During the fourth and final debate between incumbent Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) and his Democratic challenger, Tammy Duckworth, the Republican Congressman openly admitted that he and his GOP colleagues want to “end Medicare as we know it.” Walsh defended the Romney/Ryan plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program, which would provide retirees with a [...]
Republicans want to keep up these inane attacks? Please proceed.After Mitt Romney's epic Libya failure at Tuesday's debate, it looks like Republicans have settled on their latest attempt to politicize the murder of four Americans. Taking their cue from Matt Drudge they have decided that it is outrageous that President Obama used the phrase "not optimal" in response to a question from Jon Stewart about the attack in Benghazi.
In an appearance on Fox News?s ?Fox and Friends? on Friday, McCain added that Obama?s use of the word ?optimal? was ?very regrettable and makes me a little sad.?I have to say, if that statement makes John McCain sad, then John McCain has a pretty low bar for sadness. Maybe he'd be a little bit less miserable if he could get over the 2008 election and do something constructive?you know, maybe help President Obama convince House Republicans to vote for the resources we need to provide security to embassies.
McCain?s comments came after Obama, who appeared on ?The Daily Show with Jon Stewart? on Thursday, was asked by Stewart about the administration?s handling of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. Stewart said to Obama that in the aftermath, ?even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.?
?Here?s what I?ll say. If four Americans get killed, that?s not optimal,? Obama responded. ?We?re going to fix it. All of it.?
Pathetically, McCain was not alone?New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte joined the fray:
?I have to say, the president?s statement today was quite astounding,? said Ayotte (R-N.H.). ?And, you know, the murder of four Americans, of course, is tragic and totally unacceptable. And that?s what we would expect to hear from our commander-in-chief.?If she was listening, that's exactly what President Obama has said?and he's said it many times. Maybe Ayotte should ask Mitt Romney about that, because by now I'm sure Mitt Romney is aware of what President Obama has actually said about this attack.
The thing that is so crass about the Republican approach to Libya isn't that they are criticizing the president?it's that they are doing so with so little substance and such an obvious eye towards scoring political points. They don't seem to remember?or care?that the attack in Benghazi was a national tragedy. Instead, they see it as an political opportunity. And if there's anything John McCain should be sad about, it's the fact that an attack on America seems to have made Republicans happy.
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Mitt Romney spoke as if he had President Obama cornered.
"The President just said something which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror," the Republican presidential nominee said, turning to face Obama during Tuesday night's debate. "You said in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration. Is that what you're saying? Want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the President 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."
But Romney did not land the square punch he thought he was throwing. On Sept. 12, the day after four Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the President did say, during remarks delivered in the White House's Rose Garden, that "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation." Those words were enough, during the debate, for Obama, with the help of a fact-check from the debate moderator, Candy Crowley, to dodge Romney's blow.
If you had been listening to Republicans or watching Fox News in recent weeks, you knew that what Romney said wasn't simply an off-the-cuff or clumsy error. For weeks now, opponents of the administration have been trying to paint the Benghazi attack not just as a possible security or intelligence failure that resulted in the deaths of Americans abroad, but as a scandal that the Obama administration tried to cover-up. And a key part of the Benghazi cover-up theory is the suggestion that the administration made a political decision to avoid or delay calling the assault on the consulate "terrorism," and to resist the possibility that the attack was planned. Here's an example of the tenor of the discussion, from Fox News on Thursday morning:
The administration's critics have seized, in particular, on comments made by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on Sept. 16, five days after the attack. In appearances on Sunday talk shows that day, Rice said the latest assessment was that the attack was not premeditated, and that it had been related to demonstrations that occurred in Egypt (and subsequently in several other Middle Eastern countries) in response to "Innocence of Muslims," a crude and offensive anti-Muslim film made in California and uploaded to YouTube this summer. Here's what she told Chris Wallace on Fox New Sunday:
Well, first of all, Chris, we are obviously investigating this very closely. The FBI has a lead in this investigation. The information, the best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That what happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo as a consequence of the video. People gathered outside the embassy and then it grew very violent and those with extremist ties joined the fray and came with heavy weapons, which unfortunately are quite common in post-revolutionary Libya and that then spun out of control.
But we don't see at this point signs this was a coordinated plan, premeditated attack. Obviously, we will wait for the results of the investigation and we don't want to jump to conclusions before then. But I do think it's important for the American people to know our best current assessment.
Earlier this week, Rice was asked by The Washington Post if there had been any attempt to pick and choose among possible explanations of the attack. "Absolutely not," she said. "It was purely a function of what was provided to us."
Critics have contrasted Rice's comments soon after the attack with ones that have come since, such as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's remarks at a press conference on Sept. 27.
"I think, on the terrorist attack, I mean, as we determined the details of what took place there, and how that attack took place, that it became clear that there were terrorists who had planned that attack, and that's when I came to that conclusion," Panetta said. "As, again, as to who was involved, what specific groups were involved, I think the investigation that is ongoing hopefully will determine that."
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Libyans who witnessed the assault said "a well-known group of local Islamist militants struck the United States Mission without any warning or protest, and they did it in retaliation for the video ["Innocence of Muslims"]." But critics, like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have dismissed explanations of the attack that involve the video as "spin." And while the relationship between Ansar al-Shariah, the militants fingered in the attack, and Al Qaeda is complicated, some have decided that the violence in Benghazi supports their argument that Al Qaeda is "back," and undercuts the administration's claims about its success against the terror group. There has also been a fixation, most prominently evidenced by Romney on Tuesday, on when exactly the word "terrorism" left the lips of senior officials.
People with experience in intelligence and national security who spoke with TPM this week downplayed much of the debate. They said they see nothing unusual or nefarious in the official story having evolved over time. In fact, they said, it is all but expected that the first official account of a complex and fast-moving event will turn out to be wrong or incomplete.
"Sorting out what happened — in terms of the source of the attack, who knew what before the attack — is a very difficult, complicated, time-consuming process," Vicki Divoll, former general counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told TPM. "And it is legitimate for it to take several weeks or even longer before you have the answers you need."
Jonah Blank, a former staff member with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, pointed out that to this day, there is no settled explanation for the death of the last U.S. ambassador to die in office: Arnold Raphel, the ambassador to Pakistan, who in 1988 was flying with Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, then Pakistan's president, when their plane went down.
"The plane mysteriously crashed," Blank said. "To this day, nobody really knows whether this was an assassination or an accident. There is very strong suspicion that it was an assassination, and it is presumed that Zia ul-Haq was the target, and that U.S. Ambassador Raphel was unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. ... But even with the benefit of hindsight, and all of the intel that has gone into it, we don't really know."
Those who spoke with TPM see no significance, in terms of the scope or shape of the government's response, in the timing of the President or some other senior official publicly labeling an incident "terrorism."
"I see no difference in resources," Blank said. "Anytime a U.S. ambassador is killed, there are no resources that are going to be denied."
Paul Pillar, a professor of security studies at Georgetown University and a former intelligence officer, told TPM the debate over the Benghazi attack "has been blown up for the obvious political reasons."
"I didn't think it would drag on this long and this hard," Pillar said. "But I guess in the midst of the last three weeks of a presidential election campaign, I shouldn't be surprised. It's a shame."
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Remember that exhibition of compassionate conservatism that Paul Ryan displayed when he went to an Ohio soup kitchen after it finished serving dinner and then grabbed some already clean pots and pans to clean to look like he cared about the needy? That story got weirder later:
The head of a northeast Ohio charity says that the Romney campaign last week ?ramrodded their way? into the group?s Youngstown soup kitchen so that GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan could get his picture taken washing dishes in the dining hall.
Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, said that he was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit by Ryan, who stopped by the soup kitchen after a town hall at Youngstown State University.
?We?re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,? Antal said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. ?It?s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there, and they did not have permission. They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.?[..]
He noted that the soup kitchen relies on funding from private individuals who might reconsider their support if it appears that the charity is favoring one political candidate over another.
?I can?t afford to lose funding from these private individuals,? he said. ?If this was the Democrats, I?d have the same exact problem.?
He added that the incident had caused him ?all kinds of grief? and that regardless of whether Ryan had intended to serve food to patrons or wash dishes, he would not have allowed the visit to take place.
I get that. I wouldn't want to be used like that when you have to keep yourself above the fray and apolitical But unfortunately, we're in a politicized society with reductive binary thinking where you either fer 'em or agin 'em. And right wingers decided that not welcoming Paul Ryan with open, grateful arms for his empty gesture placed Antal definitively in the "agin 'em" category. Which made him (by wingnut logic) open for attacks:
In the wake of Rep. Paul Ryan's embarrassing soup kitchen photo-op last week, the organization that runs the facility tells The Huffington Post that donors have begun pulling their money out of the Youngstown, Ohio charity.
Ryan may have suffered a few late-night jokes, but the fallout for the soup kitchen appears to be far more bruising. Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, confirmed that donors have begun an exodus in protest over Ryan's embarrassment. The monetary losses have been big. "It appears to be a substantial amount," Antal said. "You can rest assured there has been a substantial backlash."[..]
Antal's charity represents the kind of organization that conservative Republicans might champion. But that was before the Ryan incident went viral a few days ago. [..]
Ryan supporters have now targeted Antal and his soup kitchen, Antal said, including making hundreds of angry phone calls. Some members of Antal's volunteer staff have had to endure the barrage as well, he said. "The sad part is a lot of [the callers] want to hide behind anonymity," he said, adding that if someone leaves their name and number he has tried to return their call. In addition to phone calls, people have posted a few choice words on the charity's Facebook wall, including statements like "I hope you lose your tax [sic] emempt status," Anyone who is thinking about donations to you should think twice" and "Shame on you Brian Antal!"
On the phone with HuffPost, Antal seemed worn out by all the vitriol. "Honesty, I really don't need any more attention," he said. "I really just want this to go away."
That's a wingnut for you--lash out at a not-for-profit charity feeding needy Americans because they were unwilling pawns for a lame attempt on the part of Romney/Ryan campaign to appear 'concerned' for the 47 percent of Americans that they insulted.
I think that this soup kitchen needs some support from people who have a grasp reality and see through the blatant machinations to see who really cares for the 47 percent. If you'd like to make a donation to this food kitchen, you can snail mail it to Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society, P.O. Box 224, Youngstown, Ohio 44501. Or you can donate online, but make sure to specify that the money is to go to the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society food bank.
C&L readers shared my first post on this tens of thousands of time on social media and it's through your work that the mainstream media picked up the story. Let's match that activity again and send a message about who we really support.
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