Whitewater Round II


Well, they finally have something. The talking points provided by the CIA were pushed back against and effectively edited by the State Department’s spokesperson, Victoria Nuland. The key emails, it seems to me, are the following. Nuland showed classic bureaucratic in-fighting as the CIA sought to highlight its own warnings, ignored by State. The reference to elements of al Qaeda in the country, highlighted by the CIA:

“could be abused by members (of Congress) to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned …”

That’s prima facie evidence of politically spinning the facts. The “either”, however, refers to previously mentioned legitimate wariness of tipping off the Jihadists that the US was onto them. Notice how the second statement was utterly unnecessary – and purely political, defending State and Clinton. And even when the specific reference to Jihadist elements in Libya was removed, Nuland still cavilled:

“These changes don’t resolve all of my issues or those of my buildings (sic) leadership.”

My building’s leadership? Who can that mean but Clinton?

As Joe Klein has noted, these are venial sins, not mortal ones. And the premise of the Republican argument that immediately including the possibility of a pre-planned Jihadist attack would have deeply wounded the Obama campaign seems ludicrous to me. He decimated al Qaeda in Af-Pak and killed bin Laden, but a minor, if foolish, attempt at unnecessary spin after an embassy siege would have undone this legacy in the eyes of voters? Come off it.

All of this is a grotesque over-reaction – for transparently political purposes. The GOP does not know any more how to propose constructive policies that actually might improve the lives of Americans. But they sure know how to construct a “scandal” into a mountain when it is only a bump in the tarmac.

It all reminds me of Whitewater.

At its core, there really was nothing of anything there. God knows we tried to find something – and as editor of a pro-Clinton magazine, I probably went too far in proving our independence. But it is also true – as we discovered in the 1990s – that the Clintons cannot resist giving their enemies a slim reed of fact upon which to build their demonization machine. In the end, all perspective is lost altogether – and you end up impeaching a president.

I think this is the context in which to understand this. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Former Secretary of State and possible presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is now Fox News’ path to even more money, and GOP’s path to appearing relevant and destructive to an Obama second term. An opposition legitimately exists to find venial sins like Nuland’s, but when they are then transformed by a massive media campaign into something that is worse than Watergate and Iran-Contra combined, it becomes a farce.

Compared with the Republicans’ pure partisanship and politicking, Nuland’s is pretty minor. But it still exists. As does the pattern of the Clintonistas’ giving their enemies a sword to plunge into them. The thing about Hillary is that, unlike Obama, these persistent, delusional, political creeps get under her skin. She then makes mistakes. Which gives them more fodder … and it’s back to the 1990s we go.

This time, however, the GOP has nothing positive to propose after they have slimed their bete noire. So their nihilism is even starker. They need to recall, for their own good, where over-reaching led them to in the late 1990s. But Clinton needs to recall, for her own good, why she endured so much hazing in the 1990s. She emerged from the State Department seemingly free of it – as the GOP tried to leverage her against Obama. Now she is alone – and they will not rest until they have destroyed her.

(Photo: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the September 11, 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 23, 2013. By Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty.)