So, you know that huge revelation last week when ABC made public copies of White House emails that supposedly showed the Administration in a bad light for obfuscating on Benghazi? Well, "supposedly" is the operative word.
First, on Wednesday, CNN released actual White House emails that had the same time-and-date stamps but said something very different.
Then, later that day, ABC acknowledged that although they used quotes in their report, the material wasn't actually quoting the emails directly, but were instead from a source who'd read them and was paraphrasing them the best he could remember. So, they were quoting a paraphrase.
Then the day after, on Thursday, CBS had a more detailed report on those different emails which, it turns out, were provided by Republicans, suggesting that it was Republicans who had actually altered the emails.
This suggestion (since there's no direct evidence -- yet) is, however, supported by a Mother Jones story on Monday. That story said that Republicans, in fact, had had their own earlier, interim report which actually "cited" the real language of the real emails. In other words, Republicans are on the record for knowing what the real emails said, prior to releasing emails that were different.
An email from National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes actually said: "We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation."
The Republican-released version, however, showed how the State Department (lead by the evil Hillary Clinton) had supposedly influenced changes in public talking-point comments. "We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don't want to undermine the FBI investigation."
Similarly, in the real reply to this above made by State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, her email actually said: "The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings."
However, in the version released by Republicans, the issue of material being abused was dropped, and instead unmentioned details were now added, which supposedly showed terrorist activity that the White House had specifically ignored: "The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda's presence and activities of al-Qaeda."
There is a warm, adorable irony to this latter, real email. It's the concern by Ms. Nuland that material could be "abused" to beat up the State Department. Of course, she was just talking about previous content, and it merely being intentionally misinterpreted inappropriately. She wasn't thinking about her own email being rewritten entirely...
I know that the far right is fond of ridiculing those who live in the fact-based world and, as Ron Suskind reported in the New York Times Magazine, ike to say that they can create their own reality. But who knew how deeply they meant it? Then again, if you don't want to believe in science, why not include the whole concept of facts and truth, and make life easy on yourself?
Mind you, my favorite quote in all of this came from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who wants more emails released by the White House. "While these hundred are good and they shed light on what happened, we have nearly 25,000 that they haven't released,"
Yes, yes, I have no doubt that Republicans would like to see more emails from the White House, 25,000 of them even. And yes, absolutely, I do know there's no direct evidence (yet) about what was done here and by who.
But I can't helping thinking that Mr. Chaffetz and the Republicans shouldn't worry about the White House releasing any other emails, and instead just save a step in the process and keep writing the things themselves. That way they can get them to say exactly whatever they want, and not worry about misinterpretation or nuance.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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