Dana Bash, Matt Lauer, Soledad O'Brien, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Politico Chuck Todd, Dave Weigel, The New York Times… This is just a short list of mainstream media members who apparently don't want the truth to come out about Libya. No doubt, they would argue against that statement, but how else to explain the crusade they've all joined over the last 24 hours to trash Senator John McCain as a lying, obsessed Captain Ahab still bitter over his 2008 loss to Barack Obama?
Because the media hasn't done so, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, McCain is calling for Watergate-style hearings into the White House's dishonest and/or incompetent handling of everything surrounding Libya: the lack and pulling of security in the wake of growing threats, the failure to send reinforcements during the seven-hour attack, and a false two-week narrative spun and sharpened over time by an administration that without any evidence whatsoever blamed the attack on a spontaneous protest.
With rumors circling that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice might be nominated by President Obama to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, McCain, Graham, and Ayotte made clear yesterday that they would filibuster that nomination, at least until the Libya matter had been fully litigated and investigated in public hearings.
This touched off another round of Obama's phony Libya indignation at yesterday's press conference in defense of Rice, which was followed, to no one's surprise, by a media backlash against McCain.
Obviously the White House talking points got to the media quickly because the exact same attack on McCain happened almost at exactly the same time. Late yesterday afternoon, I was literally flipping back and forth between CNN and MSNBC as Dana Bash and Chuck Todd reiterated the exact same talking points accusing McCain of being motivated only by residual bitterness left over by the loss of the 2008 campaign. In the 24 hours since, the Narrative has spread like wildfire.
This morning on the "Today Show," Matt Lauer went a step further and accused McCain of hypocrisy. Lauer reminded the Arizona Senator that in the wake of the WMD debacle, he supported Condi Rice's nomination to Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Lauer's rationale is that Condi Rice is just as guilty (or innocent) as Susan Rice is of unintentionally spreading misinformation based on faulty intel.
Susan Rice, according to the media and White House, was only repeating what she knew from CIA talking points handed to her prior to her now-famous Sept. 16 appearance on all five Sunday shows, where she insisted the attack on the Benghazi consulate was not premeditated.
Only due to coincidence, I'm sure, I'm now seeing this exact same defense of Susan Rice and attack on John McCain's "hypocrisy," everywhere in the media.
But this is a false equivalence and the media knows it. By the time Condi Rice was nominated, the WMD issue had already been investigated. Not only were our intelligence agencies wrong but so were their counterparts throughout the modern world. Condi Rice didn’t lie. But we don’t know yet if Susan Rice lied.
The plot only thickened after Obama's oh-so chivalrous defense of Rice yesterday when the CIA talking points she was given were released to the media. Like the forever unskeptical puppets they are, the media is now holding those up as smoking-gun proof Rice was only telling America what she was told.
But here's what the media isn't telling us: Obama promoted the position of U.N. Ambassador to the status of a full cabinet member, which means that Rice receives the very same security briefings every other cabinet member does; which means that for at least five days she was receiving information above and beyond those CIA talking points.
The way the media's spinning it, though, they would have us believe that the only information Rice could've possibly had was what the CIA handed her. In yesterday's presser, Obama made the same absurd claim when he said Rice had "nothing to do with Benghazi."
But all of this spin from the media is about more than just defending Rice. The over-arching goal is to make John McCain look ridiculous, bitter, and obsessed as he targets a perfectly innocent woman.
Slate's Dave Weigel took the Captain Ahab narrative to an even more absurd level yesterday in a mocking piece titled: "John McCain's Long War Against Susan Rice." While the article fails to support its headline (nothing in the piece documents a history of animosity towards Rice from McCain), it does close with the sore loser theory, but not before accusing McCain of outright lying [emphasis added]:
Rubio's comments were interesting because this popular version of the "Rice comments" isn't true. On those Sunday shows, she said that extremists used a protest as a cover for their planned attack, not that the attack happened off the cuff. The key figure in spreading this lie about Rice was ... John McCain, who said that same Sunday that "most people don't bring rocket-propelled grenades and heavy weapons to demonstrations."
So now McCain's the liar and Rice nothing more than a victim of his sore loser-crusade. At the Washington Examiner, Sean Higgins pushed back hard against Weigel's claim that McCain lied, and Higgins is right, but why in the world are we allowing ourselves to be pulled into these weeds?
All we're seeing from Weigel and Lauer and Todd and Bash and Blitzer and Donner and Vixen, is chaff; it's the 2012 campaign all over again where Obama hands a compliant media a shiny distraction away from something inconvenient, and the compliant media runs with it: McCain's obsessed! Game Over: CIA talking points! McCain lied! Leave Susan alone!
But through all this smoke and nonsense, there's one thing the media's not doing and that's demanding the truth about Libya. No one in the media's demanding hearings, demanding accountability, or that the full story be litigated once and for all.
I asked Weigel if he's called for hearings. He was good enough to respond via mail:
I've said on Twitter that I agree with a hearing, and in my post on McCain missing the private hearing, I think I hint that a Watergate-style hearing is a good idea. But I haven't advocated for a committee in a big way. I'm just tracking the progress toward one (or maybe away from one).
And therein lies the problem. I'm not singling Weigel out because his response perfectly captures all of the media's attitude toward all things Libya.
The day of and after the Libya attack, Romney criticizes the Cairo apology and *whack* -- that's the story for the next six days, not Libya.
In the second presidential debate, Romney attempts to litigate Libya and *whack* -- CNN's Candy Crowley conveniently forgets she's a referee, runs out on the field, tackles Romney, and gets it wrong. Once again, this is the story for the next few days, not Libya.
Now John McCain -- who gets no credit for waiting until after the election to push this investigation -- presses for hearings along with two other Senators, and *whack* -- he's a bitter, lying sore loser.
Rather than scream from the hills for the truth, the Libya headlines never fail to whack-a-mole anyone who dares scream from the hills for the truth. Rather than join McCain in his quest for the truth, the media instead attacks his motives and character.
Not that I agree with the media, but what does it matter what McCain's motives are and in what universe does a media scream louder about a Senator's motives than for a full accounting of the events surrounding the assassination of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans?
If the media was screaming for the truth and doing what they see as keeping McCain in check, that I could understand.
But they're not doing that. Instead, there's a witch hunt against anyone who demands the truth and a rolling over every time the Obama administration throws them a bone marked "intel."
Yes, we know Susan Rice had CIA talking points, but we don’t know what she knew independently of those talking points.
Yes, we know President Obama met with Panetta and the Joint Chiefs when the consulate was attacked and told them to do whatever was necessary. But all we know is that Panetta blamed a lack of real-time intel on the inaction, even though we had two drones and a number of Americans under fire delivering real-time intel.
Yes, we know that the day after the attack, President Obama told "60 Minutes" that Libya was likely a pre-meditated attack….
You're right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt, and my suspicion is, is that there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start.
…but what we don’t know is why for almost two weeks afterwards, Susan Rice didn’t say that; White House spokesperson Jay Carney didn’t say that; Hillary Clinton didn’t say that, and the President himself didn’t say that.
Yes, we know that prior to the attack, the evidence of a rapidly deteriorating security problem in Libya was seemingly irrefutable and that Secretary Clinton takes "full responsibility" for the inaction. But what we don’t know is what the Administration knew about these warnings.
Four dead Americans, inexplicable security failures, a White House narrative that started with something closer to the truth but moved inexplicably further away from it as the days and weeks passed, and a literal mountain of evidence the says the White House knew this was a terrorist attack within hours…
But speculation about John McCain's sore loseritis is the story.
There may be no evidence a YouTube video caused what happened in Libya, but there's even less evidence that the media wants to know what really happened. There's a fine line between biased and completely useless, and sometime during the 2012 campaign our media crossed it.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC