"The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya." This simple statement of fact explicitly and forcefully contradicts the White House's dishonest "online video" spin, which was repeated ad nauseam by numerous high-ranking administration officials and certain members of the media. The president's hand-picked spokesperson on the matter -- UN Ambassador Susan Rice -- told the American people on the Sunday after the attack that the raid was the "direct result of a heinous and offensive video." The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes obtained the original and revised talking points last week; the documents leave little doubt that the White House and State Department wanted to white-wash the clear terrorism angle. Hicks told the committee that he found Rice's comments on national television "stunning" and "embarrassing." When he sent his objections up the food chain at State, he was subjected to a "blistering attack" and was "effectively demoted." Hicks also testified today that he personally informed Sec. Clinton by phone that the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi was under terrorist attack in the opening minutes of the incident. Days later, she stood next to the flag-draped coffins of the fallen and blamed the raid on an "awful internet video."
Mr. Mark Thompson
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism
US Department of State
Mr. Gregory Hicks
Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya
US Department of State
Mr. Eric Nordstrom
Diplomatic Security Officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya
US Department of State
Is the "dam about to break" on this story? Watch the hearings live on C-SPAN 3, and stay tuned for complete coverage here on the Tipsheet. As you consider the testimony of Mssrs. Hicks, Thompson and Nordstrom, juxtapose their comments with the administration's stated viewpoints on various elements of the Benghazi investigation: (1) "What difference does it make?" (2) "Benghazi happened a long time ago." (3) "We have more important things to worry about." Family members of our slain personnel in Benghazi are once again speaking out; Patricia Woods is decrying the administration's secrecy, blasting Democrats' accusation that today's hearings are "political," and pointing the finger at Hillary Clinton. Charles Woods answers Sec. Clinton's infamous question listed above: "Credibility."
Unlike previous episodes, the latest undercover video from Live Action isn't disturbing because of the illegal conduct it exposes. It's unsettling because everything discussed between the abortionist and the woman posing as a prospective patient is legal. Leroy Carhart -- one of just four American abortionists who openly advertise their willingness to commit third-trimester abortions -- tells the "patient" that he'd have to perform her elective abortion at 26 weeks (6.5 months) in Maryland because Nebraska law won't allow it. He acknowledges that the child is likely viable outside the womb at that stage of pregnancy (see the image at 5:42), and he knows the abortion would be "purely elective." Full speed ahead, as long as the "termination" occurs in the correct jurisdiction:
I'm struck by (a) the casual and cavalier nature with which Carhart describes his work (the "crock pot" analogy is heinous), and (b) his explicit warning not to call 911 in the midst of a premature delivery, lest the baby be saved by medical professionals. Several other Live Action investigative targets have issued similar admonitions to their clients. Killing is abortionists' exclusive province; other medical professionals value life too much to be trusted around unwanted babies, in their view. The video also includes news clips about the death of a young woman who underwent a botched late-term abortion at Carhart's Maryland practice. Carhart assures Live Action's undercover investigator that the woman in question's death was not caused by complications related to the abortion procedure. "Everything from the abortion went fine," he says. That assertion is directly contradicted by the news story at the end of the video: "It turns out that complications from a late term abortion did cause the death of a New Rochelle woman...the clinic and the doctor who performed the procedure are now being investigated," the anchor reports. He also makes medically dubious claims about how post-abortion depression doesn't exist, stating that women who undergo abortions always feel better afterwards. Leroy Carhart, incidentally, is the abortionist who repeatedly sued to overturn Congressional bans on a particularly gruesome form of abortion. "Partial-birth" abortion is as grisly as it sounds, yet Carhart went to court to maintain his "right" to employ it. He finally lost in 2003, but it appears he's improvised ever since, finding other ways to kill viable unborn children. Second and third term abortions are his life's work.
If Mark Sanford succeeds in his improbable comeback tomorrow, a lot of people will be asking, “How did he do it?” A serious answer will be: “He just outworked his opponent.” Earlier today, Dave Weigel tweeted, “Sanford has 5 campaign stops today — one avail already — before Colbert Busch’s first event.” Sanford has eleven public events scheduled today; Colbert Busch has five. The week of April 22, he did 15 public events. She did six in those five days, according to her campaign’s web site. He did three public events Wednesday; she did one. He did three public events Thursday; she did none. He did ten events public Saturday, she did five.
She's the other woman in a special congressional election in South Carolina that's captured national attention....No. We're not talking about Maria Belen Chapur, the woman from Argentina who in 2009 was involved in an affair with Gov. Mark Sanford. The other woman we're talking about is actually House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who the Sanford campaign has repeatedly tied to Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the sister of Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert and Sanford's Democratic opponent in next Tuesday's special election...Sanford has repeatedly brought up the former House Speaker recently, and last week even debated a cardboard cutout poster of Pelosi to call out Colbert Busch for not accepting more than one debate.
The lesson here is that special elections are really, really hard to poll. Which everyone knows, but always seems to forget.— Sean Trende (@SeanTrende) May 8, 2013
It looks like Colbert-Busch underperformed Obama in 4 of the 5 counties in SC-01.— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) May 8, 2013
Fundamental problem for Dems: if they can't beat Sanford in R+11 #SC01, how can they beat less damaged GOP candidates in R+anything seats?— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) May 8, 2013
Well that's $1.2 million plus dems won't have for elections next year.— Mike Shields (@mshields007) May 8, 2013
Besides raising far less money than Colbert-Busch, Sanford is taking a huge hit when it comes to outside spending. According to OpenSecrets.org's profile of the race, outside groups have spent more than $929,000 on independent expenditures against Sanford. Conservative groups have spent only about $15,000 to help him.
Let's all hope that Sen. Lindsey Graham's suspicion is correct -- not for the sake of politics, but for the sake of Patricia Smith and Charlie Woods. They, and the American people, deserve the truth. The journey toward facts and accountability resumes tomorrow:
“I think the dam is about to break on Benghazi. We’re going to find a system failure before, during, and after the attacks. We’re going to find political manipulation seven weeks before an election. We’re going to find people asleep at the switch when it comes to the State Department, including Hillary Clinton. The bond that has been broken between those who serve us in harms way and the government they serve is huge — and to me every bit as damaging as Watergate.”
Say what you will about Graham's politics, he's been as dogged and tenacious on Benghazi as anyone on the planet. Tomorrow's hearings will contain dramatic, on-the-record testimony from three State Department officials. These men will tell the truth, despite alleged threats of professional reprisals. They'll testify about the unforgivably lax security measures at the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi leading up to the 9/11 attack, the Washington-based chain of command's paralysis and inaction during the raid, and the administration's intentional scrubbing of public talking points describing the massacre. (For previews of these revelations based on existing reports, read this, this and this). As an additional primer, be sure to check out former Marine Bing West's piece at National Review. It's an insightful glimpse into US military leadership's serious shortcomings during the multi-hour siege. A snippet:
The military did nothing, except send a drone to watch the action. Defense Secretary Panetta later offered the excuse, “You can’t willy-nilly send F-16s there and blow the hell out of place. . . . You have to have good intelligence.” As a civilian, Mr. Panetta probably didn’t know that 99 percent of air sorties over Afghanistan never drop a single bomb. General Dempsey, however, knew it was standard procedure to roar menacingly over the heads of mobs, while not “blowing the hell out of them.” A show of air power does have a deterrent effect and is routinely employed. A mortar shell killed two Americans during the tenth hour of the fight. A mortar tube can be detected from the air. The decision whether to then bomb should have resided with a pilot on-station — not back in Washington. As for the alleged lack of “good intelligence,” three U.S. operations centers were watching real-time video and talking by cell phone with those under attack. Surely that comprises “good intelligence.”
...The integrity of the Pentagon is not in question. The purpose of an After Action is to perform better the next time. Is the public seriously to believe that in ten hoursDempsey and the $600 billion dollar Defense Department could not dispatch one ad hoc rescue team, as our embassy in Tripoli did, or order one fighter jet to scramble? Have our military’s best and brightest lost the capacity to improvise? Clearly, that merits an assessment. Will General Dempsey ask for a review of his own procedures? Do as I say, or as I do? The chairman of the joint chiefs is the only general who can answer that.
The media's attention is at last focused on the terrible events of eight months ago. Average Americans -- to the extent that they hear anything about tomorrow's proceedings -- will consciously or subconsciously make two judgments: First, are the whistle-blowers credible? On that score, read their bios and the official positions they held during last year's attacks. A State Department spokesman pointedly refused to comment on the character or integrity of these men yesterday; it seems the powers-that-be would prefer not to lend them any more credibility, even if it means calling into question sterling reputations. Second, are the questioners just out to score political points? I'd echo Jim Geraghty's plea to Oversight Committee Republicans: Less grandstanding, more fact-finding, please. Ostentatious displays of outrage have their place, but indulging a climate of hyper-politicization during the hearings would be counter-productive. (I tend to believe that Chairman Issa recognizes this). To that end, Hugh Hewitt suggests three lines of questioning for the witnesses. Katie and I will have full coverage of tomorrow's events, beginning at 11:30 am Eastern time.
As the administration struggles to put in place the final, complex piece of President Obama’s signature health care law, an endeavor on a scale not seen since Medicare’s creation nearly a half-century ago, Democrats are worried that major snags will be exploited by Republicans in next year’s midterm elections. Many Democrats also want to see a more aggressive and visible president to push the law across the country. This week Mr. Obama is returning to the fray to an extent unseen since he signed the law in 2010, including a White House event on Friday to promote the law’s benefits for women, the first in a series of appearances for health care this year. A number of health insurance changes have already taken place, but this fall, just as the 2014 election season heats up, is the deadline for introducing the law’s core feature: the insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, where millions of uninsured Americans can buy coverage, with subsidies for many.
Yes, because highly "visible" speechifying from the president has been such a boon to this cause in the past. In any case, the introduction of central changes in 2014 puts the lie to the president's recent assertion that the Obamacare process is already over for up to "90 percent" of Americans. It's next year's implementation, which promises to be messy, that continues to stir Democratic jitters:
For the third time, Republicans are trying to make the law perhaps the biggest issue of the elections, and are preparing to exploit every problem that arises. After many unsuccessful efforts to repeal the law, the Republican-led House plans another vote soon. And Republican governors or legislatures in many states are balking at participating, leaving Washington responsible for the marketplaces. Democrats are worried about 2014 — a president’s party typically loses seats in midterm years — and some have gone public with concerns about the pace of carrying out the law. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, told an interviewer last week that he agreed with a recent comment by Senator Max Baucus of Montana, a Democratic architect of the law, who said “a train wreck” could occur this fall if preparations fell short. The White House has allayed some worries, with briefings for Democrats about their public education plans, including PowerPoint presentations that show areas with target populations down to the block level. “There’s clearly some concern” among Democrats “that their constituents don’t yet have all facts on how it will work, and that Republicans are filling that vacuum with partisan talking points,”said Representative Steve Israel of New York, head of the House Democrats’ campaign committee. “And the administration must use every tool they have to get around the obstructions and make it work.”
A leading Democrat in the U.S. Senate said the bones of an immigration reform bill will remain in place despite some anticipated tweaks. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said some adjustments to the bipartisan measure were inevitable but the "basic agreement" needed to remain intact. "We have got to basically stick to the standard of what we've established, what we've agreed over the last three months," Durbin said...
One wonders what Durbin thinks of fellow 'gang' member Sen. Marco Rubio, who's been talking up changes to the bill that could very well amount to more than mere "tweaks:"
Rubio, who is the chief emissary to conservatives on the contentious legislation, said in a radio interview and in an opinion piece being published in Friday's Wall Street Journal that he's been hearing concerns in recent days that more work is needed to boost the bill's language on the border and he said he's committed to trying to make those changes. In his Wall Street Journal piece, Rubio cited "triggers" in the bill that aim to make new citizenship provisions contingent on border security accomplishments. Critics say those provisions are too weak, because in some cases the Homeland Security secretary is tasked with undertaking studies — but not with delivering results — before millions in the U.S. illegally can obtain legal status. Rubio also mentioned revisiting "waivers" in the bill that give federal officials discretion in applying the law, another flashpoint for conservative critics; concerns about the bill's cost; and the possibility of making legalization provisions for immigrants already here "tougher, yet still realistic." He didn't offer details.
Foes and friends of reform are set to offer a slew of amendments to the mammoth immigration bill this week as the Senate Judiciary Committee begins to mark it up. But observers believe that between Democrats, who hold the majority on the committee, and the two Gang of Eight Republicans who wrote the bill, it will emerge from committee largely unscathed. The parade of amendments expected to be offered to the 844-page bill — all of which are due by 5 p.m. on Tuesday — could number dozens or more. The amendments offer a preview of the floor fight over the most sweeping changes to immigration laws in more than two decades.
How to reconcile these numbers? Eighty-three percent of respondents favor a "path to citizenship" in question 43, but one question earlier, only a low-40s plurality seems to embrace that approach. A 53-percent majority opines that illegal immigrants working inside the US should either (a) be allowed to stay legally without being eligible to apply for citizenship, or (b) face effective deportation. So that's a pretty soft 83 percent for the 'amnesty then citizenship' track. But wait, question 44 asks if illegal immigrants should be able to obtain legal status while the border is being strengthened, or only after that task is complete. A paltry 35 percent of respondents favor the "border security first, then legalization" path -- almost the exact opposite of a recent Fox News poll, which asked virtually the same question. Perhaps the lesson to derive from these disparate and muddled responses is, beware of dramatic immigration-related polling results offered by either side. Public opinion is neither as good nor as bad as it may seem, depending on your perspective. In all likelihood, many Americans are genuinely confused and torn on the issue, which is why words like "bipartisan" and "consensus" are so potent in this debate.
UPDATE - Yuval Levin has a characteristically thoughtful piece detailing possible improvements to the bill.
You met Greg Hicks earlier. He's the career State Department official whose "jaw hit the floor" when Susan Rice went the 'Full Ginsburg' to spread bogus talking points in the immediate wake of the 9/11 Benghazi attacks. If you thought exposing and debunking the administration's initial dishonest spin was the biggest bombshell Hicks was preparing to drop on Wednesday, you'd be wrong. CBS News reports:
The deputy of slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens has told congressional investigators that a team of Special Forces prepared to fly from Tripoli to Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks was forbidden from doing so by U.S. Special Operations Command South Africa. The account from Gregory Hicks is in stark contrast to assertions from the Obama administration, which insisted that nobody was ever told to stand down and that all available resources were utilized. Hicks gave private testimony to congressional investigators last month in advance of his upcoming appearance at a congressional hearing Wednesday. According to excerpts released Monday, Hicks told investigators that SOCAFRICA commander Lt. Col. Gibson and his team were on their way to board a C-130 from Tripoli for Benghazi prior to an attack on a second U.S. compound "when [Col. Gibson] got a phone call from SOCAFRICA which said, 'you can't go now, you don't have the authority to go now.' And so they missed the flight ... They were told not to board the flight, so they missed it." No assistance arrived from the U.S. military outside of Libya during the hours that Americans were under attack or trapped inside compounds by hostile forces armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47 rifles. Hicks told congressional investigators that if the U.S. had quickly sent a military aircraft over Benghazi, it might have saved American lives. The U.S. Souda Bay Naval Base is an hour's flight from Libya.
This explosive testimony -- which will play out under the bright lights later this week -- corroborates earlier allegations that support teams were repeatedly instructed to get ready, then to stand down, throughout the eight-hour slaughter. The Obama administration has claimed they deployed "all available resources" during the attack, an account that does not align with several pieces of countervailing evidence:
(1) We've just learned from another whistle-blower (Mark Thompson) that Secretary Clinton actively cut the State Department's counter-terrorism bureau out of the loop during the terrorist attack. (Why?) CBS News reported last November that the Obama administration also didn't convene the inter-agency Counter-terrorism Security Group (CSG) during the raid. Gen. Dempsey has asserted that the State Department never requested any military assistance from DoD that night. Might that have been because Clinton and the White House were already committed to a political posture of downplaying the terrorism angle?
(2) A separate unnamed whistle-blower says an elite US task force training in Croatia could have arrived prior to the latter stages of the siege, during which Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were murdered. (Remember, Doherty and Woods responded to the consulate attack on their own initiative).
(3) The US had unmanned predator drones hovering overhead throughout much of the attack. One Democratic Senator couldn't or wouldn't say whether those drones were armed.
(4) CBS News, in late October:
The Pentagon says it did move a team of special operators from central Europe to the large Naval Air Station in Sigonella, Italy, but gave no other details. Sigonella is just an hour's flight from Libya. Other nearby bases include Aviano and Souda Bay. Military sources tell CBS News that resources at the three bases include fighter jets and Specter AC-130 gunships, which the sources say can be extremely effective in flying in and buzzing a crowd to disperse it..."You find a way to make this happen," Berntsen says. "There isn't a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died."
(5) Then there is today's aforementioned revelation from Hicks. Taken together, this information points to a scenario in which the Washington-based chain of command declined to exercise several contingencies that could have saved American lives. Let's recall what Gen. Dempsey told Sen. Lindsey Graham in Congressional testimony two months ago:
GRAHAM: My question is, did anybody leave any base anywhere to go to the aid of the people who were under attack in Benghazi, Libya before the attack ended.
DEMPSEY: No, because the attack ended before we could get off the ground.
Hicks will reportedly also tell Congress that special forces reinforcements were urgently needed in Benghazi, in light of the US diplomatic mission's "bare minimum" security capacity. That threadbare security presence is a scandal in and of itself; terrorists had launched escalating attacks one numerous Western targets in Benghazi in the weeks and months leading up to September 11, including two attempts against the US consulate. Four gravestones offer a clear justification for Amb. Stevens' numerous requests for more resources; far less apparent are the reasons why those petitions were summarily denied. I'll leave you with White House spokesman Jay Carney ducking questions on these new developments earlier today:
Shorter Carney: Take your beef up with the Pentagon (who is the Commander-in-Chief, again -- and isn't embassy/consulate security within the Secretary of State's purview?), and kindly refer to our internal investigation (which is now being investigated by an Inspector General for ignoring evidence from whistle-blowers like the men coming forward this week).
UPDATE - On a related note, guess where Al Qaeda's new (unofficial, of course) Northern African regional "headquarters" is?
Let's start with the good news, at least from a purely partisan perspective: Republican Mark Sanford appears to be riding a wave of momentum heading into tomorrow's special election in South Carolina's first Congressional District, reversing his fortunes over the last two weeks. Via Democratic pollster PPP:
PPP's final poll of the special election in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District finds a race that's too close to call, with Republican Mark Sanford leading Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch 47-46. The 1 point lead for Sanford represents a 10 point reversal from PPP's poll of the race two weeks ago, when Colbert Busch led by 9 points at 50-41...A plurality of voters in the district- 47%- say they think Colbert Busch is a liberal compared to 43% who characterize her as ideologically 'about right.' Colbert Busch's favorability rating has dropped a net 19 points compared to 2 weeks ago, from +25 then at 56/31 to +6 now at 50/44.
Despite being cut loose by national Republicans, Team Sanford nationalized the race, essentially arguing that a vote for Colbert-Busch is a vote for the Obama/Pelosi agenda (see: the cardboard cut-out). This is a valid attack. Though Colbert-Busch is talking a decent game these days -- when she's talking at all, that is -- there's ample reason to suspect that she'd be a reliable partisan Democrat in the House of Representatives. So Sanford's got a real shot at winning this thing. The bad news is self-evident. It's still Mark Sanford, his favorability ratings are underwater by double-digits, and the race is tied in a district that Mitt Romney carried by 18 points seven months ago. Jump ball going into tomorrow. Will the district's voters prioritize national policy, or focus on Sanford's awful and erratic personal conduct? And with that, let's take a spin around the three other major electoral races of 2013:
Cuccinelli vs. McAuliffe (Virginia Governor) - Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has opened up a slight lead over Democrat Terry McAuliffe, according to a new Washington Post poll. The presumptive GOP nominee leads by five points overall, and holds a ten-point edge among those who are certain to vote. McAuliffe continues to be dogged by stories about his failed business dealings, and has served up a pile of opposition research on himself, courtesy of his autobiography. We've already highlighted his unseemly behavior during the birth of three of his children; why not try his reaction to 9/11 on for size?
"If not for September 11, Bush would have been gone politically. His approval ratings were sinking and his policies were hurting the country and the American people. He had nothing going for him after the attacks we knew he was going to get a huge bounce and it soon became clear that the press would come to see its role as making him look good and downplaying any criticism of his administration's fixation on being fast and loose with the facts. I was one of our party's most visible spokesmen and I had to keep a low profile after the attacks. I was like a caged rat. I couldn't travel. I couldn't make political calls. I couldn't make money calls. I couldn't do anything. I went to my office and worked with my staff to prepare for when we could finally come back out again that made me feel a little better, but basically there was nothing for us to do in the immediate aftermath."
The nation had just suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history, and Terry's big take-away was frustration over his inability to conduct overtly political fundraising. But hey, he's just your average Virginian. The Virginia GOP is also rolling out a new tagline against McAuliffe, noting that the Democrat "won't release his taxes, but he will raise yours." Question: Did McAuliffe narrate his own audio book? Oh, he sure did:
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono’s campaign war chest is so skimpy she may not generate enough contributions to secure all of her public matching funds for the primary or general election. State election finance records show that if the senator from Middlesex County wants to get the maximum public matching funds before the June 4 primary, she would need to raise about $250,000 a week, or about eight times her current $30,000-a-week clip...Buono is on pace to become the first major party nominee in state history who fails to raise enough money in the primary to qualify for maximum public financing.
Click through to read details of a shady power play her friends in the state assembly pulled to try to drag her over the fundraising finish line.
Gomez vs. Markey (Massachusetts Senate) - The Sanford race isn't the only special election on our radar screen. Former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez is challenging career politician Ed Markey to fill Secretary of State John Kerry's vacated US Senate seat. Early polling is surprisingly tight, given the state's lefty politics. Gomez will never be mistaken for a hard-line conservative, but he's several leaps to the right of Markey -- a leading carbon tax crusader. Markey's first attack ad of the cycle raised eyebrows for juxtaposing a photo of the Republican nominee with one of Osama bin Laden (here's why OBL is an issue in the campaign). Gomez has opened with a much more positive message:
(1) Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was directly involved in the 9/11/12 raid that killed four Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya. Leaders in Washington knew the Benghazi massacre was a terrorist operation "almost immediately," and officials on the ground suspected as much "from the get-go." The administration misleadingly denied and downplayed the terrorist connection for weeks.
(2) A special ops officer with detailed knowledge of the US response to the attacks says Washington could have ordered a rescue/intervention mission to save American lives, but did not, for reasons that remain unclear.
(3) Lawyers for potential whistle-blowers within the government say their clients have been intimidated into silence by the administration. These attorneys also allege that the government has been uncooperative in granting them security clearances, which they say are necessary to facilitate adequate legal representation.
(4) Nearly eight months after the fact, and as political scrutiny is again ratcheting up, the FBI has finally released photos of several Benghazi suspects. No arrests have been made in connection to the deadly terrorist attack so far.
(5) Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's signature appeared on a memo denying requests for increased security assets in Benghazi. Amb. Chris Stevens and his predecessor in Tripoli both asked for enhanced protection due to the increasingly dangerous climate on the ground.
(6) The identities of three Benghazi whistle-blowers/witnesses who will testify this week have now been revealed.
On Fox News Sunday, Massachusetts Democrat Stephen Lynch assailed the administration's talking points about the act of terrorism, labeling them "false" and "wrong:"
"This was a deliberate and strategic attack on the consulate."
Carney: Okay Fine, Senior Officials Knew the IRS Report was Coming, but Nobody Told Obama | Guy Benson