2016 Election

Benghazi Talking Points: Petraeus’ Revenge

It has taken three days for the bleating press corps in DC to wade through the roll-out of Benghazi talking point emails and realize that the tension behind the emails — as has been clear from just days after the attack — is that Benghazi was really a CIA, not a State, Mission, and therefore CIA bears responsibility for many of the security lapses. So State, in making changes to the emails, was making sure it didn’t get all the blame for CIA’s failures.

David Corn describes it this way.

The revisions—which deleted several lines noting that the CIA months before the attack had produced intelligence reports on the threat of Al Qaeda-linked extremists in Benghazi—appear to have been driven by State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, who, it should be noted, is a career Foggy Bottomer who has served Republican and Democratic administrations [ed: including Dick Cheney], not a political appointee. Her motive seems obvious: fend off a CIA CYA move that could make the State Department look lousy.

Yet it’s only now, several days into this frenzy, that some reporters are coming to report this.

And they’re still not noting ways in which the CIA’s initial emails were self-serving. For example, when the CIA said,

Since April, there have been at least five other attacks against foreign interests in Benghazi by unidentified assailants, including the June attack against the British Ambassador’s convoy. We cannot rule out the individuals has [sic] previously surveilled the U.S. facilities, also contributing to the efficacy of the attacks.

They might have also said, “since February, people tied to CIA’s mission have twice been harassed by militia members, suggesting our OpSec was so bad they knew we were in Benghazi.”

And when CIA’s talking points said,

The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.

They might also have said that the “trusted” militia, February 17 Brigade, trained by David Petraeus’ CIA, whose career legacy is based on false claims of successfully training locals, appears to have allowed the attack to happen (and, critically, delayed CIA guards from heading to the State mission to help).

Note that Congressman Frank Wolf is just now showing some interest in why CIA’s vetting of the militia central to the mission’s defense was so bad. Maybe if CIA had included that detail in their self-serving initial talking points, Congress would have turned to this issue more quickly, particularly since we’re currently training more potentially suspect militias in Syria.

In other words, the story CIA — which had fucked up in big ways — wanted to tell was that it had warned State and State had done nothing in response (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is precisely the story Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz are trying to tell). The truthful story would have been (in part) that CIA had botched the militia scene in Benghazi, and that had gotten the Ambassador killed.

Yet that appears to be just the half of the self-serving function this email release has had for CIA.

Consider how this rolled out. Continue reading

Musharraf Banned from Politics for Life As Violence Flairs in Pakistan Ahead of Elections

Although he has been under house arrest since shortly after his return to Pakistan while facing trial on charges of arranging the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf was given a lifetime ban from holding political office by the Peshawar High Court:

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Monday banned former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from politics for life.

The ruling came in response to an appeal filed by the former army strongman over the rejection of his nomination papers for the National Assembly seat in Chitral.

A four-member larger bench, headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and comprising of Justice Malik Manzoor, Justice Syed Afsar Shah and Justice Ikramullah ruled that since Musharraf had abrogated the Constitution twice, he could not be allowed to contest elections for either the National Assembly or the Senate.

Isn’t that interesting? In Pakistan, violating the country’s constitution as President gets a lifetime ban from politics, while in the US the same offense allows the perpetrator to open a Presidential Lie Bury.

Meanwhile, as the May 11 elections draw nearer, violence is escalating. Today’s New York Times reports on a suicide bomber who killed nine in Peshawar in an attack that seemed aimed at creating an overall climate of fear rather than attacking a particular target:

An attacker riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives near the suspected target, a police patrol car, on busy University Road during the morning rush hour, killing a police constable and several bystanders, said Faisal Kamran, a senior police official.

/snip/

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the Taliban have carried out a relentless series of attacks against secular political parties around the country in recent weeks as part of a drive to influence the elections.

Officials in Peshawar said the attack on Monday was different in that it did not appear to target a specific party but aimed instead to foster a broader climate of fear during the campaign season.

Sadly, two of the people who died were Afghan trade officials who most likely were not targeted but merely were victims of the senseless attack.

As stated above, most violence ahead of the election has been aimed at political parties and candidates. It has become so widespread that Human Rights Watch issued a statement yesterday, calling for more protection of candidates and political parties:

Pakistan’s interim government should take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of candidates and political party activists at risk of attack from the Taliban and other militant groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Nationwide parliamentary elections in Pakistan are scheduled for May 11, 2013.

Since April 21, when election campaigning formally began, the Taliban and other armed groups have carried out more than 20 attacks on political parties, killing 46 people and wounding over 190. Earlier in April, another 24 people were killed and over 100 injured in election-related attacks.

That violence is continuing:

An independent election candidate and two of his relatives from Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi area were killed by unknown assailants on Tuesday night prompting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to postpone the elections in PB-32.

According to the police and relatives of the deceased, Abdul Fateh Magsi was kidnapped on Tuesday (sic) night and his bullet-riddled body was found on Tuesday morning.

Presumably, Magsi was kidnapped on Monday evening and his body found this morning.

There is a long article in today’s Washington Post handicapping the elections. I’m pretty sure that this passage is delivered without a clue to the level of hypocrisy it drips:

On May 11, Pakistanis will choose the next prime minister in an election hailed as a landmark of democratic progress for a country ruled by the military for nearly half its 65-year history. Yet decades of tradition dictate why democracy has remained more of a concept than a reality.

Even as Pakistan prepares to witness its first democratic transition of power, elite political families, powerful landholders and pervasive patronage and corruption undermine the prospects of a truly representational democracy, political analysts say.

Coming on the heels of Sandra Day O’Connor finally admitting the US Supreme Court should not have decided the 2000 Presidential Election and as the Post and other pundits continue to hype the Hillary Clinton vs. JEB! Bush 2016 contest, what more proof do we need that the US is completely free of corruption and elite political families?

Washington Post Tries to Ram Petraeus Down Our Throats Again

No. In the name of God, Thor, Zeuss, Cthulhu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, no. There are few people who personify the vapid, amoral fetid swamp of Washington politics and defense policy more than David Petraeus. Taking a huge part of the blame for propelling Petraeus from a solely military into an entirely political career is the Washington Post, which gave Petraeus a prime op-ed slot in September 2004, where he spewed wildly optimistic numbers on his accomplishments while training Iraqi troops. Petraeus further told us how victory was just around the corner, implying that if only Americans would re-elect George W. Bush, his plan would achieve full fruition. Active military personnel are not supposed to engage in politics, but Petraeus became political with that op-ed and Washington overlooked it, because that’s what Washington does and that’s what the Washington Post does.

Bush rewarded Petraeus for his role in the election by putting him in charge of US troops in Iraq. Petraeus didn’t impress his immediate superior, Admiral Fallon, who termed Petraeus an “ass-kissing little chickenshit” after their first meeting. Once in charge, Petraeus quickly established death squads. Things didn’t go all that well in Iraq, in part because everything Petraeus does fails miserably while he is busy explaining to us what a good job he is doing. By 2007, the Kagan brain-trust came up with the idea of the surge to “save” Iraq. Washington politics and defense policy prostitute Michael O’Hanlon was brought onto the job of helping to sell the surge. In the fall of 2007, an orchestrated  Washington event, complete with a sideshow purchased in the New York Times for the “General Betrayus” ad, gave us Congressional hearings that resulted in approval for the surge. Completely overlooked at that time was the inconvenient fact that a major part of the Iraq plan moving forward from that point involved a total restart of training Iraqi troops because Petraeus failed spectacularly in his previous attempt at training. But Washington and the Washington Post did not call out Petraeus for that failure, because that’s what Washington and the Washington Post do.

Petraeus was next promoted by Bush in late 2008 to Fallon’s previous position in charge of CentCom.  It was quite clear to Barack Obama once he took office that Petraeus had his sights set on becoming president, so Obama made a very interesting move when he sent Petraeus down in rank to take command in Afghanistan after Petraeus’ protege Stanley McChrystal was fired for insubordination in July of 2010. Because lying about training had worked in advancing his career in Iraq, it appears that fudging the numbers on ANSF capabilities was one of the first things Petraeus did once in charge in Afghanistan. He was caught in this by the GAO, who pointed out that criteria for ANSF readiness were being changed to increase the number of troops qualifying for the most advanced classification, but it appears that only SIGAR and I care about those lies. Washington and the Washington Post ignored those dishonest moves by Petraeus, because that’s what Washington and the Washington Post do.

After Petreaus had been in charge in Afghanistan for six months or so, political handlers stepped into the picture to try to burnish his image for a future run for president. Continue reading

Shorter Roger Ailes: I’m Not a Kingmaker, I’m a Chairman-Maker

Presumably as part of David Petraeus’ effort to rehabilitate his image, Bob Woodward obtained a tape of a discussion in which Fox News’ “Analyst” Kathleen McFarland passes on Roger Ailes’ April 2011 advice to Petraeus: if Obama doesn’t name him Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Ailes instructed, he should quit and run for President.

When you listen to the tape, it seems clear Petraeus is getting the promises Ailes and Rupert Murdoch previously made to him on a tape he presumably knew was running. Note the way he leads the discussion in this passage.

Petraeus: He is. Tell him if I ever ran [laughs] but I won’t . . .

Q: Okay, I know. I know.

Petraeus: But if I ever ran, I’d take him up on his offer.

Q: Okay. All right.

Petraeus: He said he would quit Fox.

Q: I know. Look, he’s not the only one.

Petraeus: And bankroll it.

Q: Bankroll it? [Laughs]

Petraeus: Or maybe I’m confusing that with Rupert. No. [Laughter]

Q: I know Roger, he’s done okay, but . . . no, I think the one who’s bankrolling it is the big boss.

Petraeus: That might be it.

Q: Okay. The big boss is bankrolling it. Roger’s going to run it. And the rest of us are going to be your in-house.

Mind you, I’m not sure what Petraeus thought he was accomplishing by getting this on tape. It is not news, after all, that Republican hacks like Ailes wanted Petraeus to run. Nor is it news that Fox is a partian organization that would drop everything to back the right candidate. And a tape record that Murdoch promised to bankroll the unsullied Petraeus for President does not legally bind Murdoch to do the same for a now-shamed former General.

So while the tape and transcript are fun on a lot of levels, all they really does is confirm what we’ve long known about Ailes, Murdoch, and the publicity hound Petraeus.

Moreover, I’m far more troubled by the way McFarland discussed what she called gossip she has picked up from some former chiefs, purportedly repeating the White House’s fears, about Petraeus.

Q: Okay. But they think if you’re chairman, they can’t overrule you. They can’t go against whatever your advice is going to be, militarily. Plus, they have a Colin Powell problem. Where Colin Powell, very successful chairman, is everybody’s sort of rallying point to run for an office where there’s nobody that they think is — that the group can . . .

Petraeus: But of course he didn’t run.

Q: But he could have.

Petraeus: And he wouldn’t have. No.

Q: He could have. Politically, he could have. So they look at you and they think, how can we keep him quiet? We don’t want him out on the loose to potentially run in ’12, and we sure don’t want him in ’16. We’ll put him at the CIA, where he can speak publicly twice a year before an open session of Congress. No backgrounders to the press, no Sunday talk shows, no speeches, no nothing. Now, I’m throwing that out as gossip.

Mind you, McFarland attributes these beliefs to the White House via presumably retired officers, not Ailes. But it comes just after she has delivered Ailes’ instructions: take JCS or run for President.

Q: That’s not the question at this point. He says that if you’re offered chairman, take it. If you’re offered anything else, don’t take it, resign in six months and run for president. Okay?

So in addition to a purported media outlet (albeit one that solicited advice on its coverage) recruiting Petraeus to run for President, said media outlet first said that if Petraeus could get into a position where the White House “can’t overrule” him, he should stay in government.

Just minutes after relaying advice that he should stay if he were JCS Chair, McFarland stated that the value of having him at Chair is that the Commander-in-Chief could not overrule him.

For Fox, it seems, having their guy in charge is more important than maintaining civilian rule over the military.

When Woodward contacted Ailes about the conversation, Ailes downplayed McFarland’s actions, her position at Fox, and his own role.

In a telephone interview Monday, the wily and sharp-tongued Ailes said he did indeed ask McFarland to make the pitch to Petraeus. “It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have,” he said. “I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”

Ailes added, “It sounds like she thought she was on a secret mission in the Reagan administration. . . . She was way out of line. . . . It’s someone’s fantasy to make me a kingmaker. It’s not my job.” He said that McFarland was not an employee of Fox but a contributor paid less than $75,000 a year.

He wasn’t a kingmaker, Ailes said. Though it seems he was happy to play Chairman-Maker.

Another Veep Loser Planning to Quit?

Back when the 2016 GOP nomination kicked off (a good 5 days before Mitt got around to losing officially), here’s one way Paul Ryan’s anonymous advisors envisioned insulating his Presidential ambitions from any damaging votes: quitting.

They say that if he fails, Ryan’s instincts will be to return to the House — he is running for re-election to his House seat at the same time he’s Romney’s running mate — and resume his role as Budget Committee chairman.

Some senior Republicans caution it might not be that easy.

If Romney loses, Ryan will be seen as a leading White House contender in 2016. He will be a national party figure even without being a top member of the House leadership. That could breed resentment among current Republican leaders and perhaps splinter coalitions within the already fractured GOP alliances at the top of the House.

A return also would make Ryan a leading target for Democrats. For the next few years, Democrats would lay traps in legislation, forcing him to take sides on measures that could come back to haunt him during a presidential bid.

That is why some of Ryan’s biggest boosters are considering whether it wouldn’t be better for Ryan to resign from the House.

Never mind the delusion that suggests Ryan would be that enticing a target for Democrats. It gave Ryan’s advisors an excuse to advocate he quit before he has to cast anymore unpopular votes.

As DDay noted, anonymous sources are floating the idea of Ryan quitting again, this time in context of being forced to cast an unpopular vote on the fiscal cliff.

Speaker John A. Boehner has tapped Mr. Ryan, who has returned to his post as the House Budget Committee chairman after an unsuccessful run for vice president, to help strike a deal to avoid big tax increases and spending cuts by the end of the year, and to bring along fellow Republicans.

“He helps us toward creating a product,” said Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, “and he helps sell the product.”

The test will be whether Mr. Ryan — who declined last year to sit on another Congressional committee charged with taming the deficit, in large part because doing so might have hurt his prospects for national office — can make the transition from House budget philosopher to governing heavyweight who can help negotiate a bipartisan deal and sell it to his colleagues.

[snip]

With his new muscle and increased respect from his colleagues, Mr. Ryan could conceivably scuttle any deal if he loudly opposes a solution that the speaker and the top Republican leaders embrace. But his conservative base might rebel against him if he were to endorse any deal seen as awarding too much to Mr. Obama and the Democrats, particularly on tax rates. Some Republicans think the pitfalls are dangerous enough that Mr. Ryan might consider leaving Congress altogether to work on his policy agenda without the inherent headaches of the Hill.

“He has to think about what he wants his role to be,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma. “Is he going to run in 2016, or run for something else in Wisconsin, or play a bigger role in the House? He’s going to play an outsize role here because of the national profile he now has, but on the other hand, this conference is quite happy to act independently.” [my emphasis]

The implication being that if he plans to run in 2016, Ryan can’t stick around and–with a vote in favor of a “Grand Bargain”–compromise his governing ideology by admitting does not support a functioning government. Elsewhere, the article notes how much fun he and his wife had visting her grandmother’s home in Iowa.

In other words, he clearly plans to run.

Which leaves the question whether he truly agrees with these anonymous and on-the-record sources advising him to quit if he plans to run for President.

I guess he plans to follow the successful path of President Palin, then, even if he can’t run a marathon as fast as she can.

I just wonder what his Hollywood reality show will be called.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @mucha_carlos @JoshMBlackman Well OLC said no to Obama's Libya war as Josh pointed out. The hospital deal kind of different thing, but yeah.
4mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @conor64: I keep hearing Americans are panicking over ISIS. D.C. is panicking. On the streets of America, no one is panicked. Ask around…
7mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @AntheaButler: but we go after ISIS because they are barbaric and we have people who shoot down their 6 grandchildren.....
8mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @mucha_carlos @JoshMBlackman Well, more than you'd think probably, but OLC renders a lot of advisory opinions not as consequential as war
13mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @dcbigjohn: Most transparent administration ever won't say if the NSA is doing business with an official's husband http://t.co/b2M5IIaGMi
20mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz .@JoshMBlackman Dunno about "cementing" any integrity of OLC, not sure they have much, but if even rather pliable OLC won't buy Obama war...
22mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @BradMossEsq @robertcaruso It is not yet unconstitutional, but it will be soon. Separation of powers matter.
30mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @Mansfield2016: Alison Lee is Obama's 7th nomination to directly fail as a result of the blue slip
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @HanniFakhoury Yes, but it sure helps that the verdict and govt.'s argument are absolutely absurd.
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emptywheel @KevinBuist Just barely missed the opportunity to slap a sign on them and chat up some votes. @WOODTV
3hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @conor64 Wouldn't that require getting out of DC? Scary.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @FedcourtJunkie @ScottKGraham Was there any mention of Merry Chan's little Tuesday night stunt?
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September 2014
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