A large “Morning Joe” panel on MSNBC universally panned White House press secretary Jay Carney’s response to damning new information on Benghazi, with Joe Scarborough saying it’s “very tough to see him conducting himself” this way and Ron Fournier claiming he’s “getting Baghdad Bob flashbacks.”
Scarborough started the attack, noting that previous press secretaries “were able to deliver bad news in a way that — I’ll just be blunt — this current White House has not been able to deliver news . . . for somebody that’s known Jay Carney for a long time and likes Jay Carney personally, it’s very tough to see him conducting himself in the way he’s conducting himself. What’s going on inside the White House?”
National Journal’s Ron Fournier noted that “this White House is really good at winning the news cycle, and in doing so they lose the public’s trust. And there’s not a better story to illustrate that right now than Benghazi.”
“These issues splash over to the president’s credibility across the board,” Fournier explained. “And I think this credibility issue is why — and not just on Benghazi — is why his numbers have been coming down.”
NBC’s David Gregory refused to admit there was any evidence of dishonesty in the administration’s immediate talking points after the attacks, but couldn’t explain why the email revealing the talking points were politicized only surfaced this week.
“This particular memo, for instance, why did they hold that back?” he wondered. “Of course it was related to Benghazi. I think it creates more problems.”
NBC’s Chuck Todd said he thinks “the entire [White House] press office is too big. I think there’s almost too much — and so when you have so many individuals dedicated to press communications, then you’re going to slip into over-spinning, you’re going to slip into what they did here with these Benghazi emails, which is so paranoid about giving an inch to their opponents that they withhold too much.”
Todd added that many of the White House’s problems are self-imposed by an unwillingness to even engage their opponents — adding that on Benghazi, “there’s no smoke in this squirt gun.”
Time’s Mark Halperin disagreed. “It makes it clear, at a minimum, that they did what no one is surprised they did,” he said. “Which is they looked to contain the political damage on how they would frame the issue.”
“I agree with Mark,” said Fournier. “I just don’t think that’s a small thing. I think when you get caught spinning like this, when you get caught being incredible with the information that’s given to the public, that’s a big thing that splashes into other issues.
“And as someone who admires Jay and has worked with Jay and wants my White House to succeed,” Fournier added, “it was painful yesterday watching that briefing and getting Baghdad Bob flashbacks.”
Fournier was referring to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s information minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf — better known as “Baghdad Bob” — who became famous during the Iraq War for his steadfast claims of massive damage to American forces and victory for the Iraqi military even as U.S. troops surrounded and occupied Baghdad.
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