All-Star Panel: Debate over Amb. Rice's talking points on Benghazi

All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 19, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. ADAM SMITH, D - WA: Susan Rice did not say that this was just a bunch of demonstrators who turned a little bit violent. There was a dispute about were there demonstrators, were they all armed, were some of them armed?  She said clearly there were extremist elements who came in heavily armed and attacked.  And the only dispute here is, you know, were there other protesters, what were they doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was telling us things that were false. Someone gave her bad information. And we need to get the bottom of who did that and why they did that.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: And we are back with our panel to talk about Benghazi and all of the fallout from that attack that left four Americans dead. Steve, A.B., and Charles. Charles, there is a lot of conflicting information here. And there has to be someone who has the answer to primarily the talking points that Ambassador Susan Rice used to facilitate her appearance four for five days afterwards when she made the rounds on the Sunday shows. I thought it was interesting that Senator Saxby Chambliss was on Fox News Sunday yesterday and he said "We've heard from every department or agency that would have touched these talking points except for the White House. They all say they didn't change them." Though the White House has said they did make a change to one technical reference to the consulate. But where does the answer lie, Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think what we had, what we achieved over the weekend, we finally have some clarity. There is one fact that is now generally accepted. Up until now there were all these kinds of charges and suggestions. It's actually three scandals, why was there no security before, what happened in the seven hours and why all the lies afterwards? But now we have one fact that appears to be agreed upon by the Democrats and Republican and even appears now in the mainstream press as a fact, and that is that the intelligence community had given a report and assessment on the 14th that said it was a preplanned attack. And when Susan Rice spoke on the 16th it all of sudden had become a riot out of control. There's some dispute over what Petraeus had said but put that aside.

That means that between the 14th and the 16th, between the intelligence assessment and the White House, something changed. Someone changed it. That seems to be agreed. So that is now clarity because it leads to a clear question -- who changed it, why, what exactly was the nature of the change, and, the most suggestive and damaging, was the change made to protect the administration line in a heated election that Al Qaeda was on its heels, which Obama was repeating at every stop in the campaign.

So now we can all look at that, and that's the question. Dianne Feinstein, who's a chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a Democrat, said we have to get the answer to that. So the answer is going to be somewhere. It could be the White House. It would be extremely damaging. But now we have a focus on one issue we all agree upon, and that is a real achievement in the investigation.

BREAM: A.B., do you think Ambassador Rice will eventually testify about this?


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, there's going to be a tremendous amount of pressure for her to do so. And I don't know whether or not it comes to pass and they successfully block it or not. But the pressure will be on her. As I said last week, I think the pressure is building on Secretary Clinton as well, on really on many people.

BREAM: Who has agreed that she will testify at some point.

STODDARD: But I want to say two things. One, this whole line that came out of the end of last week, that what was revealed about the scrubbing of the talking points, that we as a policy scrub talking points and we hold secret from the world any suspicion that we have that Al Qaeda is responsible for these things, this is not what happens. And if we did this for the underwear bomber or anybody else, there would be a person who was the routine person that was a scrubber and we would know who they were by now. So that doesn't happen.

But what is also disturbing to me is the Petraeus – you speak to the members who heard from him on the 14th -- he pushed the video.  He pushed the video. So whether it's Charles' reasons that felt pressure because he had his whole personal life on the line and didn't want to lose his job -- he denies that vehemently -- he changed his story. And his story on Friday was a new one. So this is really -- it's just more and more questions. I'm glad we have a scrubber. We know that that happened. But this is not routine policy of the intelligence community to say we cannot let Al Qaeda get on to us.

BREAM: Or to know that we are on to them. Because clearly, they did not know that before a month ago.


KRAUTHAMMER: We killed their leader rather abruptly.

STODDARD: It just doesn't happen.

BREAM: The jig is up. Steve, I want to you ask about Ambassador Rice and all this talk that she could be nominated for secretary of state. The president has very vigorously defended her in his news conference last week.  Today, 97 House Republicans sent a letter to him saying they are deeply concerned, they'll do everything they can to oppose it. Of course, they can't vote. It's the Senate's deal. But do you think he's going to throw down the gauntlet and say if I want to nominate her, I will? He said those words.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I would be surprised because I think the president is eager to move beyond Benghazi as quickly as he possibly can. Now I think there are all sorts of reasons that he won't be able to -- I mean, substantive, important reasons that he won't be able to. But I think the last thing he wants is a high profile confirmation hearing of the person who is seen, I think correctly, as one of the real problems with the administration's spin on what happened in Benghazi.

And the president, when he went to defend her, and defend her in something of an insulting way, saying we sent her out because she didn't know anything. She was just there to recite talking points. Well, you do that if you don't want her to screw up. If Hillary Clinton were to go out or David Petraeus were to go out, they have institutional knowledge about what happened. They know what they were doing during the attacks. They know what the story was and the discussions were in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Susan Rice by the president's own admission did not know those things. So she can go out and be counted on to only recite talking points. It's a very, I think, insulting way to use your United Nations ambassador. And it's even odder that the president would cite that as his reason, his defense of her.

BREAM: And the White House chooses who they send to the Sunday shows. That is not in dispute. We do know that.

HAYES: They certainly do.

BREAM: That is it for panel. But stick around. When you try to borrow from the terrorist playbook, it might just blow up in your face. That's next.

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