Much has been written and said about the astoundingly tone deaf performance of White House spokesman Jay Carney during this past month of scandals. The former journalist has lost the confidence of the people who were once his colleagues due to his unwillingness to tell the truth about his own deceptive statements (never mind those he represents in front of the press) about the Benghazi talking points or even to acknowledge that he has changed his story. The same applies to the shifting story he has told about the Internal Revenue Service scandal and when the White House learned about it.
The latest iteration of Carney’s story contradicts earlier ones that claimed they knew nothing about the investigation. Now it appears that the White House chief of staff and other officials learned of the situation over a month ago and actually consulted with the Treasury Department about how to soften the blow when it finally went public. Like everyone else following this story, I look forward to finding out who was the genius who decided that IRS official Lois Lerner should be the one to let drop the news with an apology and also saying she didn’t know math.
But anyone looking for an explanation for his unashamed stonewalling and obfuscation got an answer yesterday during an exchange with CBS News’s Major Garrett in which he compared questions about the White House’s conduct about Benghazi and the IRS to those who pursue the birther myth. In other words, anyone who has had the temerity to notice the lies and the trimming is cordially invited to shut up.
Revelations about the Justice Department’s spying on the Associated Press already had the media up in arms, but the news of yet another instance of the government cracking down on journalists seems to have woken much of the country to the truth about the administration’s disregard for freedom of the press. On Sunday the Washington Post reported that Fox News chief Washington correspondent (and COMMENTARY contributor) James Rosen was subjected to having his emails read and phone tapped in the course of an investigation of an alleged leak of classified information about North Korea.
Following similar action against the Associated Press, there can be no denying the chilling effect the snooping on journalists has on the ability of the press to do its job in a democracy. Indeed, the Rosen case ought to be a bridge too far for even those who understand that the government has a legitimate interest in preventing leaks. The egregious nature of the accusation against Rosen that he was a “co-conspirator” in what amounts to a charge of espionage, along with the government consultant who allegedly gave him information to report, betrays a lack of respect for journalists and journalism. It also shows a willingness to disregard the law that protects professional news gatherers from this kind of harassment.
In a New York Times story about how President Obama is seeking a path forward beyond his troubles, we’re told this: “In the last few days, the administration appears to have stopped the bleeding. The release of internal e-mails on Benghazi largely confirmed the White House’s account.”
No it hasn’t.
The original White House account was that the White House and the State Department made only minor, stylistic changes to the Benghazi talking points. That claim was utterly untrue. In addition, the president, the secretary of state, the president’s press secretary, and the ambassador to the United Nations all blamed the lethal attacks on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi on an anti-Muslim YouTube video, a claim that was false and never even appeared in the talking points. And the early (correct) talking point references to Islamic terrorist attacks and Ansar al-Sharia were removed, which is one reason why then-CIA director David Petraeus concluded he’d just as soon not use them.
On November 28, 2012, during a press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney–in addressing the matter of the talking points the Obama administration used to characterize the attacks on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi–said this:
The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two, of these two institutions were changing the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility,” because “consulate” was inaccurate.
We now know that statement was false. Enormous substantive changes were made at the request of the State Department. And it’s not simply that changes were made; it’s that the changes did violence to the truth. With each new revision, the story became less and less accurate, so by the time U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday talk shows, a massive fabrication was being peddled. And the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state all participated in the false narrative.
In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama spent much of the early part of his speech savaging the idea of sequestration. In his typically understated way, Mr. Obama referred to the sequester cuts as “sudden, harsh, and arbitrary.” In case he wasn’t clear, Obama also referred to them as “reckless.” And just in case this indictment was too vague, the president said the sequester was a “really bad idea.”
Which makes this interview between Fox News’ Bret Baier and White House press secretary Jay Carney so delicious. Under Baier’s firm, skillful questioning, Carney is forced to admit that yes, that really bad, terrible, awful, reckless, harsh, vicious, offense-against-God-and-Man idea was … the president’s.
How terribly inconvenient for Mr. Carney.
It’s too bad the White House press briefing was on Air Force One today, because watching Jay Carney try to spin Mark Hosenball’s Reuters scoop would have been fun. Unfortunately we’ll have to make due with just a transcript:
“There was a variety of information coming in,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday on Air Force One. “The whole point of an intelligence community and what they do is to assess strands of information and make judgements about what happened and who was responsible.”
“This is an open source, unclassified email about a posting on a Facebook site,” Carney said. “I would also note that within a few hours the organization itself claimed that it had not been responsible. Neither should be taken as fact. That is why there is an investigation.”
Hillary Clinton also dismissed the story, accusing reporters of “cherry-picking” information:
As he has done many times in recent years, ABC’s Jake Tapper hit the nail on the head when he asked White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday whether President Obama hadn’t done exactly what he and other Democrats and liberals accused Mitt Romney of doing:
TAPPER: President Obama, shortly after the attack told “60 Minutes” that regarding Mitt Romney’s response to the attacks, specifically in Egypt, the president said that Romney has a tendency to “shoot first and aim later.” Given the fact that so much was made out of the video that apparently had absolutely nothing to do with the attack in Benghazi, that there wasn’t even a protest outside the Benghazi post, didn’t President Obama shoot first and aim later?
CARNEY: First of all, Jake, I think your assessment of what we know now is not complete, but I would simply say that the -
TAPPER: I’m just going by what the State Department said yesterday.
CARNEY: Look, there is no question that in the region, including in Cairo, there were demonstrations reacting to the release of that video, and I will leave it to those who are testifying on the hill to -
TAPPER: You said yesterday there was no protest? I’m talking about in Benghazi.
This was yet another cringe-inducing moment from a White House that is allergic to the truth. But Tapper’s question hits an important political point that has been ignored, as the country seeks answers to the questions about the Benghazi attack that the Obama foreign policy team still finds itself incapable of answering honestly. Mitt Romney is still taking abuse from those who claim he was wrong to criticize the administration’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi disaster as well as the assault on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The Republican spoke out before all the information about both incidents was aired. In retrospect, that was a mistake. But it pales in comparison to the many deceptive statements from the president, the secretary of state and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations that were not only wrong but part of what appears to have been a campaign of deception aimed at distracting the American people from a major security breakdown.
After insisting last week that the U.S. embassy attack in Benghazi was prompted entirely by an anti-Islam video, the White House is now scrambling to walk back that position, which looks more absurd by the day (h/t Allahpundit):
Press secretary Jay Carney suggested the assault could have been the work of an armed group looking to “take advantage” of demonstrations he blamed on an anti-Islam video available online.
Carney repeatedly described that footage as the “precipitating” cause of the protests and the violence targeting American diplomatic posts in Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Tunisia and elsewhere.
White House spokesman Jay Carney just held a press briefing that was equal parts absurd and horrifying. Even as American embassies are mobbed by radicals, and our flags are torched and replaced with Islamist banners, Carney continued to repeat — almost as if he were trying to convince himself — that the riots are purely a reaction to a low-budget anti-Islam Youtube film. Nothing to do with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Nothing to do with anti-American sentiment. Nothing to do with support for al-Qaeda or Islamic terrorism.
“Let’s be clear: these protests were in reaction to a video that had spread to the region,” said Carney. “We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack.”
“The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that many Muslims find offensive,” added Carney. “It is not a response to 9/11.”
ABC’s Jake Tapper has been trying his best to get the White House to comment on the issues the public cares about — namely, the economy — but it’s been an uphill battle so far. At the WH press briefing today, Tapper pressed Jay Carney on why Obama hasn’t mentioned yesterday’s troubling CBO report:
ABC’s Jake Tapper: “The Congressional Budget Office report is a pretty dire warning about what this nation faces, yet I didn’t hear the president mention it yesterday, is there a reason why?”
White House Spokesman Jay Carney: “Well I think I put out a statement which is the White House’s view and the president’s view. The president talks every day that he’s out there, as he was yesterday, about what we need to do to help build our economy, help it to continue to grow, help it to continue to create jobs and yesterday, and the day before, he was focusing on the need to continue investments in education because he firmly believes that education is a matter of our economy, it’s an economic issue.”
Tapper: That’s not what the Congressional Budget Office was addressing, they were talking about … The president talked about education, he talked about Todd Akin, he talked about Michael Jordan, he talked about a lot of—
Carney dodged it, responding with a few boilerplate sentences on Obama’s “balanced approach” to the “fiscal challenges.” But it’s a question that should be put to the White House over and over again. Why won’t the Obama campaign talk about the economy? More importantly, why does the White House press corps — Tapper and some others excluded — allow Obama to get away with it?
The saying goes, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” For the Obama campaign and White House, that hand is the White House press corps. The president can give speeches until he’s blue in the face (which he often does, when he’s not at fundraisers, that is), but it’s the press–which is generally sympathetic to the president’s agenda–that report these talking points to the American people.
Today, National Review’s Jim Geraghty remarked in his essential Morning Jolt newsletter:
So if Obama tries to make the next two months about Seamus and tax returns and Bain layoffs killing steelworkers’ wives and so on . . . he’ll be advancing a bridge too far for his non-MSNBC media allies. What you or I might call the moderate-left MSM — CNN, the Washington Post editorial page, USA Today, The Economist, and most of the business and financial press — will have to acknowledge that one side is putting forth a serious solution, and the other side is trying to turn the presidential campaign into a reality-show food-fight.
Oh, and you figure snubbing the White House press corps to do sit-down interviews with Entertainment Tonight probably won’t help matters, either.
The White House press corps noticed the snub and aren’t too pleased with taking a backseat to news outlets that are devoted to breathlessly reporting on Jennifer Aniston’s engagement and Brad Pitt’s upcoming wedding.
There was a bizarre scene during today’s White House briefing, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney flat-out refused to say whether the capital of Israel was Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, despite repeated questioning from multiple reporters. The Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke reports:
Carney was caught flat-footed when asked which city is Israel’s capital. “I haven’t had that question in awhile,” he said after some hesitation. “Our position has not changed. You know our position.” The reporter said she didn’t know, but Carney moved on to another question.
That answer touched off a somewhat unruly scene, as WND’s Lester Kinsolving interjected that “she doesn’t know, that’s why she asked.” Carney moved on.
Conservatives have been rightly disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling to uphold ObamaCare, but that disappointment has been all the more bitter because the case has been full of unpleasant surprises. Conservatives believed they had two objectives to get ObamaCare overturned: convince a majority of the justices there was no “limiting principle” to the individual mandate that would excuse it from setting precedent on the Commerce Clause, and convince Anthony Kennedy (the assumed swing vote) that because there was no limiting principle, the law could not survive an accurate reading of the Commerce Clause.
They did both, and yet still lost the case, thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to elevate politics over jurisprudence. But now it’s time for Roberts to confront disappointment himself. Roberts believed he was doing two things by upholding ObamaCare: he was settling the issue of whether the mandate is a tax (it is), thus protecting the Commerce Clause, and he was preventing the further delegitimization of the Supreme Court by the Democrats, thus improving its general reputation. He failed on both counts.
The White House is still feeling heat from President Obama’s comments suggesting it would be “unprecedented” for the Supreme Court to overturn a law passed by Congress. And much of it has to do with the fact that the media is actually doing its job and calling the president out on his falsehoods:
During robust questioning when [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney was told at one point that he had mischaracterized what the president had said, the press secretary was forced to repeatedly defend the remarks of his boss as an observation of fact.
“Since the 1930s the Supreme Court has without exception deferred to Congress when it comes to Congress’s authority to pass legislation to regulate matters of national economic importance such as health care, 80 years,” Carney said.
“He did not mean and did not suggest that … it would be unprecedented for the court to rule that a law was unconstitutional. That’s what the Supreme Court is there to do,” Carney said.
Via Mediate, Bret Baier of Fox News, in the most professional way possible, destroys White House press secretary Jay Carney in an interview. Baier did the same thing to President Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod (see here). Chris Wallace tied top White House aide David Plouffe into knots in a recent interview. And Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was, by all accounts, wiped out during the Supreme Court’s oral arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
I realize that we’re supposed to be enormously impressed with the intelligence and skill of this generation’s version of the Best and Brightest. But here’s the thing: these fellows are just not that good. Like the man they work for, they often come across as arrogant and inept, prickly and unable to directly answer questions. It’s a bad combination — and for top Obama aides, apparently, a widespread one.
At Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “clarify” her statement the day before to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who had asked her if the administration seeks to prevent Iran becoming a “nuclear threshold state.” She had responded that the policy is to prevent Iran from “attaining nuclear weapons.”
Berman asked Clinton to clarify if administration policy was in fact “merely to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons,” or rather to “prevent Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons capability.” At virtually the same moment, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was being asked the same question at his press conference. A reporter asked him to “clarify, is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from a nuclear weapon, or to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons capability?” Clinton and Carney — speaking virtually simultaneously at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — gave opposite answers.