any more than shibboleth status -- they're secret codewords right-wingers use whenever they talk about a particular Antichrist of theirs. This will definitely attain that status -- years from now, when Hillary publishes her memoirs or announces a run for president, folks on winger message boards will write "What difference does it make?" and not even bother to put the phrase in context, because all the like-minded readers will just know.

But sometimes these things do more damage. Sometimes they really do color how a story is covered outside the right-wing bubble. Will that happen this time? Will the wingers be able to turn this decontextualized soundbite into a deceptive sign of Secretary Clinton's indifference?

This is an Andrew Breitbart/James O'Keefe tactic, but its use is not limited to O'Keefe and the carriers of the Breitbart torch -- this is a mainstream GOP tactic. The entire party and all its coat-holders are on board.

Here's the soundbite in context. The attempt to distort what Clinton said may not be more than a minor irritant. But righties are going to work this for quite a while.


trnc said...

Even with our craptastic media, I find it hard to believe that Hillary's comment would affect her more than rand's "worst tragedy" comment would affect him (assuming he runs). Only the wingnuts will completely overlook the context for her, but who can listen to what rand said in context and not realize what a clown he is?

Even if she's up against a relative einstein among repubs, Benghazi lost it's potency as an issue at prez debate 2 last year.

Steve M. said...

(assuming he runs)

Oh, Rand's totally running for president. Hardly a day goes by that he doesn't say something intended to garner national attention.

but who can listen to what rand said in context and not realize what a clown he is?

Well, thousands of GOP primary voters in 2016. But that's a rather odd population subgroup.

Victor said...

Well, I suggest that what Hillary just said, pales in comparison to what their former cowboy hero, George W. Bush, said about Osama bin Laden:

"Who knows if he’s hiding in some cave or not. We haven’t heard from him in a long time. The idea of focusing on one person really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. He’s just a person who’s been marginalized. … I don’t know where he is. I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you."

And, especially if you put what she said in the context of her whole statement to that rich doofus from WI.

Victor said...

Also too - 4 dead in Benghazi.

Almost 3,000 dead in NYC, DC, and PA.
And then tens of thousands of dead and wounded American military personnel.
And who knows how many in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Still want to discuss this, righties?

Unknown said...

It's plainly obvious that by "at this point" she means "at that point." The rest of her answer is pitched in the present tense, as in "at the moment of the attack."

Not that this, or anything regarding the security of the country, matters to the GOP.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes. The "c" word, context. That thing with which wingnuts have trouble. That, and humor.

Deuce Geary said...

You're full of BS. Almost every one of those media links that you posted quoted at least as much of the exchange as you did, and often more. The video clip at The Blaze is nearly 5 minutes long. There is nothing out of context, unless you are arguing that headlines with a "grabber" are unethical.

Your characterization of her remarks is this: "Look, bad guys killed our people. You're arguing about whether the nature of the attack was initially mischaracterized. I just want the bad guys found and brought to justice, no matter how the attack unfolded."

I agree. That just proves she went for drama and avoided the issue of whether the nature of the attack was initially misrepresented.

Even if you assume she meant "What difference DID it make at THAT point" — which I think is a fair interpretation of her remark — that doesn't make her remarks any less alarming. The difference it makes is that the administration put out a picture that was far different than what it knew. What difference did it make? WTF?

Victor said...

So, Duece, baby, no big feckin' deal about those WMD, right?

"What difference, at this point, does it make?"
Apparently, not.

No "mushroom cloud" drama.
No little drones dropping anthrax over the North East.

What did THAT mis-administration know, and when did they know it, or not know it, but made the sh*t up?

Where was everone's offense at W's little reaction and "Crusade?"

See the relative body counts between Benghazi, and post 9/11.

At least the Obama administration didn't make sh*t up out of whole cloth.
Mistake were made.
Tragically, 4 died.
We're not looking avenge them. And, when Embassies and Consulates were attacked under W, there was no great hue and cry. Sure, no Ambassador died - but others did.

vanderleun said...

McCain's got your numb er: " ‘How Dare You Smear Hillary by Quoting Her Accurately!’"

Unknown said...

"So, Duece, baby, no big feckin' deal about those WMD, right?"

Well, Madame Secretary (and her probable successor) thought the WMD threat was real enough to vote "Yea" to attacking Iraq... or does that too fall under, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

nervich said...

Your second paragraph says it all. What has you heading for your fainting couch isn't what was said, but that someone not of your political stripe dare quote someone, accurately, in context. I find the meaning behind Hillary's comment quite clear: look, it's over, we tried like heck to mislead the country about it for a week or 2, but their really dead and stuff, so whatevs, right? You're only upset because it IS a damming quote, and can be used in context. Just like: 'you didn't build that,' or 'at some point, I think you've made enough money,' or 'spread the wealth around.'

ByondPolitics said...

Could you explain the whole "codeword" thing? Taken literally, it's, of course, preposterous on its face. In this case, Ms. Clinton in fact did say "What difference, at this point, does it make?" That's a poor choice of words, within its context. Just look at the previous sentence. I think most people think there is a difference between the two options she laid out.

Can you imagine someone else in a Congressional hearing making that statement? Could it have been said to someone raising Sarah Brady's concerns about guns? What if former Secy of State Rice had an angry outburst like that?

It was disrespectful and out-of-line for Sec'y of State Clinton to do it. Buy a clue.

John said...

This is breathtaking. In all honesty, she is being quoted from the transcript. And it IS in context. It matters because we were lied to for weeks by the Ambassador to the United Nations.

Unknown said...

"You're only upset because it IS a damming quote, and can be used in context. Just like: 'you didn't build that,' or 'at some point, I think you've made enough money,' or 'spread the wealth around.'"

I rest my case.

Uncle Mike said...

TC, you know as well as I that the evidence the White House showed (including the false testimony of Powell) was carefully cherry-picked (or downright falsified).

And if you don't know that, you're in the bubble.

Victor said...

Are you a feckin' twit?

Do you think that this Ms. Rice made up the sh*t that Condalisa, did?

The DOD, and CIA, and Homeland Security would have her read the exact same feckin' thing that they'd give the feckin' JANITOR, if he/she was the only spokesperson available.

What the feck is wrong with everyone?
No one knew wtf had happened right after it happened, and that was reflected by what the country was told.

Is that worse than the tons of misinformation that was purposely put forth by W and his "Three C's?" - Cheney, Condi, Colin?

This whole Benghazi mini-disaster is projection for a much, much, worse series of disasters.

Again, see the body counts above.

Hillary showed moxi, and didn't suffer fools like Rand Paul and Senator Johnson, gladly.
I like that.
And if you can provide proof to me that neither of those two male Senators are feckin' idjits, please let me know - I'd like to be reassured that almost half of our Senate isn't controlled by childish moronic male Nihilists.

repsac3 said...

You got their number and called 'em on it, Steve... ...and they don't seem to like it one little bit.

Anonymous said...

Love the initial responses on this post.

"So what if Hillary spent a week on false propaganda blaming a Youtube video? Republicans are bad too!!"

seems to be the only argument you have.

Liri said...

Like W. James Casper said upthread, you called it, Steve M. And the wingnutteratti seems rather irked about that.

Anonymous said...

@Vega - "Hillary" did not spend a week lying about anything. Not only has there not been a cover-up but there have already been hearings on this and a couple of heads have rolled. So, indeed, what difference DOES it make at this point what Susan Rice was told to say?

And "Republicans are bad too"? Uh, yeah, if "bad" is the right word for recklessly lying to the world in order to drum up support for a needless war so W. could resolve his Daddy issues. Too bad about all the casualties - just collateral damage I guess. I dunno, I might go with a different word than "bad".

RAS743 said...

Here you go, Chauncey. Somebody has been kind enough to interpret your gibberish:
"The point [of No More Mister Nice Blog's piece on the Cinton testimony] seems to be: Anything that is bad for Democrats is wrong. These unfair “tactics” include (a) direct quotes, (b) facts and (c) math."
--Robert Stacey McCain

Keep it up, pal. You have a future with the New York Times Editorial Board. But hurry; Pinch's rag might not be with us for much longer.

Overpaid said...

So will someone please tell me: What difference DID it make?

Come on, instead of just reflexively getting outraged, explain to me what would have been different if Susan Rice had gone on the talk shows and said "We're 100% sure this attack was pre-planned terrorism."?

Would the dead been returned to life? Would the nation have been safer? Would any of the government's subsequent actions been different? Would Americans have risen up in opposition to Obama? Would Romney have been elected? What, in your fevered imaginations, was the evil plot here?

repsac3 said...

Overpaid has it right. I was reading an article about Breitbart last night that actually made sense...on this one point, anyway. Some arguments are built out of nothing more than hysteria and nonsense, and deserve a one word answer: So?

"This word defines Breitbart to me more than any other. At a bar one night I was whining about the allegation that all libertarians are funded by the Koch brothers. “So?” he replied. Andrew didn’t play the PC left’s game. Libertarians don’t get magical checks from the Koch brothers, but so what if they did? George Soros spends billions paying people he likes. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

What a word. It’s only two letters but it shows the PC left they’ve never thought past the silly hysteria that surrounds their accusations. Oil companies have had record profits this year. So? That’s what they’re supposed to do. Up in Canada, my father has been fighting with the local schoolboard because they are hiring fundamentalist Muslims as guidance counselors. The trustee in charge of the program said my father’s comments could be construed as anti-Islamic and I was surprised to see him explain why they are not. “You need to learn Breitbart’s magic word,” I said in an email. “When she calls you anti-Islamic, say, ‘So?’” This was yesterday."
- Andrew Breitbart: 1969-2012 - Taki's Magazine

Most of the post is nonsense, but it is true that sometimes folks do need to be called on their bullshit and that some arguments--like the one the right is trying to make based on this one line from Clinton--are based on nothing and nonsense. Make 'em explain why anyone should care, and it becomes pretty obvious.

Anonymous said...

What difference would it have made? A few months before a national election the president's key people admit that the president's foreign policy has completely run aground, that our little man-made disaster in Libya (excuse me, kinetic energy jerk-off, or whatever idiotic euphemism the Dept. of Euphemism and Gay Outreach in the Obama White House called it) had been a large screw of the pooch.

Come to think of it, you're right. None of it would have made any difference to an electorate that was 1) so ignorant 2) so dependent or 3) so impervious to logic and common sense that it would twice elect the dogcatcher from Chicago--or was he an alderman?--as president of the most powerful country in the world. It would not have mattered one bit.

To the families of the dead: get over it, we had history to make re-electing a man that would not have made it out of Illinois if he weren't half black.

Never Ben Better said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack said...

Incredible post. There are a lot of great, really smart people on the left who are commenting on politics, but no one explains how the GOP thinks and behaves with the insight and clarity that you do. You just nailed it here.

I actually read this earlier today on my phone, while sitting in my car waiting to pick up a friend from work. I hate typing on my phone, so I made a mental note to comment on it when I got home. Then, when I did get home, I saw that you were at the top of memeorandum, this post at the center of the blogospheric buzz. It makes me enormously happy that your penetrating insights are reaching an ever widening audience.

I don't know how long we will be able to keep the ravening hordes of the fascist tea party movement at bay. We beat them in 2012, but like zombies in The Walking Dead, they are always looking for a new way in, a new way around our defenses, new weakenesses to exploit. And between redistricting and the "reform" of the way electoral votes are counted, one has to assume that sooner or later they are going to overwhelm us. They will not relent and they will not be reformed. But no matter what happens, at least we have a clear record of how it is all going down, thanks to you and your efforts on this blog.

Unknown said...

With all due respect, how is she being taken out of context? She was asked why we were mislead when finding out that it wasn't an out of control protest was so easy to ascertain.

She then goes on a rant, starting with the offending question, which she actually answers in her very next sentence. "It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."

Either the administration lied or it was horrifically incompetent. Whether you agree with their politics, as you seem to, or not, there can be no other options. That matters. Given the rest of her answer, the latter seems most likely which also matters a great deal.

That politics allows you to overlook this, well, that matters as well.

Howard said...

Yes Mom, I stole that cookie last week. But at this point, what difference does it make that I lied about it? What's important is finding out where and when we will get more cookies.