Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bengahzi

The Washington Post’s Dreams of Dixie

Criticism of UN Ambassador Susan Rice and opposition to her possible nomination as secretary of state has generally divided into two camps. One camp, concerned by Rice’s handling of the administration’s response to the Benghazi terrorist attack, in which she presented talking points officials knew were false, believes her role in the misdirection must be accounted for. In other words, this group of critics has focused on Rice’s professional responsibilities.

A second group agrees Rice isn’t the best choice for secretary of state, but has aimed its fire at Rice’s supposed personality flaws, attitude problems, career ambitions, and stories of craven political cynicism. In other words, it has made it personal. Liberal news outlets are up in arms over one of these two camps–and it isn’t the one you would think. The first camp includes John McCain and Lindsey Graham, as well as a group of about 100 Republican members of the House. The second includes Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Yet the Washington Post editorial board published over the holiday weekend a shameful attack on the House Republicans, who had written a letter to President Obama urging him not to nominate Rice. The editors wrote:

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Criticism of UN Ambassador Susan Rice and opposition to her possible nomination as secretary of state has generally divided into two camps. One camp, concerned by Rice’s handling of the administration’s response to the Benghazi terrorist attack, in which she presented talking points officials knew were false, believes her role in the misdirection must be accounted for. In other words, this group of critics has focused on Rice’s professional responsibilities.

A second group agrees Rice isn’t the best choice for secretary of state, but has aimed its fire at Rice’s supposed personality flaws, attitude problems, career ambitions, and stories of craven political cynicism. In other words, it has made it personal. Liberal news outlets are up in arms over one of these two camps–and it isn’t the one you would think. The first camp includes John McCain and Lindsey Graham, as well as a group of about 100 Republican members of the House. The second includes Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Yet the Washington Post editorial board published over the holiday weekend a shameful attack on the House Republicans, who had written a letter to President Obama urging him not to nominate Rice. The editors wrote:

Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can’t know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy. You’d think that before launching their broadside, members of Congress would have taken care not to propagate any falsehoods of their own.

This follows the general belief of the mainstream media that criticism of the Obama administration is racist unless it is sexist, though in some cases it can be both. This, apparently, is such a case. William Jacobson has an important response to this editorial, reminding readers of the opposition to Condoleezza Rice’s nomination to serve as George W. Bush’s secretary of state, “which was led by former Klansman Robert Byrd.” Jacobson adds:

Rice, Condoleezza, received fewer favorable votes in her Secretary of State confirmation than any nominee in almost 25 years and more negative votes than any nominee in 180 years.  Twelve of the thirteen votes against Rice were from White Males, including the aforementioned former Klansman.

Jacobson also notes the explicitly race-based critiques of Condoleezza Rice, which have been absent in Susan Rice’s case. But actual racism isn’t necessary for the Washington Post editorial board to attempt to smear the names and careers of politicians it doesn’t like.

In addition to all of Jacobson’s points (and you should read his whole post), what the editors are suggesting is essentially that white (Republican) males refrain from criticizing non-white (non-Republican) non-males, or the WaPo will be back for them again. This is also revealing in and of itself. Though leftists often try to claim that Southern conservatives long en masse for the days of the Confederacy, it is the Washington Post that refuses to move on from those days.

To the Post, if you are from the South, your motivations are immediately suspect. If you are from the South, you don’t have quite the same right as others to engage in public debate.

This is not a particularly good sign for Susan Rice. Had her defenders been able to muster a case on her behalf, they would have presented it. Instead, they are conceding that she and the administration cannot be defended cogently in this case, but must be protected from criticism. Additionally, the Washington Post’s editorialists should consider reading the Washington Post (though I understand why they don’t). There, they’ll find liberal writers like Milbank whose criticism of Rice is personal rather than professional. Perhaps Milbank is not from the South, and therefore qualifies for the rights and privileges the Post has taken upon itself to award based on race, sex, and state of residence.

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