Tom Jackson’s “The Right Stuff” blog updates throughout the week at TBO.com.
That didn’t take long. Fewer than a dozen hours after Marco Rubio identified the unholy “ultimate super PAC” alliance between the mainstream media and Democrats generally and Hillary Clinton specifically, “CBS This Morning” host Charlie Rose unwittingly provided indictment-worthy evidence in abundance interviewing Florida’s junior senator.
Rubio lodged the charge during the CNBC Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, noting how traditional media outlets hailed the week before — which included the former secretary of State’s abundantly revealing marathon testimony before a House panel investigating the Benghazi massacre — as her best of the campaign.
“It was the week she got exposed as a liar,” Rubio said. “But she has her super PAC helping her out, the American mainstream media.”
Thursday morning, Rose was almost predictably, willfully, even aggressively clueless, blaming the fog of war and evolving intelligence: “The CIA was changing its own assessment of what happened there,” he said.
Remember, just like 9/11, when the Bush administration waited two weeks, until the FBI pinpointed the perps, before making accusations. Then again, in the interim neither George W. Bush nor any of his deputies peddled outlandish and politically advantageous fabrications about what inspired the hit. For those still confused, no, that was nothing like the Obama response.
Back to Thursday: Rubio wouldn’t have Rose’s scenario, reminding him Clinton told alternating stories, depending on the audience. She told her daughter and North Africa leaders the unvarnished, unchanging truth: It was a planned attack by an al-Qaida-like group. She told the families of the slaughtered and the American public it was a spontaneous demonstration over a YouTube video, and it got out of hand.
In fact, the CIA’s assessment never linked the video to the assault. So while Rose might have been right generally, he was wrong on the only pertinent particular.
Undeterred, Rose shifted his approach: What possible motivation could Clinton have had for lying? Easy, Rubio said. President Obama had a then-tight election race to win, and he needed to avoid any implication al-Qaida wasn’t on the run.
Rose, doing his part for the ultimate super PAC, tried intimidation: Lying to win an election? “That’s a serious charge.” Rubio, unflinching: “Yes. Well, it’s the truth. That’s not only why she did it; that’s why everyone in the administration did it.”
Rubio needn’t have stopped there. Clinton’s testimony revealed additional inconsistencies, including she knew U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice — her employee — told serial untruths during her Sunday show marathon, but did nothing to correct them; she knew the nature of longtime advisor Sidney Blumenthal’s activities in the region (his hundreds of emails show, despite her denials, she was well aware he was guiding her to further his business interests); and her claim that the State Department’s Accountability Review Board report on Benghazi was “nonpartisan” and “independent” had been amended by her aide, Cheryl Mills.
All that went down on the week Clinton’s most reliable super PAC hailed as the strongest of her campaign. Now we have Charlie Rose’s puzzlement in the face of overwhelming evidence as Rubio’s Exhibit No. 1.
Previewing Wednesday night’s CNBC Republican presidential debate, panelist and “Squawk Box” host Becky Quick told The New York Times she’d mined gold from an alert correspondent:
“Somebody emailed me the other day and said there had been 441 questions in the presidential debates so far, and not one of them was about the debt ceiling,” Quick, a CNBC anchor, said in an interview.
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She pored over the debate transcripts and confirmed it: Moderators had ignored the debt ceiling. And how did this make Ms. Quick feel?
“Fantastic!” she told the Times. “This is our time.”
Sounded good, right? Wall Street’s financial network of record was going to tackle this tough and timely issue with candidates not only predisposed to reject hiking the ceiling, but who would argue it ought to be lowered. Much would be clarified.
Instead, at the critical moment, CNBC’s “our time” dissolved into a lame stab at “gotcha time,” except it blew up in the network’s faces when Carl Quintanilla jabbed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz with an ad hominem spliced onto a debt ceiling predicate:
“Congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House are about to strike a compromise that would raise the debt limit, prevent a government shutdown, and calm financial markets of the fear that a Washington crisis is on the way. Does your opposition to it show you’re not the kind of problem-solver that American voters want?”
Cruz saw through to the purpose of Quintanilla’s thrust. It amounted to, “There’s a debt ceiling compromise coming and you don’t like it. Why do you stink?”
In a spot-on response, Cruz went full Newt Gingrich on Quintanilla and his “our time” colleagues, rejecting not only the premise of the question, but also the tone and substance of all their questions. Days later, it’s still all anyone remembers about the CNBC debate.
So much for “our time.”