Wednesday, October 31, 2012

President Obama, Libya, and the Situation Room

    The release of two photos of President Obama in the Situation Room of the White House during Hurricane Sandy and the aftermath generated renewed speculation about what took place in the Situation Room during the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.  Today, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard speculated, or at least raised questions, about what was known that night, what was communicated to the president and by whom, and what was the president's response:
[Secretary of State Leon] Panetta's statement [that "you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on"] only makes sense if there were those in the military or elsewhere who considered or urged deploying forces into harm's way, and that those individuals were overruled because of the lack of real-time information...
What did President Obama do that evening (apart from spending an hour on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu)? What did he know, and what did he decide, and what was the basis for his decisions?
    In an eerie coincidence, as the September 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi was still raging, Vanity Fair posted the following article summary promoting a profile of the president that would appear in the upcoming October issue of the magazine.  The summary focused on a parallel situation from more than a year before: President Obama in the White House Situation Room making a life and death decision about an escalating crisis in Libya.
Obama ‘Went Off Road Map’ in Libya   Michael Lewis’s new profile of Barack Obama in the October  issue of Vanity Fair provides a rare insider look at how the president makes his decisions. The main focus of the profile are the days leading up to his secure of a U.N. resolution to take “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, and then “use American airpower to destroy Qadaffi’s army.” A source who was in the Situation Room when the decision was being made tells Lewis that Obama “went off the road map,” summarily shooting the two options given to him by the Pentagon: Establish a no-fly zone, which advisers admitted would not end the massacre, or do nothing at all. On why he balked at the idea of not intervening: “That’s not who we are.”
Read it at Vanity Fair    September 11, 2012 10:45 PM
Photo: Mustafa El-Shridi/Reuters
    If Michael Lewis's telling of the March 2011 Situation Room incident is accurate, the president overrode his military advisors and went off the map to send US armed forces into Libya to rescue innocent Libyan civilians.  Once the facts come out about that fateful evening of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, how ironic it will be if it turns out the president once again overrode his advisors, but this time choosing not to send assistance to our own ambassador and those trying to protect him.  What would that say about "who we are"?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Revealed: The White House Benghazi Situation Room Photo

    Today, the White House released a couple of photos of the president and his aides monitoring Hurricane Sandy and relief efforts from the White House situation room.  Here is one of them:

     This release has resulted in a fair amount of speculation as to why no such photo exists of the president monitoring the unfolding events in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 of this year.  The criticism has been harsh due to President Obama's trip to Nevada the following day, September 12, for a campaign fundraiser.  Now, for the first time, Speak With Authority can reveal a photo (provided by a Unnamed Senior Official) from the situation room that night that sheds light on the president's response.

    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is quoted as saying the video just appeared "spontaneously" on the screen.

Update: Just to be perfectly clear, the photo is a parody, as is the Carney "quote".  But the president really did go ahead with his Las Vegas fund raising trip on September 12.

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Do You Choose Sides in This Fight?

    From the UK Telegraph:
China's People's Daily launches attack on The New York TimesThe mouthpiece newspaper of China's Communist Party has launched a blistering attack on The New York Times, accusing it of "faking" and "distorting" news and being a government "propaganda tool".
    Finally got tired of the competition, eh?

The Coming Storm - Both of Them

    Yesterday, I posted a number of panicked emails from the Obama campaign under the heading "Obama Campaign Fears the Coming Storm (Oh, and It's Worried About Hurricane Sandy, Too". Bill Clinton has now made the comparison explicit:
"We're coming down to the 11th hour. We're facing a violent storm," Clinton said. He waited a beat, then added, "It's nothing compared to the storm we'll face if you don't make the right decision in this election."
    Meanwhile, Mitt Romney suspends fundraising emails and campaign events in states in the path of Hurricane Sandy and continues to use his campaign bus for relief efforts.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Obama Campaign Fears the Coming Storm (Oh, and It's Worried About Hurricane Sandy, Too)

    In the last twenty-hour hours, I've received four emails from the Obama campaign.  The subject lines read like dispatches from the Weather Channel.  Here they are, in order, with excerpts from the emails:

Some Bad News - From Jim Messina, Campaign Manager
I'm asking you to dig deep, Jerry:
We just found out that Mitt Romney and the Republicans outraised us in the first half of this month, putting us $45 million behind during these crucial final days.
This is Bad - Julianna Smoot, Deputy Campaign Manager
We just found out how much more money Mitt Romney and the Republicans have in the bank: $45 million... A $45 million disadvantage means we could have to fight back against an estimated 780 30-second ads in a battleground state like Colorado. With only 11 days left, that's a devastating prospect.
This is Dangerous - Joe Biden
Look -- Barack and I need you.
We recently found out that, as we head into the final push, Mitt Romney and the Republicans have $45 million more in the bank than we do.
We Risk Losing Everything - Ann Marie Habershaw, Chief Operating Officer
We're being seriously outraised, Jerry...
We need to fight this now, Jerry -- and, for that to happen, I need you to do your part, or we risk losing everything we've built and invested in[.]
    Any minute now I expect to find an email in my inbox with the subject: We're All Gonna Die!  RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!  -bo

    Maybe they read "One in Fourteen."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

This Election's Magic Number: One in Fourteen

    "Counting Our Chickens" was my first post after taking this blog public in January 2012.  Although the tone of the piece was rather lighthearted, my point was completely serious:
 I believe we can safely count our unhatched chickens. The chances of President Obama's reelection are so remote as to be virtually non-existent. 
    Nothing in the last 10 months has given me pause to reconsider my conclusion.  The polls of the last few weeks are finally reflecting what I believed all along.  Support for President Obama is no where near what it was in 2008, and without the looming financial disaster that tarnished the Republican ticket in 2008 and the simultaneous euphoria of overcoming our country's racially checkered past by electing our first black president, the country is looking for yet another change.

    My argument eschewed polls, swing states, and electoral vote counting and went straight to common sense.  Given the popular vote margin of victory for Obama in 2008,  only one in fourteen Obama voters needs to change his/her vote, all other things being equal, to give Romney the presidency.  As I put it in January, I ask you: Is there anything that has happened in the last four years that could lead anyone to credibly argue that less than one in fourteen voters will have changed their minds?

    On at least a few occasions, the Obama campaign has expressed concern about this very thing.   In Florida in September, Michelle Obama said this at a campaign rally:
“Think back to what happened in this state in 2008. Back then Barack won Florida by 236,000 votes. Now, that might sound like a lot, but here’s what it looks like when you break it down—that’s just 36 votes per precinct … So get that number in your head, because that could mean just one vote in your neighborhood, in your dorm. Just one vote in your apartment building could make the difference.”
    In other words, only about one in thirty-three Floridians who voted for Obama would have to pull Romney's lever to send the state's 27 electoral votes to the GOP candidate.  In Colorado, the magic number is one in twenty-three.  In Ohio, one in twenty-six.  And in North Carolina, one in three-hundred-and-ten.  Given that more than half of the margin of victory in the popular vote of 8,542,597 came from two states, New York and California, the magic number for most states exceeds the one-in-fourteen national number, making Romney's path to victory even more doable.

    To illustrate the power of these magic numbers, I've prepared the following graphics.  In a crowd of Obama voters, the red figure represents who needs to switch to Mitt Romney:

First, the national magic number.

How about Florida?

And what about North Carolina?

    If these visuals cannot spark some serious optimism, nothing will.  Still, I'll try to get the most cautious pessimists on board with this.  Above, in spelling out my theory, I included the caveat, "all other things being equal."  But all others things are demonstrably not equal.  The president has managed to alienate all kinds of voters with ObamaCare, support for same-sex marriage, infringing on religious liberty, and perhaps most important, his failure to help the economy to anywhere near the extent he promised in 2008.  The winning Hope and Change coalition of 2008 has fizzled, and his 2012 campaign has failed to reignite it.

    If that's not enough, many Republicans who could not get fired up about John McCain have surely recognized the importance of this election after four years of Barack Obama.  GOP voter registration and enthusiasm is up significantly over 2008.  And as Dan McLaughlin at Red State pointed out on Friday, Independents are deserting Obama in droves.

    I am not just counting my election-day chickens.  I've gathered every chicken recipe I can find and laid out the other ingredients.  I do not see this as overconfidence, but just a plain common sense reading of the mood of the country.  Whatever delusions Republicans hung on to in the fall of 2008, we all knew in our heart of hearts John McCain was toast.  This year, die hard Obama supporters know that feeling.  The rest of us?  Get the table set, because Thanksgiving is coming two weeks early in 2012.  And forget the turkey - this year we're having chicken.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Update on the Jeep Story [Updated]

    Mitt Romney made some news today by citing the story about Chrysler considering restarting production of Jeeps in China.  CBS reports:
On Thursday, Romney told a rally in Defiance, Ohio, site of a General Motors plant, "I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep -- now owned by the Italians -- is thinking of moving all production to China. I will fight for every good job in America. I'm going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it's fair America will win."
     The problem was in the phrase "thinking of moving all production to China."  The way the Bloomberg was written gave rise to the misinterpretation with the following sentence:
Fiat SpA (F), majority owner of Chrysler Group LLC, plans to return Jeep output to China and may eventually make all of its models in that country[.]
    Another sentence was also misleading and rather awkwardly written:
[Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia said]“We’re reviewing the opportunities within existing capacity” as well as “should we be localizing the entire Jeep portfolio or some of the Jeep portfolio.”
    However, further into the story, the following statement appears:
 Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China. 
    My post on Wednesday (the first blog to note the story as far as I can tell*) included this quote which was unfortunately absent from some of the other sites which picked up the Jeep story later (one of which was linked to by the Drudge Report on Thursday.)  The Romney campaign apparently passed on the story to Mitt Romney without the clarification.  Left wing media and the Obama campaign jumped on the misstatement, and Chrysler even wrote a blog post to clarify the misinterpretations of the Bloomberg story.

    Besides the hit to Romney's credibility, the most unfortunate part of this episode is that it distracts from the point I was originally making by citing the story.  The Obama campaign has made much hay out of Romney being an "outsourcing pioneer." Then, in the same week the Obama campaign released its second term agenda which includes a photo (at right) of Obama speaking at a Jeep factory touting American jobs, a story comes out that Chrysler, one of the administration's success stories, in thinking about jobs in China.  Personally, I don't have a problem with that and neither do most conservatives.  But the Obama campaign hasn't touted creating jobs in China, and now that irony will be largely obscured.


*Update:  I found this reference to the Bloomberg story originally posted on 10/22 at a blog called FidoSysop's Blog and Forums.

State Department: Al-Qa’ida in Iraq Resurgence

    President Obama's greatest foreign policy triumph is by all accounts the successful tracking and killing of Osama bin Laden, the long-time al-Qaeda chief.  The White House notes this accomplishment on its Foreign Policy page on its website along with other achievements, such as:
Refocusing on the Threat from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan  President Obama took office pledging to end the war in Iraq while refocusing on al Qaeda – particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Since taking office, the Obama Administration has focused its resources on al Qaeda and its affiliates. These counter-terrorism efforts have substantially impacted al Qaeda’s leadership, including the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
On December 1, 2009, at West Point, the President put forth a new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that is focused on disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.  
Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq  On February 27, 2009, President Obama announced a plan to responsibly end the war in Iraq.
On August 31, 2010, the President announced the end of our combat mission in Iraq, and Iraqi Security Forces assumed lead responsibility for their nation’s security.
In December of 2011, the final U.S. troops left Iraq, ending America’s war there as promised. Beyond 2011, the United States will have a normal relationship with a sovereign Iraq, one in which we work together as partners to promote our common security and prosperity. 
    In light of the unsettling events in Libya, Afghanistan, and other countries in the region, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was questioned about al-Qaida's relative strength in an interview With Reena Ninan of ABC News:
QUESTION: We’re seeing al-Qaida strengthen in some parts – in Mali, in Syria, in Iraq. What’s the real status of al-Qaida, and are they strengthening?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s absolutely fair to say that the major leadership of al-Qaida, including bin Ladin, has been decimated. There has been an effort to have other al-Qaida affiliate-like organizations – al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb – to try to take up the mantle of al-Qaida, but the core of al-Qaida has been severely damaged.
But we know that there will be terrorists, if they call themselves that or they call themselves something else, who will continue to terrorize people in the countries where they are based and continue to threaten the United States and our friends and allies. So we have never taken at all our eye off the ball of how we have to keep going after those extremists who pose a threat.
    However, on Wednesday of this week, Clinton's own State Department issued a report entitled "Al-Qa’ida in Iraq Resurgence", listed on the website of the Overseas Security Advisory Council under Recent Reports - Global Security:
Al-Qa’ida in Iraq Resurgence
Near East > Iraq > Baghda
Recent bombings, a jailbreak, and the discovery of training camps in western Iraq highlight the resurgence of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) operations over the past 10 weeks. During this period, AQI conducted an average of 140 attacks per week, up from 75 in early 2012, according to the Pentagon.
    Only this summary is available to the public as OSAC reports are generally only available to subscribers.  The report does not appear anywhere else on the State Department website despite the alarming nature of the summary.  Attacks have nearly doubled in the past ten weeks, a time extending back before the attacks in Libya.  However, the most recent Travel Warning issued by the State Department dates back to August 9, 2012, just at the start of the ten week period in question (granted, it is a fairly dire warning.)

    Despite Mrs. Clinton's reassurances ("decimated", "severely damaged"), the increasing incidence of terrorism attributed to Al-Qa’ida in Iraq is significant.  A full investigation of recent events certainly demands a close look at the growing influence and threat of al-Qaida throughout the region, no matter how politically uncomfortable that may be for the Obama administration and its foreign policy "victories."

What Does $40 Mean Now?

    Long before "Romnesia," the Barack Obama demagogues came up with last year's What Forty Dollars Means campaign.  The White House waxes nostalgic in its retelling of the tale:
In December of 2011, and again in February of 2012, the American people took to the Internet to tell Washington in no uncertain terms that letting the payroll tax cut expire was not acceptable. Tens of thousands of Americans tweeted, called and emailed to remind Washington that politics is not a game – serving the American people is a serious responsibility and the decisions made in Congress have serious consequences on people’s lives.
Thanks in no small part to their efforts to make their voices heard... Lawmakers extended the payroll tax cut for 160 million American workers through the rest of 2012...
The thing is, $40 is real money for working families, as people all over the country told us. That money buys things like school lunches, the gas needed to get to work or visit ailing relatives, and co-pays for doctor visits and essential prescription medicines.
    Excerpts from some of the responses of real Americans are also preserved for the ages.  Here are just two of the 30,000 the White House received:
$40 can buy me 2 five pounds bags of rice. I can eat that for nearly 3 weeks ($10.00). It can buy me a 5 pounds of fish ($12.00); I can eat 1 or 2 pieces a day for 2 weeks. I can buy myself 2 18-count carton of eggs ($7.50). If I did not have it I would probably began to lose weight and suffer from malnutrition. I have been struggling to make is since age 18.
Kailua, Hawaii: Priscilla 
$40.00 is the amount sometimes between paying the electric or not. We cannot pay more. We do not have it.
Nampa, Idaho: Pam 
    So with only about two months left in 2012, the White House is probably getting ready to fire up the old $40 meme again, right?  Turns out, not so much.  The latest official word from the White House came from Jay Carney on September 7, 2012:
MR. CARNEY:  The payroll tax cut originally and through its extension was a temporary measure.  And as you know, when it comes to the middle-class tax cuts, the President believes we should make them permanent -- on the so-called -- the tax cuts under President Bush for the middle class, for the 98 percent.
The payroll tax cut was a temporary measure, and we’ll evaluate the question of whether we need to extend it at the end of the year when we’re looking at a whole range of issues, obviously, that will need to be worked on to ensure that we continue the progress that we’ve made.
    Sounds like those 30,000 people the White House heard from might be on their own coming up with gas and grocery money.  Unless, of course, you believe that Obama Tax Plan that claims that the average middle class family will continue to save $2,200 in tax next year, even without the $1,000 from the payroll tax cut!  Unbelievable, isn't it?  Yes, as I documented here, it is quite unbelievable.  Well, at least food and gas prices are under control.  What's that?
"A lot of low- and middle-income households are mired with a stagnant income at a time when food and energy costs keep moving higher," said Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
    So, what does $40 mean? Has anyone asked the president lately?  Fortunately, some other Democrats appear unwilling to let a good crisis go to waste.  The Hill just reported:
Democrats are sounding increasingly open to extending the payroll tax cut after months of keeping it at arm’s length.
Leading members of the party, like Republicans in Washington, had previously appeared to have no issue with letting the tax break lapse on Jan. 1, an outcome that would raise taxes for some 160 million workers.
But with the economic recovery puttering along, prominent Democrats like Larry Summers and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) are suggesting that the party rethink that approach — even as they continue to stress that the tax cut remains nothing more than a temporary measure.
“I always thought that talk of payroll being completely sunsetted was a bit premature,” a Senate Democratic aide told The Hill this week...
Ending the 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax had appeared to be a rare part of the cliff that top Democrats and Republicans agreed on.
But lobbyists and aides on Capitol Hill say there might be good political reason for Democrats to push for a third year of the holiday, as it could give them another political chip in what could be protracted fiscal-cliff talks.
    Whew! Looks like we might dodge the bipartisan bullet and get the issue back in the political column where it belongs.  Maybe there's still time to dust off What Forty Dollars Means after all.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

President Obama's Great Pumpkin Moment Revisited

    In the second Presidential debate on October 16th, President Obama made what some might call a Freudian slip, others might hope is foreshadowing, but most charitably would be called a simple slip of the tongue.  Real Clear Politics reports [emphasis mine]:
President Obama spoke of being president in the past tense during last night's second presidential debate with Mitt Romney: "The way we're going to create jobs here is not just changing our tax code, but also to double our exports. And we are on pace to double our exports, one of the commitments I made when I was president. That's creating tens of thousands of jobs all across the country."
    This slip took me back to June and my most popular post ever, thanks to James Taranto's Best of the Web and Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt newsletter (link not available.)  With not only the election drawing near, but Hallowe'en as well, this seemed as good a time as any to reanimate the following without it appearing completely gratuitous.

 * * * * * * * * * * * *

    In recent remarks at a Minneapolis fundraiser, Buzzfeed reports that President Obama said the following when talking about trying to work with the Republicans after the November elections [emphasis added]:
I believe that if we're successful in this election, when we're successful in this election...
 One can almost hear the heads of his listeners snapping up on hearing the "if."  This is the first thing that came to my mind:

I particularly like the "I'm doomed."  It's got a nice ring to it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Scrubbing of Jim Moran's Campaign Website (You Missed a Spot)

    Congressman Jim Moran did not waste much time scrubbing his son/Field Director's name from his campaign's website.  Patrick Moran resigned from the campaign after James O'Keefe's Project Veritas released video of the younger Moran advising an undercover reporter on how to commit voter fraud.  Here are screenshots, all taken today, from the Moran campaign's contact page:


    The calendar page was updated too:


     However, as of now, Patrick's name remains on a page entitled "Gearing up for 2012":

    Oddly, clicking the email address for Patrick doesn't bring up the email address shown in the text, but rather an email address for Thomas Scanlon (tscanlon@moranforcongress.org) who holds several positions in Moran's campaign (here is his LinkedIn profile.)  However, this email address anomaly already existed going back to the oldest cashed version of the website I could find.  That date happens to be October 8, 2012, the same date the video was taken by Project Veritas.

    Patrick's presence in his father's campaign will live on through election day, however, due to a pie eating contest won by Patrick and enshrined for the ages in the October issue of the Arlington Democrats newsletter (photo, page 1; story, page 6.):

While all attacked their pies with gusto, none surpassed Patrick Moran, who scarfed his pie like Jethro Bodean eating cereal out of a mixing bowl.  One wag noted that parts of the  plate and table cloth were missing.
     Today's news, however, will eclipse news of the pie-eating title.  Patrick is likely to look back with nostalgia at the Jethro comparison.  His reprehensible behavior broadcast today for the world to see will be much harder to live down.

Ohio, Obama, and Optics: Chrysler Considers Building Jeeps in China

UPDATE here.

    This week, the Obama campaign released a glossy 20-page booklet laying out the President's second term agenda.  On page 3, there is a section entitled "Reviving American Manufacturing":
Manufacturing and technology are the life-blood of middle-class families and key engines of the American economy, sparking innovation, generating higher-wage jobs, and strengthening entire communities. But we can’t create an economy built to last if America doesn’t make things the world buys.
The backdrop for the page is the following photo:

    The photo was taken on June 3, 2011 at a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, where the president gave a speech.  That's a Jeep Wrangler in the background.

    In a potentially embarrassing coincidence, the following story appeared at Bloomberg on Monday, the day before the booklet was released:
Fiat SpA (F), majority owner of Chrysler Group LLC, plans to return Jeep output to China and may eventually make all of its models in that country, according to the head of both automakers’ operations in the region.
Fiat is in “very detailed conversations” with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (2238), about making Jeeps in the world’s largest auto market, said Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia. Chrysler hasn’t built Jeeps there since before Fiat took control in 2009.
    The story does go on to suggest this would not affect its plants in the United States:
Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.
    However, a related story at AutoGuide.com notes [emphasis added]:
Jeep is considering shipping its manufacturing to China in a cost-saving measure on the heels of weak European demand.
Weakness in the European auto market lead to slow sales for Chrysler but strong demand in China buoyed the brand. In fact, business in China is good enough that Chrysler might transplant its manufacturing operations. Should brand execs pull the trigger, it would mark the first time Chrysler built Jeeps in China since before 2009 when Fiat took a stake in the company.
That contradicts what Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said almost a year ago amid concerns that Wrangler production might move from its current plant in Toledo, Ohio.
“This plant has been at the heart of what we’ve done. I’ve said publicly that I would never build the Wrangler outside the U.S. and outside of Toledo. These are things that are unthinkable — to assemble a Wrangler somewhere else,” Marchionne said in November, 2011.
But what was unthinkable a year ago might not seem so foreign. Manufacturing Jeep products in China could help the company save money while feeding a growing market with reduced expenses.
Mike Manley, Fiat Chrysler’s COO in Asia, seems bullish of the possibility. “The volume opportunity for us is very significant,” he, said to Bloomberg. “We’re reviewing the opportunities within existing capacity.”
Jeep’s sales in China more than doubled this year to 33,463 units through September, which could encourage the move further.
Despite that, moving all of the brand’s production to China wouldn’t sit well with American consumers.
    Most agree this election will turn on the economy and jobs.  For a campaign concerned about "optics," the timing of this story could not be worse.   And with Ohio's position as the number one battleground state in the upcoming election, the location couldn't be worse, either.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Veterans, Stones and Glass Houses

    Today, ABC News reports that Barack Obama painted Mitt Romney as unfit to be commander-in-chief, in part due to Romney's failure to mention veterans in the Presidential debate last night.  The president's Twitter account echoed the harsh words:

    However, also today, President Obama's campaign released a glossy 20-page booklet outlining the much-anticipated second term agenda that the president has been under increasing fire for not spelling out more clearly.  Although the booklet includes remarks touting the president's efforts to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what the administration will do with the money saved, and there is a reference to "we can keep our young men and women working here at home, not fighting wars on foreign soil," the troops and the veterans themselves didn't make the cut.  As a matter of fact, "military" doesn't appear in the document, either.

    Romney may deserve a hit for his slight of the military in the 90-minute debate.  But a 20-page booklet from the current commander-in-chief spelling out his agenda for the next four years that doesn't mention the tens of thousands of returning veterans is inexcusable.  President Obama constructed himself a pretty elaborate glass house with his glossy campaign booklet.  He should have taken that into account before he let loose at Romney with the stones.

An Apology By Any Other Name

    Mitt Romney called out President Obama at the debate last night for "apologizing" for America, particularly in the infamous "Apology Tour" in 2009.  As Jen Rubin of the Washington Post notes:
President Obama is right that fact-checkers routinely declare it to be a “myth” that he has apologized for America.
    Indeed, right on cue, a CNN Fact Check concludes:
Romney's claim is false. The president has mentioned past U.S. mistakes and flaws during speeches about the larger issues of building bridges to other countries. But he has never apologized or gone on an "apology tour."
    Rubin deftly exposes the myth that the president's apology tour is a myth, but I'd like to illustrate it another way.  Here is a quote from the Summit of the Americans often cited as an Obama apology:
While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. … So I’m here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration. The United States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made.
    Now, let's re-imagine that statement in another context:
Barack:  Michelle, while I have done much to promote peace and prosperity in our family, I have at times been disengaged, and at times I sought to dictate my terms. … So I’m here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout our marriage. I will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made. 
Michelle: Thank you, Honey, I appreciate the apology. 
Barack:  I didn't apologize. 
     Ironically, the statement above would probably not be a sufficient apology for most wives.  But to deny that it was any apology at all?  It doesn't take a Shakespeare to imagine how the remainder of that scene would play out.

More Blame-Shifting

    Last night after the debate, I received the following email from the Obama campaign that returns to a familiar theme.  Here's the entire text of the email:

Jerry --
This is in your hands now.Chip in $5 or more, and let's go win:
    An email from before the debate from Michelle Obama touched on the same issue:
If you're with him now and you're ready to dig deep until the end, chip in $5 or more and let Barack know before tonight's debate:
If we're going to win this, it'll be because of what you do right now. Barack and I can't thank you enough.
    So now it's my fault if the president loses?  Fortunately, this is one thing for which I'd be happy to take responsibility.

State Department on 9/12: Protests in Benghazi? You Mean Cairo?

    Over the past five weeks, there has been growing controversy and speculation over what Obama administration officials knew about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and when they knew it.  A particularly sore point of contention is the role or lack thereof that Cairo-style protests or demonstrations might have played in the attacks.  The answers have ranged from Susan Rice's assertion on Meet the Press (and other Sunday shows) that the attacks were a direct response to the anti-Muslim Youtube movie trailer...
“This is a response to a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.”
...to flat denials that there even were any protests, as Eli Lake of the Daily Beast reported on October 12:
[F]our diplomatic-security officers who were at the Benghazi compound and who initially responded to the attack... told State Department investigators in formal briefings that there was no spontaneous protest the night of the attack.
    Conflicting reports continue to filter out.  Just last Friday, the L.A Times reported:
 "There isn't any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance." Most of the evidence so far suggests that "the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo" earlier that day, the official said.
    With a multitude of parties involved bearing varying degrees of responsibility or even possible culpability and many agendas to boot, the truth will be slow to come out and likely will be denied by some even if and when it does.  But at the risk of sounding like I have discovered something that all the professional journalists and amateur bloggers have overlooked or forgotten, I believe I have discovered something that the professional journalists and amateur bloggers have overlooked or forgotten.  On September 12, 2012, the day after the attacks, the State Department conducted a telephone conference call with reporters to try to provide information based on what was known at the time.  Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy was one of the reporters on the call, and he wrote a story that day based on the information given by the unnamed officials.  During the conference call, Rogin asked a question about possible protests, and reported the response as follows:

The briefing left several questions about the Tuesday attack unanswered. The officials wouldn't speculate about the identity of the attackers or whether the Benghazi attack was connected to an earlier protest at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo during which protesters breached the compound walls.
"It was clearly a complex attack," the official said. "It's too early to speak to who they were and if they might have been otherwise affiliated outside of Libya."
 * * * 
The officials could not say whether the attackers were part of the protests outside the embassy walls.
"We frankly don't have a full picture of what may have been going on outside of the compound walls before the firing began," the official said.

    However, the way the unnamed official responds to the question about the protests (see transcript of the conference call) is quite revealing [emphasis mine]:
QUESTION: Thank you very much. First, just one point of clarification. Can you tell us what time in the timeline that [the body of] Ambassador Stevens was delivered to you at the airport? But the larger question is, you didn’t talk at all about the protests. You started your timeline with that the firing began. Can you talk about the timeline of when the protests started, how that fit in with it, and your sense of whether or not the protestors and the assailants were the same?
 * * *
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: ...With regard to the protests – I assume you’re not talking about protests in Cairo, are you? You’re talking about protests in Benghazi?... We frankly don’t have a full picture of what may have been going on outside of the compound walls before the firing began. So I really just don’t have any specifics on that at the moment. I apologize.
    It is clear from the official's response that the Cairo protests were the only protests of which the State Department was aware.  Even though Rogin's question was clearly in the context of Benghazi, the official felt the need to clarify that Rogin was not referring to the Cairo protests.  Indeed, the overall content and tone of the call was such that another reporter, Justin Fishel with Fox News, asked the following later in the call:
QUESTION: ...Do you believe that this attack was in any way related to the incident in Cairo? You suggested this attack in Benghazi was more complex; so is it safe to rule out that this was a reaction to the inflammatory internet video?
 * * *
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: ...With regard to whether there is any connection between this internet activity and this extremist attack in Benghazi, frankly, we just don’t know. We’re not going to know until we have a chance to investigate. And I’m sorry that it is frustrating for you that so many of our answers are “We don’t know,” but they are truthful in that.
    Keep in mind this question was asked before all the controversy erupted about the attacks being pre-planned versus a spontaneous reaction to the video, so likely it was asked sincerely based on the preceding information in the call and not with a gotcha agenda.

    As I wrote last week, it seems to stretch credulity that, given the violence of the protests in Cairo, the State Department would not have been in touch with other installations in the region to monitor possible copycat situations.  And based on this conference calls, the early information suggested that no such copycat protest had happened in Benghazi.  Only in the days and weeks that following came the increasing drumbeat from the administration about spontaneous protests in Benghazi, a drumbeat that increasingly seems to have been political in nature with little basis in reality.

Monday, October 22, 2012

President Obama's Economic Bright Spot: Republicans: Part 5 - Final

    When the September state unemployment figures were released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, October 19th, media reports focused on how nine all-important "swing states" fared.  As it turns out, unemployment dropped in seven of the nine, and held steady in the remaining two.  Politico's take was a rather tepid nod at a possible benefit to President Obama from the positive economic signs.  However, applying a metric I have used in the context of the state unemployment numbers several times since April (hereherehere, and here), the September swing state results take on new meaning.

    In this series (of which this is the final installment since the election is just three weeks away), I have analyzed jobs data on the basis of what I call Republican-controlled states versus Democratic-controlled states.  As I have documented, those states I have defined as Republican-controlled have far outpaced Democratic-controlled states in improving their rates of unemployment since 2009.  (I define "control" as the party that holds at least two out of three of the following: the governorship and the two legislative houses.  So, for instance, even though New Jersey has a Republican governor, Chris Christie, both legislative houses are held by Democrat majorities, so New Jersey is considered Democratic-controlled.)

    Based on the figures released by the BLS on Friday, October 19, when the states under control of the respective parties are combined and considered as one, the rates of unemployment are as follows:
Republican-controlled states    7.6%
Democratic-control states        9.0%
    Although this gap has narrowed since August (1.4% vs. 1.5% in August,) the difference is still substantial.  And those nine swing states?  Seven of them are Republican-controlled and only two Democratic-controlled (and one of those two is Nevada which, despite the improvement, still has the highest rate in the nation at 11.8%.  The other is Colorado at 8%.)

    The doomsday scenario for the Obama campaign is that voters in these swing states will credit the local Republicans (all politics is local? is that still true?) rather than the president and his party for whatever gains are being made on the economic front.  If that happens, then the defeat of President Obama will be even more overwhelming than I have been predicting since January.  Landslide, anyone?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

About Those Nuclear Talks With Iran

    The New York Times published a story on Saturday headlined "U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks."  The story has been quickly denounced as untrue by both Iranian and U.S. officials, so speculation has begun about the source of the story and the reason behind it.  Jazz Shaw at Hot Air pondered the question and came up with four possibilities.  Here's #3:
Theory 3: The story is garbage, but the New York Times was misled by an Obama administration official who wanted to plant a seed to make it look like the President’s foreign policy platform isn’t a complete shambles right before the foreign policy debate.
    I'd like to submit some meat for those bones.  The NYT story was written by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler.  Landler has written Times stories in the past with David E. Sanger, notably a February 2012 article about the tension between Israel and the U.S over the Iran threat.  Sanger more recently wrote another article about Iran in August 2012 which included some reports on the negotiations with Iran that were the subject of Saturday's story.  The August story said:

Though Iranian officials have privately expressed some interest in the plan, the deal has gone nowhere, and no new negotiating sessions are scheduled, American officials say.
“For now, the talks are dead in the water,” one senior official said Thursday.
    Of course quoting anonymous "senior officials" in quite common, not just for Sanger but for most national security reporters and understandably so.  But Sanger has also written a book about Iran, reviewed by none other than the Times in June 2012.  That review contains the following insights into Sanger's reporting [emphasis mine]:

And throughout, Mr. Sanger clearly has enjoyed great access to senior White House officials, most notably to Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser.
Mr. Donilon, in effect, is the hero of the book, as well as the commenter of record on events. He leads the team that goes to Israel and spends “five hours wading through the intelligence in the basement of the prime minister’s residence.” He is shown studying the nettlesome problems of foreign relations, working closely with the president, and fending off the villains of this story — which in Mr. Sanger’s account tend to be the government of Pakistan and, surprisingly, the generals of the American military. “We fought the Pentagon every step of the way on this,” a “senior American diplomat” tells Mr. Sanger. At another point, a “senior White House official” reports that, “There was incredible resistance inside the Pentagon.” And so on.
The virtue of this book — its foundation of White House sources who give the author insiders’ material like a transcript of Mr. Obama’s last telephone call with the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak — is also its weakness. That is, Mr. Sanger shows us the world through the eyes of Mr. Obama, Mr. Donilon and those around him. But he also tends to depict Washington and the world as they see it.
     And what is know about the "hero" of Sanger's book, Thomas Donilon?  A profile provided by the Times says the following of Mr. Donilon:

Thomas E. Donilon is President Obama’s national security adviser and a central, if little-known figure in American foreign policy...
He oversaw support for the Libya war that toppled Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. He made sure surge troops left Afghanistan as scheduled. He is a champion of Mr. Obama’s so-called pivot to Asia, in which strengthening regional alliances in the Pacific have become an increasingly important focus of policy.
Yet Mr. Donilon has not escaped controversy... Republicans suspect him of orchestrating national security leaks to make Mr. Obama look good.
    So is Mr. Donilon the "administration official" who floated the Iran-has-agreed-to-talks balloon, which coincidentally are only likely to happen if Barack Obama is reelected?  After putting together this chain of people and information above, I can see how this conspiracy theorizing can be addictive.  But the above scenario is fairly low on conspiracy if I do say so myself.  Even for someone with an aversion to going out on limbs, this particular limb seems pretty thick.

The Obama Administration's Tax Plan Scam

    President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden can hardly make it through a speech these days without mentioning Mitt Romney's "$5 Trillion Tax Cut."  They've continued the full court press on this issue despite the debunking of the claim by Politifact ("half true" rating) and other fact checkers the Obama campaign has been quick to cite in the past for support on other issues.  (I guess they've decided that their campaign won't be dictated to by fact-checkers.)  But what about the President's tax plan?  Is all the bluster about Romney's $5 Trillion a case of deliberate misdirection?  A closer inspection of at least one of the claims of the president's tax plan would suggest the answer is yes.

    One of the most prominent claims of the Obama campaign on the tax issue appears in bold type on the website:

    Indeed, using the handy tax-calculator on the same page produces these results:

    The White House website repeats the $3,600 savings on its list of 11 Facts in the Tax Debate:
Over the past 4 years, a typical family making $50,000 a year has received tax cuts totaling $3,600—more if they are putting a child through college.
    Since the $3,600 figure keeps popping up, it must be well documented, right?  Clicking on the "Learn More" link brings up the following fact box:

    And there it is, the first bullet point.  The $3,600 saved during the president's first term comes from $1,600 from the Making Work Pay Credit and $2,000 from the payroll tax cut.  But now, before we get to reconciling how a savings of $3,600 over Obama's first four years translates into a "continued tax savings of $2,200 [$2,168 rounded up]" in 2013, how about that payroll tax cut?  I guess this means the Obama administration is seeking to extend that 2% cut for another year?  Not so fast.  The last official word I can find from the administration on the payroll tax holiday was in September from Jay Carney:
MR. CARNEY:  The payroll tax cut originally and through its extension was a temporary measure.  And as you know, when it comes to the middle-class tax cuts, the President believes we should make them permanent -- on the so-called -- the tax cuts under President Bush for the middle class, for the 98 percent.
The payroll tax cut was a temporary measure, and we’ll evaluate the question of whether we need to extend it at the end of the year when we’re looking at a whole range of issues, obviously, that will need to be worked on to ensure that we continue the progress that we’ve made.
    In other words, the payroll tax holiday is NOT included in the "continued tax savings of $2,200" in 2013, because the Obama campaign has been using these figures for months.  So if our typical family making $50,000/year is facing a $1,000* increase (2%) when the payroll tax holiday expires, how in the world does the Obama team come up with $2,200 in savings, which, figuring in the $1,000 payroll tax increase, means a $3,200 savings in other taxes?

    The Obama campaign has some serious explaining to do.  On its face, the claim is ludicrous.  President Obama has saved the average family $3,600 in his first four years, but in 2013 the same family will reap a windfall of $3,200 in non-payroll tax savings?  In the spirit of "Romnesia," I submit that the calculations for the president's tax plan must have been done using "Obamathematics." (Also in the spirit of "Romnesia", "Obamathematics" is not original with me, either.) The president and his campaign must be held accountable for this farfetched claim aimed at hoodwinking the middle class.

* * * * * * *

*In a scamlet within the larger scam, when the Obama administration was pushing for the payroll tax holiday to be extended in 2011, they were making the claim that "President Obama's payroll tax cut... puts $1,500 in the pockets of the typical middle-class family." But the New York Times in an article just a few weeks ago confirmed that "the typical American family had $1,000 in additional income from the lower tax."  Obamathematics!

Obama Truth Team: I Don't Think This Article Means What You Think It Means

    A recent article by Greg Palast in The Nation entitled Mitt Romney's Bailout Bonanza details the bailout of Delphi Automotive, a former subsidiary of GM that still supplies parts to the restructured automaker.  The story involves hedge funds, bankruptcy, junk bonds, tax payer funded bailouts, and, of course, Mitt Romney.  One of the hedge funds involved is Elliott Management, directed by 
Paul Singer.  Singer is a big financial supporter of GOP candidates.  The article ties Romney to Singer in this self-contradictory statement:
Other GOP presidential hopefuls chased Singer’s endorsement, but Mitt chased Singer with his own checkbook, investing at least $1 million with Elliott through Ann Romney’s blind trust[.]
    Palast explains away the chased/blind trust paradox by quoting Romney's cynicism towards Ted Kennedy's blind trust years ago.  Nevertheless, Palast builds his conspiratorial case on this most slender of foundations.  Whatever one thinks of private capital and hedge funds, Romney is barely a bit player in this billion dollar drama.  The Obama administration, on the other hand, takes one of the marquee roles.  But after reading the details of the bailout and the connected deals to which the administration gave tacit if not explicit approval, one wonders if the Obama campaign should have looked before it leaped on this article (see the TruthTeam2012).

    Right from the start, it is clear who Palast sees as the winners in the bailout of Delphi, and it's not the venerable 99%:
It all starts with Delphi Automotive, a former General Motors subsidiary whose auto parts remain essential to GM’s production lines. No bailout of GM—or Chrysler, for that matter—could have been successful without saving Delphi. So, in addition to making massive loans to automakers in 2009, the federal government sent, directly or indirectly, more than $12.9 billion to Delphi—and to the hedge funds that had gained control over it.
One of the hedge funds profiting from that bailout—
$1.28 billion so far—is Elliott Management, directed by 
Paul Singer. 
    And just how did all this come about?  The article provides a lot of background, but here's the money quote, so to speak:

Yet without taking billions in taxpayer bailout funds—and slashing worker pensions—the hedge funds’ investment in Delphi would not have been worth a single dollar, according to calculations by GM and the US Treasury. 
Altogether, in direct and indirect payouts, the government padded these investors’ profits handsomely. The Treasury allowed GM to give Delphi at least $2.8 billion of funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to keep Delphi in business. GM also forgave $2.5 billion in debt owed to it by Delphi, and $2 billion due from Singer and company upon Delphi’s exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The money GM forgave was effectively owed to the Treasury, which had by then become the majority owner of GM as a result of the bailout. Then there was the big one: the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation took over paying all of Delphi’s retiree pensions. The cost to the taxpayer: $5.6 billion. The bottom line: the hedge funds’ paydays were made possible by a generous donation of $12.9 billion from US taxpayers.
    While this story goes to great lengths to make out Romney and the other investors as hypocritical and greedy vultures, in large measure it also makes out the Obama administration to be a huge chump funneling billions to the 1%!  The beneficent federal government (Dudley Do-Right) was hornswoggled at every turn by this band of mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash hedge funders.  And in this episode, Dudley wasn't able to get sweet Nell (the taxpayers) off the train tracks in time.  For its next episode, the Obama Truth Team might want to consider someone else to pen the script.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sting, the Lorax

    The approximately 4,967,000,000,000 trees in the world can rest easy knowing that 182 of their compatriots are safe.  Sting, the musician cum environmentalist ("Green Hornet" perhaps?), recently announced a change of venue for a planned concert in the Philippines. The AP reports:

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Sting has moved the location of his "Back to Bass Tour" concert in the Philippines following a petition by environmentalists who said the original venue is owned by a conglomerate that plans to uproot 182 trees for a parking lot and mall expansion in a northern mountain city.
The SM Mall of Asia Arena said on Saturday that changing the site of the Dec. 9 concert was "the decision of the artist himself."
"Understandably, the known environment advocate artist was left with no choice in spite of the SM representatives' appeal," it said in a statement....
Karlo Marko Altomonte, who initiated the petition, wrote Sting's foundation saying that removing the trees would significantly increase air pollution and the risk of landslides and flooding in an area near schools.
    The article goes on to note Sting's green cred:
Sting and his wife Trudie Styler established The Rainforest Foundation in 1989 to protect tropical rainforests and the people who live there. 
    However, that was not enough to spare Sting the sting of this charge:

Environmentalists said in their petition that as a champion of the environment, "Sting can't be saving rainforests and enabling SM [the Mall of Asia Arena owners] to rape the environment at the same time!"
    I will be carefully monitoring feminist websites for the outraged reactions to this frivolous use of the word "rape" in connection with 182 trees.  Senator Claire McCaskill could not be reached for comment.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Under-employment: Then and Now

    As long as I am picking on CNN this week, here's a story on underemployment, the lesser known cousin of the more popular unemployment rate.  Here are some excerpts from "Under-employed and under the radar":
The economic crisis has taken a severe toll on the nation's workforce. But while much of the discussion centers around layoffs and unemployment, a growing number of Americans are becoming under-employed - struggling to pay their bills on a smaller salary, or completely giving up on finding any work. 
Unemployment claims have climbed to 7-year highs, but the number of people who have settled for part-time work or given up on finding a job altogether is the worst it's been in over 14 years, but isn't included in the official unemployment rate... 
The under-employment rate, which counts those without jobs who have become discouraged and stopped looking for work, as well as part-time workers who want full-time jobs, rose to 11% from 10.7%, the highest rate since April 1994, according to the Labor Department's monthly jobs report.
    Those paying careful attention to the numbers and dates in the preceding paragraphs will have figured out by now that this was not a recent article.  Rather, this tale of gloom and doom (justifiably so) was published on October 3, 2008, about five weeks before the 2008 Presidential election.  Fast-forward exactly four years to October 3, 2012, and CNN published another story on underemployment just five weeks before another Presidential election.  This time, it's titled "September jobs report probably won't sway election":
Only two monthly jobs reports remain before the presidential election, but don't expect either of them to swing undecided voters. 
That's because, in all likelihood, both reports will show more sluggish job growth... 
"If the report is close to my expectations then it should not have a meaningful impact on the election," [Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics] said.  
Following Friday's jobs report, President Obama will probably continue to say the private sector has been adding jobs for two-and-a-half years. Mitt Romney is likely to point out that more than 20 million Americans remain either unemployed or underemployed.
Both will be right.
The article never actually gets around to mentioning the underemployment rate which stood at 11% in September 2008.  Currently, that rate is 14.7%.  What a difference four years makes.  And who's challenging the incumbent.

Obama Diagnoses Romney with "Romnesia": Paging David Corn... [UPDATED]

    Overheard from David Corn’s office at Mother Jones's headquarters today: “I gave him the 47% Romney video and then he plagiarizes “Romnesia” from me?!”  From June 2012:

    And today, from the Guardian:
The Obama campaign is running on women's issues for a third day in a row, but this has been its most successful day yet. Attempting to encapsulate what it claims to be Mitt Romney's shifting positions on a number of issues, the president's team has hit on a catchy phrase: "Romnesia".
Obama unveiled the new noun during a speech to students at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, claiming that Romney had forgotten earlier positions in which he had opposed equal pay for women and easily-available contraception and had supported outlawing abortion.
The potency of the phrase was evident in the response of the audience, which laughed and cheered on first hearing on it and as Obama riffed on it in the remainder of his speech.
It quickly became clear "Romnesia" was not just a throwaway line, as the Obama campaign followed up within minutes. Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, tweeted that Obama "diagnoses Romney's failure to recall his extreme stances on women's issues".
    So far, no mentions of "Romnesia" on Mother Jones today.  Maybe a long lunch with their lawyers?

UPDATE:  About 25 minutes after I tweeted David Corn for a reaction, Mother Jones posted a response (1:50 PDT, 4:50 EDT).  They opted for magnanimity:

On Friday, President Barack Obama launched a new attack on his opponent, charging that the Republican presidential case suffers from "Romnesia..."
Romnesia—several months ago our David Corn deployed the same term in an article headlined, "A Case of Romnesia"...
Corn, who described several instances of Romnesia in that piece, may not have been the first to coin the term, but he was an early adapter. You can watch the president embrace this diagnosis here...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Obama Campaign Disses Narnia

    Someone at President Obama's TruthTeam2012 with a little too much time on his hands just threw the faun, beaver, centaur, and gryphon vote.  For apparently just a split second today, not even long enough for the Internet Elves* to archive it, the following tweet appeared on the TruthTeam2012 Twitter account, immortalized by my Twitter feed app:

Click to enlarge
    In case you can't quite read that, it says "Narnia can go shove it," followed by a Buzzfeed link to photographs of fantastic locations that seem to have been pulled directly from someone's fantasy.  Apparently a Truth Team staffer thought he was using his personal twitter account and hit "tweet" before realizing it and sent the Narnia trash talk to all 90,003 followers.  A "delete" quickly followed. Here are a couple of examples from the Buzzfeed link:

    For a campaign whose lead in the polls is melting like Narnian snow in Father Christmas' wake (admit it - best. simile. ever.), you'd think the folks there would be more careful not to alienate anyone.  Then again, when you think about the Obama Truth Team, which C.S. Lewis character comes to your mind?

    Yeah.  Me, too.

*Update:  As Twitchy points out, I underestimated the Internet Elves.

Benghazi and the Phantom Demonstration

US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, pre-9/11/12
    Ever since the attack on the US Consulate and Benghazi which resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, questions have swirled around what the State Department and our intelligence agencies knew and when they knew it.   These questions extend back to what was known about the conditions in Libya beforehand and what was done to strengthen (or not) security in Libya.  Even more contentious have been the questions about what role, if any, the "Innocence of Muslims" movie trailer played in the Benghazi incident.

    The consensus on that latter question is settling around "none."  A background briefing given to reporters last week by two unnamed Senior State Department Officials (transcript here) revealed that no evidence of a demonstration or protest before the Benghazi attack is visible on the security camera video recently recovered from the shattered compound.  Nor have any of the surviving personnel from the attack reported any such demonstration or even unusual activity outside the consulate that evening before an explosion and gunfire split the silence.  From all appearances now, the attack seems to have been planned and unrelated to the film.

    But the question remains: why would the diplomats and staff in Benghazi have been so unprepared that night, given the anniversary date and given what was taking place at that very time right next door in Egypt?  The State Department's OSAC division put out the following warning on 9/11 before the "spontaneous" Cairo protests had even begun:
Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: Cairo (Egypt), Demonstrations
Riots/Civil Unrest
Near East > Egypt > Cairo
Several different groups are calling for demonstrations in both downtown and Garden City this afternoon to protest a range of issues. These groups may gather in front of the U.S. Embassy, or Egyptian government buildings such as the People’s Assembly and Ministry of Interior, beginning in the early afternoon and continuing into the evening.  It is unclear if large numbers will take to the streets, but clashes may occur should two opposing groups come into contact with one another. Large gatherings and non-essential travel in and around Downtown and Garden City should be avoided this afternoon.
 U.S. citizens should avoid areas where large gatherings may occur.  Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  U.S. citizens in Egypt are urged to monitor local news reports and to plan their activities accordingly.
    The State Department in Washington was well aware of the situation in Cairo as the transcript of the Daily Press Briefing for 9/11/12 shows.  This is a rather lengthy excerpt, but I believe it helps illustrate the State Department's mindset at the time [emphasis mine.]
QUESTION: I’d like to talk about Cairo. Apparently, there’s a developing issue at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. There are about a thousand protestors outside the walls trying to attack the Embassy, U.S. guards at the Embassy firing into the air, and there are some photos on Twitter with the al-Qaida flag being possibly waved at the U.S. Embassy. I don’t know what that’s about, but can you tell us about the situation there right now?
MS. NULAND: We did have reports just before I came down here that we had a protest outside our Embassy in Cairo. We had some people breach the wall, take the flag down, replace it – what I heard was that it was replaced with a --
QUESTION: With an al-Qaida flag, I believe.
MS. NULAND: With a black flag, a plain black flag, but I may not be correct in that. We are obviously working with Egyptian security to try to restore order at the Embassy and to work with them to try to get the situation under control.
QUESTION: I mean – but just in general, I mean, is the situation of what’s happening with the public there – obviously, you’ve been trying to work with the Muslim Brotherhood regardless of what religion or anything like that, but – and it does seem as if there is a growing anti-American sentiment in Cairo, and as evident as our – on our trip with Secretary Clinton. And I’m just wondering how concerning these continued protests are.
MS. NULAND: Well, there have been, as you say, these – there were some protests when the Secretary was there. They’ve had these protests. But I would hasten – I would urge you not to draw too many conclusions because we’ve also had some very positive developments in our relationship with Egypt.
As you know, Deputy Secretary Nides was there earlier this week, over the weekend, with some hundred businesspeople from the United States, working with Egyptian counterparts in big business, medium, small to try to support the renewal of the Egyptian economy, to cut new deals. And that was a very, very successful conference that was very much appreciated by the Egyptian business community. We’re also working with Egyptian civil society and with the government on a broader package of support going forward.
So obviously, one of the things about the new Egypt is that protest is possible. Obviously we all want to see peaceful protest, which is not what happened outside the U.S. mission, so we’re trying to restore calm now. But I think the bigger picture is one of the United States supporting Egypt’s democratic transition and the Egyptian Government very much welcoming and working with us on the support that we have to offer.
QUESTION: Well, why do you think, though, that that message isn’t getting out? I mean, do you think that you – that the Embassy and this Department need to do more efforts at public diplomacy? I mean, certainly it’s true that you have kind of outreached the Muslim Brotherhood; you are doing a lot with the business community, with the debt, helping them with other financial institutions. So why do you think that that message isn’t getting through?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think we can always do more. The Egyptians can always do more. But I think the message is getting through, as more and more partners across Egypt want to work with us. It’s rarely the case that you please all of the people all the time in any country, and we certainly respect the right of peaceful protest, as long as it’s peaceful.
QUESTION: Do you think that Egypt’s becoming increasingly hostile towards the United States?
MS. NULAND: I haven’t seen the polling data in the recent period, Said, but I don’t have any reason to think that this is a dangerous trend, if that’s what you’re asking.
QUESTION: This breaching of the wall is a serious thing.
MS. NULAND: No, of course.
QUESTION: I mean, remember when, let’s say, they did that to the Israeli Embassy. It was an initiative from this building, I believe, that called the Egyptians and urged them to defuse the situation, and they did. So what do you do in this case?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, in this case, we’re working with the Egyptian security forces to restore order. It sounds like – and I don’t have full details – that this came up pretty quickly, relatively modest group of people, but caught probably us and the Egyptian security outside the Embassy by some surprise.
QUESTION: This was a thousand people. I don’t really think that’s necessarily modest, do you?
MS. NULAND: Well, as compared to some of the things that we’ve seen.
QUESTION: Were there any injuries, do you know?
MS. NULAND: Not that I know of, but we’ll have to see how it develops.
    Obvious Ms. Nuland, while sharing known details of the Cairo situation, was at pains to look at the bright side and downplay the seriousness: "some people"/"modest group of people" was apparently a mob of 1,000 or so; "I don’t have any reason to think that this is a dangerous trend", when what began as a protest led to the breach of a wall at the embassy, the US flag being burned and replaced with a black (al-Qaeda?) flag, and warning gunshots fired into the air; and reporters were urged not to "draw too many conclusions" and look at the "bigger picture" of the Egyptian government "welcoming and working" with the United States.

    Does this explain why the State Department (apparently) did not contact the Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, and the Consulate in Benghazi to find out if any protests were developing there?  If 1,000 people rioting in Cairo modest "as compared to some of the things that we’ve seen," shouldn't State have been in touch with every diplomatic post in the Middle East to find out if the unrest was spreading, especially in Egypt's immediate neighbors?  And if such a copycat protest was beginning to bubble up in Benghazi, wouldn't the security staff there have been emailing/calling Tripoli and Washington to alert someone?  I have not seen any reports suggesting any of these things happened.

    Despite UN Ambassador Susan Rice's assertion on Meet the Press on September 16th that...
What happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, prompted by the video[.]
...in fact the two incidents at the time as well as in retrospect appear quite dissimilar.  A recent story by Reuters may shed some light on why the administration was at pains to conflate the two events:
 In the months before the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies warned the White House and State Department repeatedly that the region was becoming an increasingly dangerous vortex for jihadist groups loosely linked or sympathetic to al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.
Despite those warnings, and bold public displays by Islamist militants around Benghazi, embassies in the region were advised to project a sense of calm and normalcy in the run-up to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in the United States.
    Tragically, four U.S. citizens paid the ultimate price for what may have been political considerations. Congress must now cut through the fog and get to the truth.