You’d think this would be a bigger story, but I guess the Trumpnado overwhelms the news cycle most days.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was taken into police custody Tuesday over allegations he illegally accepted 50 million euros ($68.5 million) from the government of the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to finance his successful 2007 presidential campaign.
The detention of Sarkozy — France’s president between 2007 and 2012 — represented a major development in what is likely to become an explosive political scandal.
If the allegations are true, it would mean Sarkozy knowingly violated France’s campaign finance laws, which in 2007 capped campaign funding at 21 million euros ($28.8 million). In the presidential election that year, Sarkozy narrowly defeated Ségolène Royal, a Socialist, in the final round of the vote.
Investigators and journalists have long scrutinized potential connections between the former center-right president and Gaddafi.
If you hadn’t noticed, CBS hitched itself to the Tea Party, and the Daryl Issa / Lindsey Graham wing of the Conspirator-in-every-Corner GOP by airing a laughably implausible 60 Minutes piece narrated by Lara Logan, noted wife of Pys-Ops propagandist, Joseph W. Burkett of the Lincoln Group …
Turns out, most if not all of the 60 Minutes report was inaccurate. If this report had been about Ted Cruz, Lara Logan would already have been fired and headed to Guantanomo, but since Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were the target, Ms. Logan can keep her job with just a mealy-mouthed apology. Compare and contrast CBS’ response to Dan Rather’s reporting on the George Bush AWOL story, circa 2004…
A few choice responses to the whole SNAFU below.
On Sunday, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan issued a short and, many commentators felt, insufficient apology for her now-discredited 60 Minutes report on the Benghazi consulate attack. A year ago, Logan had publicly mocked the notion that the Benghazi attack was a protest gone awry and advocated for a stronger U.S. military response. Should CBS have given her this story? How can Logan or her network satisfactorily explain the botched report? And do you see a double standard at work between Logan’s fate (issuing a halfhearted apology, so far) and Dan Rather’s much harsher penalty for his questionable 60 Minutes report in 2004?
Lara Logan’s story was not a mere journalistic mistake, but a hoax comparable to such legendary frauds as Life magazine’s purchase of the billionaire Howard Hughes’s nonexistent “autobiography” in the seventies and Rupert Murdoch’s similarly extravagant embrace of the bogus Hitler “diaries” in the eighties. In Logan’s case, she perpetrated an out-and-out fictional character: a pseudonymous security contractor who peddled a made-up “eyewitness” account of the murder of four Americans in Benghazi. The point seemed to be to further Benghazi as a conservative political cause (instead, Logan’s hoax boomeranged and extinguished it) and to melodramatically exploit the tragic slaughter of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues as titillating prime-time network entertainment. Logan’s phony source, who in fact was at a beachside villa and not on site to witness anything, cooked up violent new “details” for the Benghazi narrative that seemed to have been lifted from a Jean Claude Van Damme movie.
Here are a few questions that Logan’s “apology” — every bit as bogus as the story itself — failed to answer. (1) How could Logan (by her own account) have worked “for a year” on this report and not done the elementary cross-checking that allowed Karen De Young of the Washington Post to expose the fraud almost immediately after it aired? Indeed, what was Logan doing during that long year?
Yes, one year working on this story. Does that mean 40 hours a week reading reports and interviewing witnesses? Or does that mean 15 minutes a week reading right-wing blogs or Threshold books on a smartphone waiting for her gluten-free pasta to be cooked in the CBS cafeteria? Because it Ms. Logan worked on this story for 12 months, you’d think she’d get more of the basic facts correct.
“Logan even called for retribution for the recent terrorist killings of Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, and three other officials,” wrote Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington in her coverage of the luncheon. “Logan hopes that America will ‘exact revenge and let the world know that the United States will not be attacked on its own soil. That its ambassadors will not be murdered, and that the United States will not stand by and do nothing about it.’”
Seek retribution? Exact revenge? That may be the kind of language media activist Glenn Greenwald can fire off, but it isn’t what folks expect from a 60 Minutes correspondent. And it’s not what viewers should expect from Logan if she is going to report on Stevens and the highly charged political controversy surrounding his murder in Benghazi.
Adding to concern over Logan doing this story is that Threshold Books, which published The Embassy House, specializes in conservative nonfiction. Its authors are notable Republicans: Glenn Beck, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Lynne Cheney, Mary Cheney, and Sean Hannity. Republican consultant Mary Matalin is its chief editor. None are friendly to the Obama administration, which has taken considerable heat from the GOP for Benghazi.
Nancy A. Youssef of McClatchy found lots and lots of other problems with the report, and the ethics of Lara Logan. Here are a few highlights (lowlights?), but you should really read the entire article
But Logan’s mea culpa said nothing about other weaknesses in the report that a line-by-line review of the broadcast’s transcript reveals. McClatchy turned to LexisNexis, a legal research service, for a transcript of the broadcast because the segment no longer appeared on CBS sites.
The report repeatedly referred to al Qaida as solely responsible for the attack on the compound and made no mention of Ansar al Shariah, the Islamic extremist group that controls and provides much of the security in restive Benghazi and that has long been suspected in the attack. While the two organizations have worked together in Libya, experts said they have different aims – al Qaida has global objectives while Ansar al Shariah is focused on turning Libya into an Islamic state.
It is an important distinction, experts on those groups said. Additionally, al Qaida’s role, if any, in the attack has not been determined, and Logan’s narration offered no source for her repeated assertion that it had been.
Moreover, questions remain over how far in advance the attack on the U.S. compound had been planned. Rather than a long-planned attack, investigators have told McClatchy it was likely planned hours, rather than days, in advance.
Another questionable assertion in the “60 Minutes” report was Logan’s unsourced reference to the Benghazi Medical Center as being “under the control of al Qaida terrorists,” an assertion that McClatchy correspondents on the ground at the time and subsequent reporting in Benghazi indicates is untrue.
Two months ago, al Qaida operative Abu Anas al-Libi was captured in Tripoli by U.S. commandoes and brought to New York to stand trial for his alleged role in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. The “60 Minutes” piece attempted to link al-Libi to the events in Benghazi, with Logan reporting that “Abu Anas al-Libi was captured for his role in the Africa bombings and the U.S. is still investigating what part he may have played in Benghazi.”
But a U.S. law enforcement source involved in the Benghazi probe, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss a case that’s still under investigation, told McClatchy this week that al-Libi is not under investigation for the Benghazi attacks. Logan did not detail the source for her assertion that he was.
If there is new evidence that any of the men were involved, the segment did not detail what it was or how Logan knew about it.
The piece closed with a picture of a document outlining Stevens’ schedule for Sept. 12, “a day (Stevens) did not live to see.” According to the piece, “When a member of our team went to the U.S. compound earlier this month, he found remnants of the Americans’ final frantic moments still scattered on the ground.”
But the compound owner, Jamal el Bishari, told McClatchy on Wednesday that he began clearing debris in April from the compound’s four buildings and is still renovating the site. McClatchy visited the site in June and saw a pile of debris sitting outside the compound walls, but no documents were discernible among the broken concrete, clothing, furniture and soot.
Bishari said it is unlikely such a document could have been discovered recently.
“It is impossible to find a document now,” he told McClatchy.
Davies had claimed in the “60 Minutes” piece that he had gone to the diplomatic compound site during the attack, climbed a 12-foot-high wall and struck one of the attackers in the head with his rifle butt before discovering Stevens’ body at the hospital. All of the claims contradicted multiple reports that have emerged in the year since the attacks.
Since “60 Minutes” acknowledgement that Davies had lied in his interviews, CBS also has not explained how Davies came to play such a major role in the segment and what role if any his connection to CBS-owned Threshold Editions had in his prominence. Threshold, which also has published books by former Vice President Dick Cheney, Republican strategist Karl Rove and conservative commentator Glenn Beck, withdrew Davies’ book from circulation last week.
Media Matters has been collecting responses to the bogus story and the non-apology tour:
Following 60 Minutes’ tepid, incomplete apology for their retracted October 27 report on Benghazi, a broad array of media observers are criticizing the network’s response to the controversy.
After stonewalling critics of their report, CBS finally retracted the segment on November 7, long after it had become clear that there were serious questions about the credibility of the supposed “eyewitness” at the center of their story.
In a November 8 interview on CBS This Morning, 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan told viewers that “we were wrong” to air the segment and indicated that the network planned to “correct the record” on the November 10 edition of 60 Minutes.
But 60 Minutes devoted a mere 90 seconds to its correction and declined to adequately explain how the segment had made it to the air in the first place.
Numerous commentators and media observers are also harshly criticizing CBS’ report, with several pointing out that it leaves important questions unanswered.
Team Romney is more interested in scoring political points than reverence for the dead, or even getting the facts correct. Not to worry, Romney’s family will probably baptize Ambassador Christopher Stevens into the Mormon faith posthumously.
A damning fact check from AP: The gunfire at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, had barely ceased when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seriously mischaracterized what had happened in a statement accusing President Barack Obama of “disgraceful” handling of violence there and at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
“The Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Romney said in a statement first emailed to reporters at 10:09 p.m. Eastern time, under the condition it not be published until midnight.
In fact, neither a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier in the day nor a later statement from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offered sympathy for attackers. The statement from the Cairo Embassy had condemned anti-Muslim religious incitement before the embassy walls were breached. In her statement, issued minutes before Romney’s, Clinton had offered the administration’s first response to the violence in Libya, explicitly condemning the attack there and confirming the death of a State Department official.
Gail Collins is worried about Mitt – he does seem a bit unstable. He might be a borderline General Jack D. Ripper type.
Virtually nobody seemed to think this was all that great a plan. The Romney campaign, according to CNN, helpfully passed out suggestions for supporters who might want to defend Mitt. (When asked whether he was too quick on the attack, loyalists were supposed to say: “No. It is never too soon to stand up for American values and interests.”)
But not all that many other Republicans seemed excited about joining in. A few social conservatives did unveil a hitherto-unnoticed passion for the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom to make fun of religion. “It was disheartening to hear the administration condemn Americans engaging in free speech that hurt the feelings of Muslims,” said Senator Jim DeMint.
And, let’s see, who else. Donald Rumsfeld tweeted support. Party chairman Reince Priebus chimed in: “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.” Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona said the embassy’s comment “is like the judge telling the woman that got raped, ‘You asked for it because of the way you dressed.’ That’s the same thing.”
On this side: Mitt Romney, a totally disgraced former secretary of defense, a person named Reince Priebus, and a new Republican rape comment.
Two months to go and we’re rethinking our presumption that the Republican primary voters picked the most stable option.
“Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”
—President Obama to CBS News
Democrats were—obviously—outraged by Romney’s response to the crisis in Libya. But (some) Republicans have been quite miffed by their presidential candidate too.
Former Reagan speechwriter and eternally opinionated Peggy Noonan said, “In times of great drama and heightened crisis … I always think discretion is the way to go.”
Former ambassador Jon Huntsman said, “This is above all a reminder that politics should end at the waters’ edge.”
Indiana Senator Dick Lugar said, “I’m not going to make any comment about the political. None.”
Some Republicans did echo Romney’s words, like Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon: “Again and again under President Obama we have met threats and thugs with apologies and concessions.”
…[Sarah Palin said something stupid about wanting to see Obama’s penis]
Most Republicans stayed above the fray, though. Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan knew what to say: “The attacks on our diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya … this is outrageous. Our hearts are heavy. And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Graham released a joint statement saying, “We cannot give in to the temptation to believe that our support for the democratic aspirations of people in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere in the broader Middle East is naive or mistaken.”
Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.
That’s the actual, nominal head of the Republican Party speaking, not some radio shock jock.
There is politics. There are lies, exaggerations and half-truths aplenty in politics. But then there are times when playing this sort of mendacious politics is even more offensive than usual. The death of a U.S. Ambassador is one of those times.
But this this is who they are, and what the official Republican discourse has been reduced to. It’s time the press started reporting the callous, lying extremism of the mainstream Republican Party for what it is.
So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.
Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.
Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.
The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.
We are failed by our leaders – both political and business – and desperately need a new infusion of ideas and commitment to restoring our country.
For instance, General Electric, the largest corporation in the U.S., paid less than zero in corporate taxes last year – receiving a tax credit of $3,200,000,000 to use to avoid paying future taxes. And they are not alone, far from it, as we’ve mentioned a few times before:
While General Electric is one of the most skilled at reducing its tax burden, many other companies have become better at this as well. Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less.
In a regulatory filing just a week before the Japanese disaster put a spotlight on the company’s nuclear reactor business, G.E. reported that its tax burden was 7.4 percent of its American profits, about a third of the average reported by other American multinationals. Even those figures are overstated, because they include taxes that will be paid only if the company brings its overseas profits back to the United States. With those profits still offshore, G.E. is effectively getting money back.
Such strategies, as well as changes in tax laws that encouraged some businesses and professionals to file as individuals, have pushed down the corporate share of the nation’s tax receipts — from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.
A stark example of the fundamental unfairness that is now so widespread was in The New York Times on Friday under the headline: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether.” Despite profits of $14.2 billion — $5.1 billion from its operations in the United States — General Electric did not have to pay any U.S. taxes last year.
As The Times’s David Kocieniewski reported, “Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.”
G.E. is the nation’s largest corporation. Its chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, is the leader of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. You can understand how ordinary workers might look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.
Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.
New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.
I’m saddened by this, he has long been one of my favorite OpEd columnists [↩]
Justin Moyer tries to point the finger at artists who play for “undesirables”
Paul Robeson penned a tribute to Stalin. Bob Marley played for Robert Mugabe. And Paul Simon and Queen performed in apartheid-era South Africa. Chart-topping musicians don’t just win Grammys and score endorsement deals – they get paid mega-bucks to perform in unsavory places for unsavory people. Usually no one pays attention.
But not last week. When the big paydays that R&B stars got from the Gaddafi family became public, critics lashed out faster than Naomi Campbell denying taking blood diamonds.
Well, except all of the examples Justin Moyers cites were big deals. I had heard of all of them, and so did you too in all probability. Not to mention that these incidents took place in the quaint era before internet gossip rags, and before the 24 hour cable news networks set the agenda.
Let’s peek at how big of a deal, via the magic of Google.
Paul Simon in apartheid-era South Africa: about 382,000 hits
Queen Plays in South Africa: about 15,600,000 hits, some1 of which are about the performing artists who performed as Queen.
So, on to the bigger point: should we criticize the artists who took money from dictators, and bankers, and other undesirables? Or the Medicis, or Bill Gates? Even if the artists are already wealthy, like Beyonce, Usher, Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, Lionel Richie, 50 Cent? I don’t like the music of any of these pop stars who took Libyan blood-for-oil dollars, but that isn’t relevant. Unless the National Endowment of the Arts suddenly becomes a pet project of the G.O.P.2, artists should be able to get paid without sniping from the chattering classes.