Patterico's Pontifications


Part Two of My Dismantling of Robin Abcarian’s Hack Work on Chris Christie, Benghazi, and the IRS

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:30 pm

This is Part Two of my dismantling of the hackwork of Robin Abcarian. Part One, which took apart her implied claim that the IRS didn’t truly target tea party conservatives, is here.

Tonight we’ll take apart Ms. Abcarian’s claims that the Obama administration didn’t do anything wrong with respect to Benghazi:

As for Benghazi, no any amount of reporting can change the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton did not cause the tragedy that befell four Americans at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, nor that the Obama White House did not lie about what happened.

Poor Lara Logan and CBS’ iconic news program, “60 Minutes” are paying the price for falling into the partisan trap.

Will the events of Benghazi affect the presumed White House aspirations of former Secretary of State Clinton? Probably not. The people hammering away on the Benghazi tragedy were never going to support her anyway. And we see that exhaustive reporting, most recently by David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times, has done nothing to quell her critics, who, like Issa, operate purely out of partisan instincts, not a quest for the truth.

Let’s unpack that. Abcarian says “no any amount of reporting” (whatever that means) can change the fact that Hillary Clinton did not “cause” the Benghazi killings. Depending on how you interpret that, it’s either a fantasic strawman or an unproved assertion. Nobody is saying that Hillary Clinton “caused” the deaths; obviously, the terrorist caused the deaths, and saying anything else is a strawman. But did Hillary Clinton contribute to the dangerous situation, through action or inaction? If that is the issue, I submit that it is far from a “fact” that she cannot be blamed in any way.

We have discussed this before, but let’s review. In this post I discussed a December 2011 memo from a State Department bureaucrat who had pledged “to rapidly implement a series of corrective security measures” at Benghazi. It never happened, and former State Department officials say the responsibility lay with Hillary Clinton, who (given applicable protocol) was likely consulted on such a decision. And if she was not, she should have been.

And just today, we see a bipartisan Senate report blaming the Obama administration for not preventing the attack. Again: bipartisan.

So, Ms. Abcarian, is it a “fact” that Hillary Clinton did not cause the deaths? Only in the silly and meaningless sense that she was not personally one of the killers. Otherwise, the evidence is there to suggest she had a role to play in the weakening of security.

As for the “fact” that “the Obama White House did not lie about what happened” . . .

Was Susan Rice part of the Obama White House? Or is Ms. Abcarian doing some Clintonian parsing to claim otherwise. Because here’s what Susan Rice said to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:

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.

This was not a case of misspeaking: Rice said some variant of this on five different shows. On ABC’s This Week, she described it by saying “it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo.” On “Face the Nation” she described it as a “spontaneous protest” and added: “we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.” On “Meet the Press” Rice said that “what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of– of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.” And on CNN’s “State of the Union” Rice described the attack as “that horrific incident where some mob was hijacked ultimately by a handful of extremists.”

As James Rosen reported yesterday, however, newly declassified documents corroborate what widespread reporting had already told us: Obama was told as the attack was happening that it was a terrorist attack — not a “spontaneous protest” as Rice repeatedly described it days later. Rosen says:

Minutes after the American consulate in Benghazi came under assault on Sept. 11, 2012, the nation’s top civilian and uniformed defense officials — headed for a previously scheduled Oval Office session with President Obama — were informed that the event was a “terrorist attack,” declassified documents show. The new evidence raises the question of why the top military men, one of whom was a member of the president’s Cabinet, allowed him and other senior Obama administration officials to press a false narrative of the Benghazi attacks for two weeks afterward.

Yet Ms. Abcarian describes it as a “fact” that the Obama White House did not lie about Benghazi. What arrant nonsense. “No any” amount of partisan column-writing can change the facts that show they did.

Abcarian makes a big point in her column that the IRS and Benghazi scandals did indeed generate headlines. OK, but what kind of coverage came under those headlines? Unlike the endless pumping of the Christie lane-closure thing, organizations like Abcarian’s L.A. Times were turning out utterly hackish articles. For example, when Greg Hicks testified about how his career was suddenly ruined the second he questioned Rice’s dishonest talking points, the L.A. Times had a headline, all right — but the headline was “Envoy describes night of Benghazi attack.” The article claimed that the heading “shed little new light on the key questions at issue in the hearing: whether there was anything more the U.S. military could have done to thwart the attack and whether the Obama administration intentionally misled the American people” — while never mentioning the fact that Hicks had been attacked and effectively demoted for questioning the White House’s effort to whitewash the affair through misleading talking points. I detailed all this in this outraged post.

As for Abcarian’s statement: “Will the events of Benghazi affect the presumed White House aspirations of former Secretary of State Clinton? Probably not. The people hammering away on the Benghazi tragedy were never going to support her anyway.” Yeah? Will Christie’s scandal affect his presumed White House aspirations? The people hammering away at it were never going to support him anyway. That’s what an airy and dismissive wave of the hand looks like when it’s coming at you, Ms. Abcarian.

As for that Kirkpatrick article, its reporting has been contradicted by witnesses on the ground. Don’t expect to hear that from Ms. Abcarian.

I’ll leave you with this Twitter exchange from today:

She has not given me an answer and frankly, I doubt I will get one. Surprise me, Ms. Abcarian. Surprise me.

This is what Big Media Arrogance looks like, ladies and gentlemen. That’s it, right there. When they ask for an example in the future, I trust you’ll have this post bookmarked.

L.A. Times Columnist Robin Abcarian Falsely Implies IRS Targeted Progressive Groups and Tea Party Groups Equally

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:42 am

L.A. Times hack Robin Abcarian has a silly column pushing the idea that the Christie bridge-closing deal is huge while the IRS scandal and Benghazi were giant nothingburgers. There is so much nonsense in her column that I can’t attack it all in one post, or I would never get to work. So for now, let’s start with one example: her absurd contention that the IRS scandal merely represented the IRS doing its job in an evenhanded manner.

No amount of reporting can change the reality for Republicans (especially Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and proud architect of pointless, politically self-serving investigations) that the IRS was trying to do its job. In some contexts, ineptitude — say, a botched hurricane response — is scandalous. [That’s the obligatory lefty link to a Web page about Katrina there. — P]

But that’s not what happened here.

Sure, conservatives went crazy after the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s famous May 2013 audit found the IRS may have flagged groups with “tea party” in their names for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

But that’s because Issa had asked the inspector general to look only at how tea party-affiliated groups were treated. He didn’t care to know, as we later found out thanks to Democrats on his committee, that the IRS was also flagging applications from liberal groups that used terms such as “progressive,” “medical marijuana” or “healthcare legislation.”

The IRS, see, was trying to prevent groups whose work is mainly political from receiving inappropriate tax-exempt status.

See? The IRS didn’t do a damned thing wrong, and it’s only because Issa’s questions focused on the treatment of conservative groups that we heard a lot about conservative groups. That’s Abcarian’s line, and she seems to actually believe it.

Abcarian strongly implies that the Inspector General didn’t even look at the treatment of progressive groups. That is utterly and completely false, as you are about to see. I’m going to give Ms. Abcarian the benefit of the doubt and assume that she is not deliberately trying to mislead her readers.

But the problem, Ms. Abcarian, is that when you put ideological blinders on, you overlook holes in your analysis. Your passage above seems to equate the concept of “flagging” applications with the concept of those applications actually receiving extra scrutiny. Had you done a little extra research, you would have found out that there is more to it. You cite a Talking Points Memo post from June 26, 2013. Let me offer you a couple of other links, starting with this CBS News story from June 27, 2013:

Acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel told Congress Thursday that progressive groups seeking tax-exempt status were inappropriately flagged by IRS officials, in addition to tea party and conservative groups.

At the same time, a letter from a Treasury Department watchdog to Congress suggests that while progressives were flagged, tea party groups were subject to a much higher level of scrutiny.

Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee, Werfel acknowledged that the word “progressive” did appear on a “be on the lookout” (BOLO) list that IRS officials used to target groups for further scrutiny.

“The types of political organizations on these BOLO lists are wide ranging, but they do include ‘progressive,'” he said.

Meanwhile, in a letter released Thursday, J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA), noted that out of the 298 groups set aside for a closer look between May 2010 and May 2012, only six had the words “progress” or “progressive” in their names.

“In total, 30 percent of the organizations we identified with the words ‘progress’ or ‘progressive’ in their names were processed as potential political cases,” George wrote to Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “In comparison, our audit found that 100 percent of the tax-exempt applications with Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in their names were processed as potential political cases during the timeframe of our audit.”

See, contrary to Abcarian’s implication, the Inspector General did look at all instances of improper targeting on both sides of the political aisle. It’s just that the overwhelming number of organizations actually targeted were conservative. This is even more clearly confirmed by a Washington Post article from the same day:

The Internal Revenue Service scrutinized “progressive” groups less harshly than conservative groups, the Treasury Inspector General said in a letter to Congress this week.

J. Russell George, the investigator who carried out a probe into the IRS’ targeting of groups that applied for tax-exempt status, said he did not limit his investigation to tea party groups.

“Our audit did not find evidence that the IRS used the ‘progressives’ identifier as selection criteria for potential political cases between May 2010 and May 2012,” George wrote in a letter to House Ways and Means ranking Democrat Rep. Sandy Levin.

The revelations come after Democrats seized on a set of redacted spreadsheets released this week that detailed the “Be On The Lookout,” or BOLO, criteria used by the IRS tax-exempt group to screen applications. On that list was “progressive” as well as “tea party.”

Although “tea party” applications were sent to a team of specialists that looked into potential political cases, Russell says, “progressive” groups were sent to a different team within the IRS for processing.

I know people don’t talk about this stuff around the water cooler, Ms. Abcarian, but it was not difficult for me to find these articles, and you could have found them too.

But then, that would have made it more difficult to put your hands on your hips and get all outraged, now, wouldn’t it?

These people are trying to rewrite history, but they’re leaving out the part where the facts matter. We can’t let this happen. I plan to have more on this absurd column. This is just Part One. Thanks to Dana.

UPDATE: Part Two is here.

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