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Posts Tagged ‘Benghazi’

Reviewers Giving Conflicting Benghazi Accounts While Hillary Stays Off Stage (Video & Report)

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The State Dept. Deputy Secretary William J. Burns and Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Thomas Nides on Thursday testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, on the events in Benghazi, Libya, September 11, 2012 that ended with four Americans killed at the U.S. mission, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Secretary Clinton regretted not being able to participate. She probably figured she didn’t need this on her record when she runs for the top job in 2016.

Her absence was felt at the meeting, since her two representatives were making sure to attribute to her every single bold move State will be taking in the aftermath of the Accountability Review Board’s report.

Some impolite talk radio hosts suggested Hillary’s fainting spell and consequent injury could be related to her reluctance to speak in person about the Benghazi mess. Who knows.

According to Deputy Secretary Burns, the State Dept. intensified a diplomatic campaign aimed at combating the threat of terrorism across North Africa. “We continue to work to bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Benghazi, and we are working with our partners to close safe havens, cut off terrorist finances, counter extremist ideology, and slow the flow of new recruits.”

That’s really nice. Still, there’s the report issued by the Accountability Review Board (PDF), with names like Ambassador Tom Pickering (chairman) and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen at the helm, which reportedly rebuked the Administration for its utter failure in Benghazi.

“The board’s report takes a clear-eyed look at serious systemic problems, problems which are unacceptable, problems for which, as Secretary Clinton has said, we take responsibility, and problems which we have already begun to fix,” Burns said what he had to, regarding the report.

But the report itself, or, rather, those two respected men who issued it, appeared at a press briefing last Wednesday, December 19, they offered different accounts of just what happened in Benghazi.

Ambassador Thomas Pickering said the terrorist attacks occurred over almost eight hours. “What happened on September 11th and 12th in Benghazi was a series of attacks in multiple locations by unknown assailants that ebbed and flowed over a period of almost eight hours,” Pickering told the press.

Except that, less than half an hour later, responding to a reporter’s question as to why the U.S. military never became involved in Benghazi, retired Admiral Michael Mullen said: “We looked at the force posture very specifically, and while we had a lot of forces in Europe both at sea and on land, it is not reasonable that they could have responded … in any kind of timely way. This was over in a matter of about 20 or 30 minutes with respect to the Special Mission specifically. And we had no forces ready or tethered, if you will, focused on that mission so that they could respond, nor would I expect we would have.”

Right-leaning CNS News pointed out that Mullen not only timed the terror attack at 20 to 30 minutes, but also defined it as only those events at the “Special Mission” compound, the State Department’s facility in Benghazi.

This conflicts with a CIA timeline of the Sept. 11, 2012 events, which shows that one hour and fifty minutes, give or take a couple minutes, elapsed between the time the “Special Mission” compound first came under attack and when a CIA rescue team was able to extract the surviving U.S. personnel from there.

As to the Accountability Review Board’s view on the fatal failure at Benghazi, CNS News notes that Ambassador Stevens and DOS officer Sean Smith died of smoke inhalation inside the “Special Mission,” in the first wave of attacks, and then, at least seven and a half hours later, former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by terrorist mortars fired on the Annex.

In other words, the event lasted seven and a half hours, and only the opening episode took “20 or 30 minutes.”

During that time, it appears that President Obama was not ordering the U.S. military to Benghazi. In fact, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, according to the report, was soliciting help from the Libyan military and from the Libyan militia that had been hired to protect the Benghazi mission.

Yes, you read it right: security at the Benghazi U.S. mission was shared with a local, Libyan militia.

The good terrorists.

Burns told the Senate committee: “As Secretary Clinton has said, our diplomats cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. When America is absent, there are consequences: Our interests suffer and our security at home is threatened. Chris Stevens understood that as well as anyone. Chris also knew that every chief of mission has the responsibility to ensure the best possible security and support for our people.

“It’s important to recognize that our colleagues in the Bureaus of Diplomatic Security and Near East Affairs and across the Department, at home and abroad, get it right countless times a day, for years on end, in some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. We cannot lose sight of that.”

Yes, it’s the old “Look how many cars don’t get into fatal accidents,” and “Look how many banks didn’t get robbed today.”

“But we learned some very hard and painful lessons in Benghazi,” Burns told the Senate committee, adding: “We are already acting on them. We have to do better.”

Burns concluded: “As Secretary Clinton has said, the United States will keep leading and keep engaging around the world, including in those hard places where America’s interests and values are at stake.”

Absolutely, but come September 11, get some well armed American soldiers into our missions in those hard places, just in case.

Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Thomas Nides spoke next, on the steps being taken at Secretary Clinton’s direction, to prevent the next Benghazi.

The review board made 29 recommendations in its report, and Nides told the committee: “We accept every one of them – all 29 recommendations. Secretary Clinton has charged my office with leading a task force that will ensure that all 29 are implemented quickly and completely, and to pursue steps above and beyond the board’s report.”

He then offered “some very clear specifics.” They are worth noting, although we would have expected these changes to have been implemented immediately after 9/11 2001, not 11 years later.

“For more than 200 years, the United States, like every other country around the world, has relied on host nations to provide security for embassies and consulates. But in today’s evolving threat environment, we have to take a new and harder look at the capabilities and the commitments of our hosts. We have to re-examine how we operate in places facing emerging threats, where national security forces are fragmented or may be weak.

“So at Secretary Clinton’s direction, we have moved quickly to conduct a worldwide review of our overall security posture, with particular scrutiny on a number of high-threat posts. With the Department of Defense, we’ve deployed five interagency security assessment teams, made up of diplomatic and military security experts, to 19 posts in 13 countries – an unprecedented cooperation between our Departments at a critical time. These teams have provided us a roadmap for addressing emergency – emerging security challenges.

“We’re also partnering with the Pentagon to send 35 additional Marine detachments – that’s about 225 Marines – to medium and high-threat posts where they’ll serve visible deterrence to hostile acts. This is on top of the approximate 150 detachments we have already deployed. We are aligning our resources to our 2013 budget requests to address physical vulnerabilities and reinforce structures wherever needed and to reduce risk from fire.

“And let me add, we may need your help in ensuring that we have the authority to streamline the usual processes that produce faster results. We’re seeking to hire more than 150 additional Diplomatic Security personnel, an increase of about 5 percent, and to provide them with the equipment and training they need. As the ARB recommended, we will target them squarely at security at our high-threat posts.”

Because, let’s be honest here, the Republican House did cut a chunk out of the budget for embassy security just the year prior the Benghazi attack. They’ll have to put it back in, and then some (watch Ron Paul voting Nay on this one).

“Obviously, part of this is about resources,” Nides spelled it out. “We must equip our people with what they need to deliver results safely, and will work with you as needs arise. But Congress has a bigger role than that. You have visited our posts. You know our diplomats on the ground and the challenges they face. You know our vital national security interests are at stake, and that we are all in this together. We look forward to working with you.”

In conclusion, we still don’t really know what happened in Benghazi; the national media blocked successfully the Romney attempt to expose President Obama’s failure to understand, much less help the situation on the ground during the very long, seven and a half hour attack (the duration of a full day at the office minus the lunch break); Obama is president again, with Sen. John Kerry the likely Secretary of State; and we know for sure that everything is being done to prevent another Benghazi.

Pleasant dreams.

Some Questions For Ambassador Rice

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Reports in recent days suggest that Republican opposition to the possible nomination of UN Ambassador Susan Rice as secretary of state seems to be softening. Critics such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are changing or at least modifying their tune regarding concern over Ms. Rice’s statements in the aftermath of the attack on U. S. diplomats in Benghazi.

Sen. McCain has said he looks forward to meeting with her to give her an opportunity to directly address his concerns, and Sen. Graham is now saying he’s not sure he would vote against or try to block her confirmation in the Senate should she be nominated.

We’ve stated in the past our concerns about Ambassador Rice’s comments on Benghazi and her vehement denunciation of Israeli settlements in a UN speech she gave while casting a U.S. veto of a resolution condemning the settlements.

Certainly her very public discomfort with a pro-Israel expression of U.S. policy signaled by President Obama makes us leery of her serving in any senior capacity relating to Israel, especially as secretary of state. Despite it being understood that a UN representative does the bidding of the president, her outburst confirmed to the world that she may not agree with the very policies she advocates.

And there are serious questions regarding Benghazi that we trust Senators McCain and Graham share and will pursue either now or in confirmation hearings.

As we asked last week, just how did Ms. Rice, when arguing on several news interview programs that the Benghazi attack resulted from spontaneous Muslim anger over a video critical of Muhammad, process the knowledge that it occurred on 9/11 and that the attackers carried rocket-propelled grenades?

Ambassador Rice has said she relied on talking points supplied by intelligence agencies, though she now acknowledges those agencies had information that the attack was pre-planned by Al Qaeda affiliates. Senators McCain and Graham should try to find out if she believes it appropriate for high public officials to be blindsided in this manner.

Do they?

On a related note, did Ms. Rice take advantage of her access to classified information to confirm the intelligence agencies’ talking points, especially given the 9/11 factor and the curious fact that she, rather than Secretary of State Clinton, was chosen to make the case for spontaneous combustion?

Perhaps most important, did she have anything to say to President Obama? After all, he made a big deal in the second debate with Mitt Romney that he already labeled the attack an act of terror the very next day in the White House Rose Garden. If the president knew, why didn’t he tell her?

We also hope that Ms. Rice will be asked whether she has any information that would support or counter the belief that adequate protection was not supplied to the Benghazi consulate because to have done so would have undermined the Obama campaign’s claim that the U.S. had eliminated the operational capacity of local terror groups.

In the Matter of Susan Rice

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Getting at the truth of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi is a work in progress and this is certainly a story with legs. Why U.S. personnel were not given adequate protection despite danger signals for weeks prior and why the Obama administration, in the face of intelligence information to the contrary, downplayed any terrorist dimension in the assault, urging instead that the attackers were ordinary Muslims upset about an anti-Muhammad video, is sure to be the focus of intense congressional attention.

But the brouhaha over the role of our UN Ambassador Susan Rice in promoting the deception has assumed a life of its own as she appears to be President Obama’s choice to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. To be sure, Ambassador Rice’s appearances on news programs touting the video scenario raises some serious questions. But there should also be concern over her comments to the UN Security Council in February 2011 when, ironically, she cast the U.S. veto of a resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion.

It will be recalled that there was a concerted effort on the part of the Palestinians and their allies to have the Security Council pass a resolution condemning Israel’s settlement growth. President Obama indicated early on that the U.S. would not go along with this and, if necessary, block the measure by voting against it. (Because the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council, this meant the measure would not pass.)

Video of the Security Council session show an obviously upset Ambassador Rice as she cast the negative vote. Her body language and facial expressions send an unmistakable message. Here are excerpts of what she said that day:

The United States has been deeply committed to pursuing a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In that context, we have been focused on taking steps that advance the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, rather than complicating it. That includes a commitment to work in good faith with all parties to underscore our opposition to continued settlements.Our opposition to the resolution before this Council today should therefore not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity. On the contrary, we reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace….

While we agree with our fellow Council members – and indeed, with the wider world – about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution.

So, separate and apart from her role in the Benghazi aftermath. we have serious reservations about what it would mean for Israel should Ms. Rice become secretary of state. As for Benghazi, President Obama has defended Ms. Rice in the face of criticism that she misled the public. He has said she was following his orders. A similar defense was offered by members of the Black Congressional Caucus who insist that any criticism of Ms. Rice is racist and sexist since she was simply following the president’s directive.

In reality, of course, the ambassador has shown herself quite capable of communicating her personal disagreement with presidential policy when she feels the need to do so, as witness the above transcript.

We also note in this connection that as a cabinet level official, Ms. Rice had access to classified intelligence information concerning Benghazi that contradicts the administration’s initial video narrative. And how in the world did she overlook or dismiss the fact that the attack came on 9/11?

Quick Takes: News You May Have Missed

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Semantics Or Something Deeper?

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks in Libya, UN Ambassador Susan Rice may have deliberately misled the public when she went on multiple television shows and called the facility that had been targeted a “consulate.”

The difference between branding the Benghazi facility a “mission” or a “consulate” may be crucial in determining what was really going on in the building.

As this column was first to report, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi actually served as a meeting place to coordinate aid for the rebel-led insurgencies in the Middle East, according to Middle Eastern security officials.

Many rebel fighters are openly members of terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda.

A good deal of media attention and political criticism has been focused on Rice’s other statements immediately after the Benghazi attacks, primarily her blaming of an obscure YouTube film vilifying Muhammad for what she claimed were popular protests that took place outside the U.S. mission.

In defending itself, however, against new claims that the White House may have scrubbed the CIA’s initial intelligence assessment on the Benghazi attacks of references to al Qaeda, Obama administration officials may have unintentionally implicated themselves in another, until now unnoticed scandal.

Over the weekend, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes contended that the White House made only small, factual edits to the CIA’s intelligence assessment, referring to one edit in particular.

“We were provided with points by the intelligence community that represented their assessment,” Rhodes said aboard Air Force One en route to Asia. “The only edit made by the White House was the factual edit about how to refer to the facility.”

Rhodes said the White House and State Department changed a reference in the CIA report from “consulate” to “diplomatic facility.”

Further, Politico reported that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was adamant that the White House only changed the reference to the Benghazi facility.

“There was only one thing that was changed … and that was, the word ‘consulate’ was changed to ‘mission,’ ” Feinstein said. “That’s the only change that anyone in the White House made, and I have checked this out.”

If the White House intentionally changed the reference to the Benghazi facility from “consulate” to “mission,” why did Rice repeatedly refer to the facility as a “consulate” when she engaged in a media blitz in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attacks?

In a September 16 interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Rice twice labeled the facility a “consulate.” In a subsequent interview on CBS’s “This Morning,” she again referred to the facility as a “consulate.”

Islamic Jihad Warns Fears Mossad
Facebook Infiltration

The Gazan-based Islamic Jihad terror group is apparently concerned Israeli intelligence agents disguised as good looking girls on Facebook are attempting to infiltrate Palestinian computers.

During intense fighting in Gaza that reportedly has most jihadist leaders in hiding, members of the Islamic Jihad’s so-called military wing, the Al Quds Brigades, found time today to post a lengthy article on their official website warning Palestinian Facebook users of potential Israeli intelligence hackers.

Islamic Jihad has taken responsibility for firing hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip aimed at nearby Jewish population centers. It also claimed credit for firing at least one Fajr-5 long range missile toward Tel Aviv.

“How do you know if Mossad became your friend on Facebook,” is the title of the piece, posted at Saraya.ps, Islamic Jihad’s main website. In Arabic, Saraya al-Quds means the Al Quds Brigades.

“Do you feel proud because your Facebook account boasts 5,000 friends? Well, here are ten steps to expose whether intelligence agents transplanted themselves inside your friends list,” reads the article.

The piece warns of friend invites from Facebook users who are unknown, “especially from a beautiful girl.”

Iran And Hizbullah Attempt
To Resupply Hamas

Iran and Hizbullah are furiously trying to resupply Hamas in the Gaza Strip with long range missiles to fire into Israel, according to Israeli defense sources.

Informed Middle Eastern security officials further told this column that advisers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Units are in the Gaza Strip helping to oversee the firing of long range rockets by jihadist groups there.

The information comes as Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, denied Israeli claims that his country was supplying rockets to Gazan groups, according to a report posted on Iran’s Al Alam’s television website.

Quick Takes: News You May Have Missed

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Slip Of The Tongue For Broadwell?

Did Paula Broadwell, the alleged mistress of ex-CIA Director David Petraeus, reveal a secret CIA detention center in Benghazi during a public speech she gave last month?

Broadwell, a former counterterror operative, co-authored a bestselling biography of Petraeus. She discussed the book during a keynote speech on Oct. 26 at a University of Denver alumni symposium. The speech is available in full on YouTube. During a question and answer session, Broadwell was asked about the September 11 attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi. She stated:

“Now I don’t know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had actually had taken a couple of Libya militia members prisoner. And they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. So that’s still being vetted.”

The existence of a U.S. prison or CIA detention center in Benghazi would be a new development in the debate surrounding the attacks there. The information does not appear to have been publicly known prior to her comments.

An extensive KleinOnline search of news media coverage of the Benghazi attacks could find no mention of prisoners being held at the CIA annex.

A CIA spokesperson denied Broadwell’s claim of a prison at the Libyan annex. However, Fox News is quoting multiple intelligence sources claiming that prisoners were indeed held at the Benghazi annex.

What The Media Is Ignoring…

The speculation surrounding the sudden resignation of the CIA chief, General David Petraeus, is focusing in large part on his role in an alleged cover up of the attacks against the U.S. mission in Benghazi this past September.

Perhaps being overlooked is the CIA’s possible role in purportedly using the Benghazi mission to coordinate U.S. aid to opposition insurgent groups acting in Syria amid information that those same insurgents consist in significant part of jihadists, including groups openly acting under the al Qaeda umbrella.

That Benghazi compound is repeatedly referred by the news media to as a “consulate.” However, as this column recently reported, the building was not a consulate and at no point functioned as one, according to informed Middle East security officials. Instead, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi served as a meeting place to coordinate aid for the rebel-led insurgencies in the Middle East, the security officials said.

Among the tasks performed inside the building was collaborating with Arab countries on the recruitment of fighters – including jihadists – to target Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. In September, KleinOnline broke the story that Ambassador Christopher Stevens played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Assad’s regime in Syria, according to Egyptian security officials.

Stevens served as a key contact with the Saudis to coordinate the recruitment by Saudi Arabia of Islamic fighters from North Africa and Libya. The jihadists were sent to Syria via Turkey to attack Assad’s forces, said the security officials.

The officials said Stevens also worked with the Saudis to send names of potential jihadi recruits to U.S. security organizations for review. Names found to be directly involved in previous attacks against the U.S., including in Iraq and Afghanistan, were ultimately not recruited by the Saudis to fight in Syria.

Hamas’s Obama Ardor Cools

In 2008, Hamas was so hopeful about a future Obama administration that the group’s chief political adviser, Ahmed Yousef, famously endorsed then-candidate Barack Obama for office, calling the politician a “great man” with a “vision to change America.”

Upon Obama’s re-election, however, the Islamist group’s expectations of the U.S. president seem to have diminished. During a radio interview, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, Hamas’s senior leader in Gaza, explained he was “not too much optimistic” about what the future holds with Obama in the White House.

Stated Zahar: “We are respecting the will of the American people but we are not too much optimistic about his positive interference to stop the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and to stop the expansion of the settlements.”

Zahar made these comments on “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on New York’s WABC Radio.

He continued: “Obama in his first term supplied the Israelis with the most sophisticated material more than any other leader. We have a big suspicion about his direct interference in order to help the Palestinian issue and to change his attitude concerning the reconciliation and the confiscation of our land.”

Another Dan Rather Moment For CBS News?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Several weeks before the 2004 presidential election, CBS News anchor Dan Rather ran a story on the network’s “60 Minutes” program about President George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard, claiming he had gone AWOL, among other improprieties. Mr. Rather cited several records and documents said to have been maintained by Mr. Bush’s deceased commander and provided by another National Guard official. As it turned out, however, the documents were later found to have been inauthentic and Mr. Rather’s career as a mainstream newsman was effectively ended.

Now comes the shocking revelation that CBS News withheld, until this past Sunday – two days before the election – a key portion of its “60 Minutes” interview with President Obama conducted within hours after his Rose Garden press conference on September 12, the day after the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.

The newly released excerpt plainly confirms that President Obama misrepresented the facts when he claimed during the second presidential debate to have referred in the Rose Garden to the Benghazi attack as a terrorist act rather than a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muhammad film.

It will be recalled that one of the electrifying moments in the second presidential debate was Governor Romney’s reaction to President Obama’s Rose Garden claim. Mr. Obama had been responding to a question about whether he and his administration refused to label the attack an act of terror (as opposed to a spontaneous reaction to an the anti-Muhammad film) because the administration had been boasting that terrorist groups were under control in that area.

Critics of Mr. Obama’s assertion pointed out that for weeks after Benghazi, administration officials uniformly maintained that the attack was a frenzied, popular response to the movie’s provocations. And a review of the Rose Garden transcript indicates it is quite a stretch to take Mr. Obama at his word. These are the relevant excerpts:

The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack…. Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts…. No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for….

So not only did the president frame the attack in terms of an “unjustified” reaction to the denigration of “the religious beliefs of others” – i.e., it was a riot by enraged Muslims – he also was plainly referring to “this type of senseless violence” when he used the phrase “acts of terror.”

Notwithstanding, the first clip of the interview put out by CBS on October 19, five weeks after the attack, appeared to support the president’s claim, carrying the following exchange between Mr. Obama and 60 Minutes correspondent Steven Kroft:

Kroft: But there are reports that they were heavily armed with grenades, that doesn’t sound like your normal demonstration.

Obama: As I said, we’re still investigating exactly what happened, I don’t want to jump the gun on this. But you’re right that this is not a situation that was exactly the same as what happened in Egypt. And my suspicion is there are folks involved in this who were looking to target Americans from the start. So we’re gonna make sure that our first priority is to get our folks out safe, make sure our embassies are secured around the world and then we are going to go after those folks who carried this out.

But here’s part of the newly released portion of that interview – and again, bear in mind that the interview was conducted the night after Mr. Obama’s Rose Garden press conference:

Kroft: Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorism in connection with the Libya attack. Do you believe this was a terrorism attack?

Obama: Well, it’s too early to tell exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.

Ari Fleischer, Norm Coleman, Expose Obama’s Record on Israel, But Leave Too Much Hidden

Monday, November 5th, 2012

To paraphrase Shoeless Joe Jackson: If you hold it, they will come.  The Republican Jewish Coalition held a Town Hall-style meeting to promote a Romney candidacy in northern suburban Philadelphia last week, and boy did they ever come!  The event was held on Thursday, November 1, at Gratz College, in Melrose Park, PA.  There wasn’t a parking space left across the entire campus, and cars lined the street surrounding the entrance.

The event, “The Jewish & Pro-Israel Community at a Crossroads – Critical Issues & Choices Facing the U.S. & Israel,” featured Senator Norm Coleman (Republican former U.S. Senator from Minnesota), and former White House Press Secretary and political pundit Ari Fleischer, with RJC executive director Matt Brooks as the host. They pulled together three big, deep-red easy chairs and two small tables to hold their water bottles.  The three spoke for an hour and a half in what seemed like a relaxed, and not overly rehearsed (although, clearly, it was) conversation about why Governor Mitt Romney is the better choice for president of the United States for Israel-supporters, especially  – but far from exclusively – Republican Jews.

Former Senator Norm Coleman (R. Min.) at the event Thursday.

Former Senator Norm Coleman (R. Min.) at the event Thursday. Photo: Richard Chait.

The pro-Romney event was the belated second half of a series held by a local synagogue.  The first event was in July, hosted by American Jews for Obama.   Headlining the July event was Democratic National Committee Chair Cong. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl) as well as several local Democratic party politicians.  Thursday night’s event was moved to Gratz College because power was not yet fully restored, following the brutal lashing by Hurricane Sandy earlier in the week.

Not surprisingly, much of the discussion focused on Israel, with additional attention paid to the tragedy of the murders in Benghazi, Libya, and, to a lesser extent, domestic issues.

The evening began with a “preview” of a new RJC ad featuring Bryna Franklin, an American who now lives in Israel and who was, until recently, chair of “Democrats Abroad, Israel,” and was a past Democrat National Convention delegate.   Franklin explained why she is voting for Romney, even though “she’s never voted for a Republican before in my life.” Franklin’s words seemed to resonate for many in the audience.

This was the RJC traveling trio’s ninth stop in 5 days.  They had already appeared in Denver, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, Reno, Las Vegas, Detroit, Boca Raton and Miami, Florida, with Philly as the caboose.

President George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer re-introduced the theme of an earlier RJC ad campaign, the one called “Buyer’s Remorse,” which featured voters who had voted for Obama in 2008, but who were voting against him in 2012.  Fleischer obviously was already a Republican, but he talked about why “Buyer’s Remorse” was such an apt meme for this campaign.

Why?  “Because,” Fleischer said, “Obama earned it, he earned it by his actions, he had the Jewish community,” but he lost it.  He ticked off a litany of missteps, including the President’s reversal of the commitment he made to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2008, when he called Jerusalem, “Israel’s undivided capital,” but on which he reversed himself.  Fleischer said, “he caved, within 24 hours, he caved because of the pressure of ‘Palestinians.'”

Fleischer pointed out something that had been lost on most listeners.  As someone whose job it was to manage the message coming out of the W. Bush White House, Fleischer realized what it meant when Vice President Joe Biden in March, 2010, used the word “condemned” when he criticized Israel for building in Jerusalem. “That word is the most severe word in the political lexicon,” Fleischer said.  To put as fine a point as possible on it, he said, “during the Bush administration, we used the word ‘condemned’ to criticize terrorist attacks,” not the building of homes in Jerusalem.

Senator Norm Coleman is a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney.  With his pompadoured hair and rail-thin physique, Coleman looks like a Saturday Night Live caricature of a politician, but somehow when he speaks from the stage, his personality fills out the hollows.  Like Fleischer, Coleman is also a former Democrat.  In fact, Coleman grew up in Brooklyn and said he “never met a Republican or a Lutheran until he went to college.”

Coleman got off one of the best lines of the evening when he told the standing-room crowd, that the “Buyer’s Remorse” theme goes beyond the Jewish community.  He said that after two wars and an economic downturn, “Americans wanted to change Washington . . . but they didn’t want to change America.”

Brooks asked Coleman, what about the phrase we keep hearing, that “Obama is the best friend for Israel’s security?”  “We’ve heard it from [Israeli President] Shimon Peres, [Israeli Defense Minister Ehud] Barak?”

Coleman disposed of the softball question with the obvious answer, “every Israeli leader is going to say every current American leader is ‘the best,’ because to do otherwise is not only unprofessional, it’s political suicide.”  In other words, anyone who quotes a sitting Israeli politician saying anything flattering about a sitting American politician has nothing of substance to offer.

The evening hit the high notes of the Romney campaign, bemoaning President Obama’s “leading from behind” lack of leadership which has led to a “less safe, less secure America, which, in turn, will only increase the need for boots on the ground” at more advanced, less opportune moments of international engagement, such as in various parts of the Middle East and elsewhere.

A recurring note was the dangers inherent in the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the resurrection of Al Qaeda, including in Syria, Lebanon and Mali.

Fleischer took the oar on the domestic front.  He reminded the audience that America was already on its way out of the recession by the spring of 2009.  “But,” he said, “the actions of the anti-growth, anti-capitalism administration, through its ill-advised stimulus, the cash for clunkers program, the home-buying credits and the auto bailouts have actually steered us deeper into debt, and more firmly into the red.” He said we are “now in the slowest recovery since the Great Depression,” while pointing out that the President had “two full years with a veto-proof House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof Senate.”

ON IRAN SANCTIONS

Coleman said that this Administration originally opposed sanctions against Iran, it later opposed increasing the sanctions, and it opposed placing sanctions on the Bank of Iran, all of which the Obama campaign now claims are accomplishments of his administration.  Coleman also pointed out that even with the current level of sanctions – which is having an impact on Iranians, even if not on the Iranian regime’s efforts to acquire nuclear weaponization – there are too many exemptions.  But Sen. Coleman suggested there are additional measures that could be taken, and should already have been taken, to actually achieve a biting impact on the Iranian regime. He suggested treating a pariah-like nation like a pariah. “For example,” he said, “Iranian diplomats should not be able to travel freely.”

ON BENGHAZI

In what some see as akin to a Watergate-level presidential failure, Ari Fleischer said of the Benghazi tragedy, “as someone who was behind the podium on September 11, 2001, I initially refused to criticize the president or his administration for their performance, and instead insisted on ‘waiting for the factual information to come in.'”

Fleischer reminded the audience that Cong. Peter King (R-NY) immediately called for US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to be fired, after she appeared on five different talk shows blaming the violence on a cheap video, when it turned out there was evidence long before that the violence was a planned terrorist attack and had nothing to do with the movie.  Fleischer had publicly disagreed with King.

But, Fleischer said, what changed his mind was learning that the CounterTerrorism Security Group was never even convened while the attack was on-going. (According to CBS News, “The CSG is the one group that’s supposed to know what resources every agency has. They know of multiple options and have the ability to coordinate counterterrorism assets across all the agencies.”  A high-ranking government official told CBS News, “they were not allowed to do their job. They were not called upon.”)

When Fleischer continued, “and yet the president blamed it on a video,” he was interrupted by the first and only major heckling incident of the evening.  A man stood up, shouting, “on the first day he said ‘terrorist!'” and walked out of the event.

After the outburst, Sen. Coleman tried to call the protester back into the auditorium, but the man had left, apparently uninterested in dialogue.  Coleman went on to calmly explain that while President Obama said the words “terrorist attacks,” during his talk in the Rose Garden on September 12, he was not referring specifically to the attack on the Benghazi diplomatic outpost, and that the administration continued for weeks to blame what was believed to be an American-made video for the violence that claimed the lives of the four Americans in Benghazi.

Both Coleman and Fleischer repeatedly said that “unfortunately,” the full truth about who knew what, when, and who made which decisions, is not going to come out before the election.  One audience member shouted out, “Fire him!” to which Sen. Coleman retorted, “you can do that on Nov. 6.”

DOMESTIC ISSUES

One woman asked the panelists to comment on whether Mitt Romney wanted to get rid of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Fleischer explained that he had also heard that rumor, and went to the source to see where it came from.  “Actually,” he explained, “while the question Romney was responding to was about FEMA, his answer was a more general response to government agencies which would be handled more efficiently and more expediently at the municipal and state levels, or even by private industry.”

Although Romney was being cast as shortsighted for calling for a change to be made to FEMA shortly before Hurricane Sandy hit, as Fleischer pointed out, it was the mayors and governors who were continually interviewed for information and updates, which was exactly Romney’s point.

On issues that present the ultimate barrier for so many Jews who might otherwise vote for a Republican, the two Republican politicians seemed to reflect the very nub of the issue.  Neither Coleman or Fleischer took a hard line on the issue of reproductive rights.  Fleischer was quick to make the point that on this issue, it is the Republican party that has the “big tent” approach.  He said that other than Pennsylvania’s own Sen. Bob Casey, it is hard to find any Democratic politicians who are pro-life, while there are many Republican pols who are pro-choice.

On the issue of health care, Coleman said that there are sections of Obamacare that are “pretty good,” and specifically mentioned the very real need to take care of those with a pre-existing condition.  The problem, he said, is that the way Obamacare is packaged, you can’t adopt the sensible provisions without being saddled with the ones that make no sense.

ONE BIG PROBLEM – LEADERS OVERESTIMATE THE PUBLIC’S KNOWLEDGE

FUNDING COMES FROM CONGRESS

One reason why so many Jewish supporters of President Obama have stuck with their 2008 choice is that the Democrats’ talking points are so reassuring, and because the Republican officials are so out of touch with what lay people know about how our government works.

Top talking points from the Jews for Obama playbook are that under Obama, Israel has received more financial and military assistance from the U.S. than under any other U.S. president, ever.

Of course that is nonsense, first, because Congress is primarily in charge of passing the budget.  It is in Congressional committees that the numbers get crunched – the President gets to submit a proposed budget, but Congress decides on the final budget, subject only to a presidential veto.

ISRAEL’S MISSILE DEFENSE

But at least as importantly, in this year, when President Obama and the Democrats have crowed so loudly about the enormous funding for Israel’s Arrow systems — two medium- and long-range anti-ballistic missile systems — and David’s Sling, a short-range anti-missile system, President Obama’s proposed budget actually decreased funding for that line item.  Congress ignored the President’s effort to reduce funding for Israel’s defense and instead practically doubled the amount requested by the Administration.  It was because of Congress that Israel received more “financial and military assistance” during this time period – although it was, indeed, technically, a time period during which Barrack Obama was the president – than ever before.

ISRAEL’S IRON DOME SYSTEM – AID AGREEMENT BEGAN IN 2007

At least one other point that bears discussion is the funding for Israel’s Iron Dome mobile defense system.  This system, which uses an interceptor to detonate incoming rockets and artillery shells, is largely credited with protecting much of southern Israel from its’ neighbors’ escalating aggression.   It is a project developed in and produced in Israel, but financed, in large part, by the U.S.  The financial agreement was part of a $30 billion 10-year military-aid agreement signed by the Bush administration back in 2007.

President Obama has not attempted to derail the Iron Dome aid project, but as a binding 10-year agreement, it is not clear that he even has the power to do so. But the project was neither developed during the Obama administration, nor did financial support for it originate with President Obama.

Unfortunately, the RJC trio gave short shrift to those major Democratic talking points that serve to allay the concerns of so many Jewish Americans who might otherwise be apprehensive about voting again for President Obama. Apparently they think “everyone knows” that it is Congress, the stalwart friend of Israel, that is the holder of the purse, and is the source for all U.S. aid, and they likewise think that “everyone knows” the Iron Dome defense system was a project agreed to during President Bush’s tenure in the White House, one which, as with virtually all military spending projects, is shepherded by hawks in Congress, in concert with the U.S. military – almost always a reliable friend to Israel.

But this is where the RJC and so many other political surrogates have lost touch with their audience, and it is a critical gap in comprehension which gives the edge to the Democratic party, when it comes to messaging to Jews and other pro-Israel supporters.

When the event concluded, two teenage boys stood out amidst a sea of late-middle age to decidedly-older audience members. Zach Lipstein and Noam Glanzberg-Krainin, both 13 year old students at a local Conservative Jewish day school, shyly agreed to answer a few questions from a reporter. Both quickly asserted that the panelists made “really good points.” Noam said he had not previously realized “that Iran is such a big threat.” Still, he was undecided about which candidate he favored, as “health care and the environment,” are two of his main concerns. Zach included Israel as amongst his top three priorities. He seemed confident, at least so long as his parents were watching, that he favors Romney.

Bob and Francine Lipstein, both Baby Boomers, thought the event was well worth their half hour ride from Lower Merion township, in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. Francine Lipstein was not surprised by the huge turnout, and said she was particularly “impressed by the panelists’ clarity on the issues.”

In particular, she was grateful for the event, as “the American people have not all heard the information, because the mainstream media is so ‘in the tank’ for Obama.” Lipstein didn’t have to be convinced as she already planned to vote for Romney because of his “business acumen, his love for Israel and his passion for helping others.” While she was not a “Buyer’s Remorse” voter, until 2001, Francine Lipstein was a Democrat.

Bob Lipstein was more succinct. He said the event “validated the passion I felt throughout this campaign.”

When was the last time you heard about Republican Jewish passion? Maybe it’s a new trend.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/ari-fleischer-norm-coleman-expose-obamas-record-on-israel-but-leave-so-much-hidden/2012/11/05/

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