Will the Media Save the Hagel Nomination?

By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media

In an interview on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday, host David Gregory apparently did not like the answers he was getting from his guest, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Gregory was doing what virtually all of the “journalists” in the NBC family do—shilling for President Obama. The point of contention was the Republican speed bump that had been employed to slow down the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to become Secretary of Defense until GOP senators got more answers. Answers on Benghazi, answers on Hagel’s confirmation-day conversions on questions related to Israel, Iran and Hezbollah. Answers on who has been feathering Hagel’s nest since he left the Senate.

But this particular question and answer segment was on the Benghazi scandal. Gregory wanted to know if there was any there, there. If the worst thing is true, he wanted to know, “what is that truth about how the president handled the crisis?” And when McCain pointed out numerous questions that remain unanswered, such as who changed the talking points that Susan Rice delivered on five Sunday talk shows just days after the terrorist attack, and conflicting comments about who knew what and when, it was as if Gregory wasn’t listening. “But a massive cover-up of what?” he asked again.

Here are the relevant parts of that interview:

DAVID GREGORY: It’s striking though, Senator, because some members are saying, “Look, we need more time to look at his speeches, to see if he really is anti-Israel.” Others are saying, “No, we’re going to use this moment of leverage to get more information about Benghazi, about what the president said, who he called the night of the attack.” Or getting some of the emails about who changed the talking point. The president said this week on the issue of Benghazi, “You guys are running out of things to ask about.” So let me ask you, at the end of the day here on Benghazi, if the worst thing is true, what is that truth about how the president handled the crisis?

McCain responded that he didn’t know how to answer that question. He said, “I do know that there are so many answers we don’t know. For example, what did the president do the night of the attack?” He then brought up then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We know that the Secretary of State, who said she was clear-eyed, never saw the warnings about the fact that the consulate could not withstand an attack. Why was that?”

McCain added to the list. “We’ve had five different versions of who put together the talking points. We want to know why the president alleged to Mitt Romney in the debate that he had called it a terrorist attack when he hadn’t. And an interview that very night of September 12th, he’d said he didn’t know what it was.”

McCain said that for the next two weeks, Obama kept saying he didn’t know what kind of attack it was, while the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff both said they knew that night.

“We’ve had two movies about getting bin Laden,” said McCain, “and we don’t even know who the people were who were evacuated from the consulate the next day after the attack. So there are many, many questions. And we have had a massive cover-up on the part of…”

GREGORY: But a massive cover-up of what? Susan Rice said there was a lot of confusion.

McCain then asked Gregory, “Do you care whether four Americans died? …the reasons for that? And shouldn’t people be held accountable for the fact that four Americans died?

GREGORY: Well, what you said was the cover-up…A cover-up of what?

MCCAIN: Of the information concerning the deaths of four brave Americans. The information has not been forthcoming. You can obviously believe that it has. I know that it hasn’t. And I’ll be glad to send you a list of the questions that have not been answered, including what did the president do and who did he talk to the night of the attack on Benghazi? And why was it that the people who were evacuated from the consulate the next day were not interviewed the next day. And then they would’ve known that it was not a spontaneous demonstration. Why did the president for two weeks, for two weeks during the heat of the campaign continue to say he didn’t know whether it was a terrorist attack or not?

Is it because it interfered with the line of “al Qaeda has [been] decimated? And everything’s fine in that part of the world? Maybe. We don’t know. But we need the answers. Then we’ll reach conclusions. But we have not received the answers. And that’s a fact.

David Gregory was just doing his job, which is, as part of the NBC team, to deflect any accusations that might be damaging to President Obama’s reputation or agenda. And to portray the Republicans as nefarious troublemakers who oppose anything and everything that Obama supports.

The Hagel nomination may still be in trouble, though apparently not from the lack of transparency on the Benghazi scandal. Instead it may be the lack of transparency by Hagel, and the drip, drip, drip of information coming out about some of his previously unreported speeches. The latest revelation comes from Alana Goodman of The Washington Free Beacon. Goodman was previously with Commentary magazine, and before that, she was an intern with AIM’s American Journalism Center. As Commentary notes:

“Our former colleague Alana Goodman broke last week’s story about a contemporaneous account of a 2007 speech given by Hagel at Rutgers University in which he made the outrageous charge that the U.S. State Department was being run by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Today Goodman is at it again as she reports that there was yet another Hagel speech at the same venue three years later in which he again offended Israel and its supporters:

“Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel said Israel is on its way to becoming an apartheid state during an April 9, 2010, appearance at Rutgers University, according to a contemporaneous account by an attendee.

“Hagel also accused Israel of violating U.N. resolutions, called for U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hamas to be included in any peace negotiations, and described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a ‘radical,’ according to the source.”

The vote on Hagel’s nomination is supposed to occur when the Senate comes back next week. But if the revelations continue, it could spell trouble for Hagel’s confirmation. Bob Woodward was on Fox News Sunday this weekend, and hinted at the behind-the-scenes machinations:

“I think there’s another dimension here and that is, what are Democratic senators really thinking about the Hagel nomination?” said Woodward. “I understand some of them have actually called the White House and said, ‘Is Hagel going to withdraw, would he consider withdrawing?’ The answer is an emphatic ‘no,’ but remember John Erlichman—Nixon’s aide—used to talk about twisting slowly in the wind. The factor here is time, and there is this twisting in the wind aura to all of this. I wonder whether [they] are kind of looking and asking what really is the fundamental question here: Is he really the best person to be Secretary of Defense?”

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at roger.aronoff@aim.org.


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