Category Archives: Democrats

What did I learn about Benghazi? – Cynicism pays.

 

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From the days of his youth, Brother Ivo has been interested in US politics. He recalls the Kennedy-Nixon campaign of 1960, albeit hazily. He followed the progress of the Civil Rights movement and the tragic assassinations of Dr King and both Kennedys.

He was a “Watergate junky ,waking early each morning to eagerly receive the overnight update on the inquiry, from a BBC which covered it in depth, making the slow southern drawl of “Senator Sam” Ervin of Texas a minor media star as he doggedly pursued the questions that revealed the unthinkable – that a US President had both acted  and lied  for political advantage.

Nixon fell and repented, but that appears to be the last wholesome precedent in living memory.

Subsequently, and in sharp contrast, Bill Clinton lied and was forgiven. He was aided and abetted in that by a wife who knew perfectly well of his widespread philandering, yet faced the press and people down.

More importantly she vilified the victims of her husband as liars, fantasists or gold diggers, yet still manages to represent herself with a straight face as the champion against those waging a “war of women”.

Only recently did Brother Ivo learn that Mrs Clinton had in fact been thrown off the Watergate inquiry team by its lead Democrat prosecutor for unethical behaviour. She had borrowed the only copy of an obscure legal precedent from the Library of Congress which supported the beleaguered Nixon’s request for Legal Counsel to assist him, she locked it in her room and then argued that if he could not produce it, he had no case for assistance in the process.

Her then boss discharged her saying that said she could never be trusted with such responsibility again.

Times have changed. Brother Ivo had been an admirer. If Watergate taught us anything however, it is surely that for integrity to remain in public life, one sometimes has to stand against one’s “own side”, something that Watergate Republicans of a different era did do; sadly, the Benghazi Committee Democrats have proved themselves incapable of following that ethical precedent.

Brother Ivo watch much of the Clinton evidence – so you didn’t have to.

What did he learn?

First that the BBC has ceased to be a serious reported of the issues of American politics. Jon Sopel’s report only addressed one issue -” Did Mrs Clinton’s Presidential bid survive?” One might have expected such a culturally liberal institution to assert that the deaths of 4 Embassy staff was too important to be politicised – which they accuse the Republicans of doing – and yet none of the evidence has been reported by our National Broadcaster.

This is evidence of a decline in broadcasting standards. Watergate was arguably less important – nobody died – and yet Brother Ivo and others of his age could probably even now give a fair summary of how bad practice came to be exposed.

The Benghazi Committee Chair, Trey Gowdy, came out as a man of integrity and forensic focus. He said he would concentrate on the events of Benghazi, and although the tale of Mrs Clinton’s secret and illegal email server is fascinating, he did not dwell on it at all.

He did neatly dispose of the claims that there was no new facts to investigate, pointing out that Mrs Clinton had never testified to any of the other bodies purporting to have investigated the matter, neither had any of those inquiries seen or even asked for her emails or those of Ambassador Stephens.

None of them had heard from witnesses on the ground.

The notion that this inquiry is irrelevant was thus despatched easily in his opening remarks, to the satisfaction of anyone of a non partisan nature.

The one big issue clarified was major. The Benghazi attack was not caused by the getting out of hand of a demonstration about an internet film, watched by only 300 people at the time of the attack occurring.

Nobody on the ground reported a demonstration.

Nobody called from the compound talking of a demonstration at all, still less it becoming ugly. Congressman Jordan put this directly to Mrs Clinton and she acknowledged its truth. There was not only no demonstration but no proper basis upon which to discuss one.

Sen John McCain – a personal friend of Mrs Clinton – had observed at the time that “nobody brings a rocket propelled grenade to a demonstration”, and although Mrs Clinton mentioned in passing that as Libya fell into turmoil, weapons were increasingly available, that may actually prove a hinderance rather than a help when we come to consider her responses to requests for greater security.

The key new revelation comes in three parts evidencing that the video claim was both patently false and known by Mrs Clinton to be false.

.On the night in question, Mrs Clinton emailed her daughter Chelsea to speak of a terrorist Al Quaida attack on the Benghazi Consulate. There is no reference to a video or a demonstration.

More officially, in two official records of telephone conversations with the Egyptian Prime Minister ( where there had been a demonstration) and the Libyan PM , Mrs Clinton said – in plain terms- that this was a pre-planned attack by an armed terrorist group and nothing to do with a video.

Within days that changed, with no evidence of reason for change being advanced; Mrs Clinton stood over the coffins of the dead and asserted that they had arrested the video maker who was responsible for this dreadful state of affairs. In the meantime, her staff had prepared “talking points’ for Susan Rice, the Whitehouse National Security advisor,as she  toured the Sunday morning talk shows asserting that it was the video that had inflamed the situation.

Why would anyone do this?

Would not most people have accepted that sometimes attacks like the original 9/11 literally come out of a clear blue sky? Unfortunate, tragic, but capable of being maturely explained and accepted.

The answer of course comes from the context. it was only 56 days from the election date, the President and Mrs Clinton were running on a record encapsulated in the phrase “General Motors is still alive and Bin Laden is dead”. They were proclaiming the victory over Al Quada and this was now falsified by the attack.

A second reason is more specific to Mrs Clinton and her own political ambitions currently being pursued. The evidence showed a picture of less than due diligence towards the security needs of Ambassador Stevens.

Mrs Clinton claimed him as a personal friend, implying that she would never neglect her duties towards him, with professional obligation underpinned by personal loyalty. She referred to him as “Chris” throughout.

Yet when questioned on this, she confirmed that he did not have her private telephone number, nor her cell phone, fax number or access to her through the notorious secret private email server. Her friend had never visited her house.

In contrast, her friend Sidney Blumenthall , was not only in possession of all her contact details but, despite being declared persona non grata to the Administration by the President in direct, unambiguous terms, was in constant discussion with her and she engaged with him regularly, sometimes sending his opinion over Libya higher up the chain – after carefully redacting his identity as the source of opinions.

She knew he was not trusted, neither did he have security clearance. He had never been to Libya but did have commercial interests as an advisor there, interests he was happy to advance with her by email. He was one of her most prolific email correspondents. His views and advice was “ put into the mix” as if a credible source though she knew that had those receiving the advice known its source they would have brought a degree of scepticism to the evaluation of the weight to be attached to it.

Congresswoman Brooks graphically displayed two piles of emails, one, approximately 750 in the year before the attack, but in the second barely a hundred and fifty in the time leading up to the attack. Whilst email is not the only measure of engagement, the contrast was striking.

It became more so in relation to the plight of Mrs Clinton’s  “friend”, who was simultaneously expressing concerns about the security situation for himself and his staff, sending about 600 requests.

Mrs Clinton made two sound points; first that emails alone are not the only indicator of concern, she was, after all having meetings, telephone calls cable reports etc. Second, that there were things she did do to improve security across the region; she had more obligations than Benghazi, even if “Chris” was specifically a friend.

Where that hits a credibility problem is in relation to her staff.

Two of them, writing form the State Department Libya desk, recorded that she appeared not to know that there was a consulate in Benghazi. She denied knowledge of the memo or its authors and specifically denied knowing their names.

This is puzzling.

How many unknown parties in a large organisation would risk upsetting its head by reminding her of a significant memory lapse?

Is that not usually the role of trusted confidantes?

Further, if unknown parties had access to the private and secret email address of a Secretary of State, does that not raise increasingly worrying questions of security?

More substantial is the fact that some 600 emails from Ambassador Stevens appear to have been received by her staff ( these were only disclosed two weeks and on week before the hearing so evaluation time was truncated). Mrs Clinton says that she never received or knew of these increasingly worried pleas from the Ambassador. What does it say of the culture of the Department of which she “takes full responsibility” that such powerful pleas and indicators of concern were never thought sufficiently important for her staff to refer to her for executive consideration and decision?

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We learnt that not only did the Ambassador specifically raise concern that the Consulate might have to be abandoned – again never put to her by her staff, but that as other Countries Missions, Charities, and Non Governmental Organisations pulled out, the worried Ambassador began buying cut price security apparatus to improve the security because his pleas to his Secretary of State were persistently unanswered.

Not only did Mrs Clinton laugh at this, referring to her “ friend’s ” ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, but insisted that he was making the decision to stay – he could have raised it with her if he was especially worried.

He was signaling anxiety, but these signals cut no ice with Mrs Clinton’s Staff who arguably were anxious not to break the political narrative that all was well with the Administrations policy in relation to the Arab Spring.

Is there no lesson to be learned here?

Is it not at least apparent that when staff screen out 600 pleas for help a Secretary of State in future needs to put in place procedures that such matters should be offered to him/her for risk assessment?

To put this in context, in specific answer to a question from Congressman Pompano, Mrs Clinton agreed she read every email from Sidney Blumenthall who advised and opined on Libya, having never been there, but not the many emails coming into her Department from her Ambassador in the front line,

The refrain that he was an experienced Diplomat and the best man to decide when the risk escalated to an unacceptable level may underplay the loyalty that Ambassador Stevens showed to Mrs Clinton. At times she was perilously close to asserting “ death by misadventure” – that he was “asking for it”.

If nobody knew the risks better than the Ambassador, the question begs to be asked “why did she and her staff ignore his advice that greater security was needed?”

Ambassador Stevens had 5 security men protecting him. The US had more security men defending their Embassy in Bermuda. Congressman Westmoreland from Georgia spoke with a slow Southern drawl, but one small part of his questioning was powerful.

He specifically asked Mrs Clinton about attacks on the Benghazi Consulate. She said she knew of only two, including the last fatal one. Westmoreland then pointed her to emails in which no fewer than 18 other attacks – of varying severity- were referenced. She agreed she had absolutely no knowledge of them.

We learned an important  new reason for this. Asked directly, she agreed that she could remember not a single occasion on which she spoke to her friend/Ambassador after he was appointed and sent into one of the most volatile war zones at the time,

As can be seen, far from being an “Irrelevant” political witch hunt, real new information is emerging about what happened that night, Mrs Clinoton’s Democrat colleagues desperately tried to run the “ nothing to see here” line, frequently offering criticism of the process whilst asking no specific questions.

Unfortunately for them, in a moment of unguarded candour, Mrs Clinton answered to one congresswoman that “ There are legitimate questions ……”

If this is the case – as indeed it is – why were the Democrats not attempting to ask them?

Not all legitimate questions would necessarily have been to Mrs Clinton’s detriment, yet her supporters seemed to have no faith in her ability to offer full and credible explanations of the character identified as “ legitimate” by Mrs Clinton, and chose not to risk any serious invitation to ask her explain more.

So there you have a brief resume of the principle points of the 11 hours of testimony. Only half of those hours were made up of serious questions and Mrs Clinton was not shy of giving extended answers to run down the clock.

Chairman Gowdy did not interrupt her and was scrupulously polite throughout.

Anyone can watch the entire hearing on the internet if there is any concern about Brother Ivo’s summary or interpretation.

So what did Brother Ivo learn?

Beyond the factual matters, he has come to a very depressing conclusion. Bill Clinton lied to get elected and was forgiven. Barack Obama’s election was secured partly thanks to a less than frank account of what happened in Benghazi that night; it was not an error but a strategy.

Mrs Clinton is seeking election on the back of a significant lack of transparency, resistance to accountability and plain evidence to having advanced a full narrative about the significance of the rogue video.

In Watergate, there were Nixon supporters who reluctantly came to the conclusion that however much they liked “ their man” , integrity forced them to turn away. Sadly in these three more recent scandals partisanship has triumphed. Committee Democrats bemoaned the costs of the process – $4.5m. They seemed blissfully unaware of the irony that the easier you make it for a lying politician to remain in office , the more it incentivises lying, prevarication, and subterfuge. Only by always calling out the miscreants, will you curtail waste in the future. All Secretary of State Clinton is seeing as a result of her mistakes from that time, is unqualified approbation and adulation from her side of the aisle

So reluctantly, sadly, Brother Ivo’s abiding lesson from the Behnghazi investigation is just that – cynicism pays.

 

P.S. As he reviewed his notes and wrote this piece, many on twitter were declaring that “nothing new” had emerged, that there was no “gotcha moment”, and even that the whole inquiry must be closed down in consequence.

This profoundly misunderstands the quasi-judicial process,

  1. Mrs Clinton had to be given an opportunity to put her side of the case – as she was with time opportunity and politeness, That is a prerequisite of a fair process,
  2. Something important has happened; her account is now fixed on oath,with no more opportunity to adjust the narrative.
  3. It can now be compared to other evidence, past and future, and any inconsistency can be identified and brought into account.

PPS Should the BBC wish to use this analysis as the basis for intelligent discussion they are more that welcome to use it to ” up their game”

“The times they are a’changing”

B1pqXT0IYAA9hfDBrother Ivo has been awake at unsocial hours throughout the night following the mid term elections in the USA.

Just as Michael Howard and Ed Milliband follow American sports, so Brother Ivo has had a lifelong fascination with the American political process, its characters, its failures and its processes.

Brother Ivo blames the late Alistair Cooke.

From the age of about 7, Brother Ivo would listen to his elegant, eclectic, radio programme, “Letters from America” and acquired a taste for the trans-Atlantic diversity which he described.

One week Cooke might be describing a political convention in Miami, but would be just as comfortable writing the following week about Charlie Chaplin ( who was supposed to have been the best man at his wedding) or making a point by dipping into history to describe George Washington arriving at his Boarding House late and missing supper  – having just been inaugurated as President of the United States. Those were the days.

Brother Ivo followed Cooke’s easy elegant prose as he unfolded the story of the Civil Rights Movement, its triumphs and tragedies, the Watergate drama and the tragedy of the Vietnam War. If readers have never heard him, the nearest current writer Brother Ivo can think of is perhaps Bill Bryson who reciprocates the love for his adopted country and similarly roams the country with a similar affectionate outsider’s eye for detail.

How we could have done with such mature commentary and understanding last night as the Republican Party made significant gains across the board in US Senate, Gubernatorial, and local elections. There were reasons for these turn arounds two short years after the re-election of the President but the BBC and its reporters were well below Cooke’s standards as they attempted to explain them.

In the early hours the BBC World Service was highlighting the complaint of voter suppression reducing the Democratic vote and supposedly excusing its electoral meltdown. It is a simpleDemocratic talking point/excuse, and the BBC should do better than reproducing it unchallenged.

The complaint might be encapsulated by the complaint of Mary Landrieu incumbent Senator for Louisiana who attributed her difficulties to her State having a historic problem with black people and women. In that State you have to secure 50% of the vote. She is facing a run off that she will probably lose although as the GOP ( Grand Old Party -Republican) has won everything else she might just squeak back.

Her complaint might have a little more validity had not that same electorate ( which she seemingly regards as sotto voce prejudiced)  not only voted for President Obama twice,  but has also supported her on three previous occasions. Not only this but their Governor is Republican Bobby Jhindal who, as his name confirms, is of recent Indian family extract.

Sometimes the explanation is that the voters simply regard your performance as below parr and trying to excuse it with reference to historic prejudices just won’t wash.

Alistaire Cook was never partisan. He had his favourites, the urbane Adelaide Stephenson featured regularly in his recollections, but  one cannot imagine him leaving such claims unexplored and unchallenged.

If one is looking for a “minorities” angle in these elections it is that the Republicans have continued to make good progress in diversifying its representatives.

Jodi Ernst becomes the first woman Senator from Iowa, Shelley Moore Capito achieved the same in West Virginia.  In New York Elise Stefanik becomes the youngest Congresswoman ever elected, aged 30 for the same party.

Hispanic Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez hardly had to get out of bed to win re-election, and young Black GOP hopeful won her seat in Congress in Utah, which is not a State associated with a large black vote. In doing so, she became the first Black Republican woman in Congress.

Perhaps the most significant result of the night was in South Carolina where black Republican Tim Scott won his Senate seat. The youngest woman Governor – Nikki Haley – also retained her seat in that State as a Native American woman.

Scott celebrated his landslide in what had once been the heart of the Confederacy. Scott with a remark which encapsulated  “Hope and Change”. He reminded folk that his grandfather picked cotton and he was now taking a Senate Seat – ” This is America”.

The Republicans have gone some way to fixing their problems, not by embracing “Identity politics” but through merit, and letting those meritorious minority candidates progress without being either excluded in “smoke filled rooms” of shoehorned in by quota. Mia Love looks more like a real feminist than Jack Dromey.

It is striking that those who embraced identity politics the most seemed to have come out worst.

In Texas, Wendy Davis who made her name insisting that there was a “War on Women” under-polled by 10 points amongst women. She came to be known as” Abortion Barbie” and her Colorado colleague Mark Udell attempted the same thing with the same result, being tagged along the way with the nickname “Mark Uterus” because he never addressed any of the other issues in the race and lost.

If this was not bad enough, Democrats lost Governorships in their heartlands, in Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. Whatever the Democrat’s problems are in these States, Voter ID is not the answer.

Parties need to look carefully at where they went wrong. The Republicans did and have returned as a viable election force. The Democrats must do the same. A balanced functional democracy needs viable alternatives.

Complaining to the media about voter ID requirements is not the way forward.

Alistair Cooke wrote often and movingly about students bussing down to the Deep South literally risking their lives to register poor black voters. Life is infinitely easier now in that regard. Approximately $3.8billion dollars have been spent on these elections. $100 million in Kentucky alone. The Democrats have been the bigger spenders.

If securing photo ID to register voters was seen as any problem of significance why has not a goodly portion of that money been used over the last 6 years to address it? Why were voters overwhelmed by campaign adds if what they really needed was photographic ID? It is a poor excuse and the BBC has bought it.

At the end of their coverage on the Today programme we had Jim Naughtie bemoaning that the American Political process is “divided”. Had Alistair Cook been alive he would surely have reminded him that it is “balanced”. It is deliberately so.

The English Gentlemen who devised the Constitution had seen despotism in the English Monarchy and resolved to make it difficult to replicate in the Republic. They deliberately divided the powers between President the House or Representatives and Senate. In the latter, each of the States has but 2 votes regardless of size.

The merit of such a settlement is that no party and certainly no President gets all of his way all of the time. The system functions through compromise and all Presidents have to deal with this,  especially as the mid-term elections often unsettle the balance against them. It is part of the merit of the system.

Both George W Bush and Bill Clinton had to manage without total control. It improved them. They lived with it.

President Obama forced through his Health Scheme Obamacare using a “supermajority in both House and Senate and without a single bi-partisan vote. Unimproved by intelligent civilised debate it has resulted in more people losing health care than gaining it. The losers are the folks paying for it. What exactly did he expect in mid-term elections? THere is a raft of other failures and discontents.

What we are seeing here is not a broken system, despite what Mr Naughtie seems to think, but rather but one working as it was intended. A wise President listens to the electorate when he loses and especially when he loses big time and in places where where he ought to be impregnable.

The old ways of calling support from the ghettos into which folks were compartmentalised for the purpose of locking them into permanent compliance is going. The people want a more rational politics, proper debate. problem solving and accordingly give and take is required of those elected yesterday.

The President is famous for spending much of his leisure time on the golf course.

He ought perhaps to enrol onto the next American series of “Dancing with the Stars” where he can be patiently taught that it takes two to tango. It may be just as well for him that Craig Revel Horwood remains on this side of the Atlantic.

 

#waronwomen

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Few people have been more defined by a single life event than Monica Lewinski. The mere mention of her surname will take millions from a certain generation, back to a scandal that is now many years old, and as somebody said on the radio this morning, her affair with Bill Cliento will be the first paragraph of her obituary, even if she discovered a cure for cancer tomorrow.

She seems to have come through it and we should be pleased for her. She is not the first person to have had a work place affair and will certainly not be the last. She appears to have accepted responsibility for that misjudgement and refused the easy embracing of the label that she as a victim of the charisma of a more powerful man. She has shown greater maturity than others involved.

What was the real scandal of those distant events is the way that she was fought over by the political establishments like dogs over a bone. The one faction knew that Bill Clinton was a philanderer and a liar and wished to pressurise her to confirm the truth. The other faction was even worse. They too, knew Bill Clinton was a philanderer and a liar and they went all out to crush Miss Lewinski – and Paula Jones, and Gennifer Flowers, and Juanita Broderick, calling them all liars, greedy opportunists, and a whole lot more

It is worth remembering the context of that scandal.

Paula Jones had alleged that when Bill Clinton was State Governor, he had treated her disrespectfully and sought to use her for a casual sexual encounter which she had done nothing to encourage. The whole of Arkansas’ political establishment and press core knew that such behaviour was entirely in keeping with his behaviour towards women and yet when the humble Miss Jones would not accept it and sought an apology, the whole weight of the Democratic machine came down upon her. She stood her ground, eventually getting a financial settlement – though no apology – and many other women were silenced by such public humiliation of a young powerless woman.

It was the indisputable DNA evidence on “that dress” which compelled the President to admit that he had lied on Oath about his relationship with Miss Lewinski. As a result of his behaviour, he was disbarred as a lawyer and no Supreme Court Justice attended his second inauguration.

It seems extraordinary that he was not compelled to resign the Presidency as Richard Nixon was once compelled. Nixon had been implicated in covering up the bugging of his opponents campaign office at Watergate. President Obama has authorised the eavesdropping of every digital communication and survived; how times have changed.

What was perhaps the most shocking part of the treatment of Miss Lewinski and the other women , however, was the overt misogyny that was applied against these relatively powerless women.

James Carville, the Clinton’s campaign director jeered that you could drag a $100 note through every trailer park in the South and women would follow eager to make similar accusations. Hilary Clinton made a decisive intervention on her husband’s behalf asserting  that Bill Clinton was not a serial sexual predator upon younger women and that these women were lying. They exploited the prejudices against poor women – “trailer trash” – and sought to taint the rather more socially elevated Miss Lewinski with the same brush. Like every rapist they tried to discredit the victim and thereby compounded the hurt.

Hilary Clinton knew all this to be patently and that her husbands discreditable defence was false. She was utterly complicit in the cover up.

Similarly, virtually the entire feminist establishment rallied behind the President and against the women who told the truth. They failed to call out the chauvinism, the exploiters and the deceivers.

Brother Ivo is not here to cast the first stone. Yet he cannot help but remind folks of these truths when the matters come back into the public arena.

Next year there is every likelihood that Hillary Clinton will run for the Presidency. Before she does so, she ought to repent of her part in the abuse of Miss Lewinski and the others. She should instruct all her supporters to lay aside their favoured hashtag #waronwomen which they deploy without any sense of irony against opponents who are nothing but pro-life.

It will be interesting to see how the BBC handles these matters and whether, on its “comedy” news reviews, Mrs Clinton receives one tenth of the disrespect minor UKIP Councillors receive when they are similarly caught out.

There was no more focussed campaign against the feminist ideals of equality and respect than the Clinton conspiracy to silence Bill Clinton’s “conquests”.

There has been a consistent – and by no means unjustified -campaign to force the Catholic Church to own its part in the exploitation and covering up of child abuse by its officers. The same logic should apply to the Democratic Party before Mrs Clinton asks for the trust of the American people.

Until she does so, she remains every bit as tainted as the Church officers and representatives who encouraged the cover up or allowed guilty men to retain the veneer of respectability whilst the victims suffered injustice in silence.

It is time for the Clinton Democrats to repent their #waronwomen.