Saturday, November 17, 2012

With Gender, Missing The Point

Female Democratic U.S. Representatives recognize that attacks upon Susan Rice over the Benghazi assault have been overwrought and unfair and

Republican senators’ angry criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over her initial account of the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya smacks of sexism and racism, a dozen female members of the House said Friday.

In unusually personal terms, the Democratic women lashed out at Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham who earlier this week called Rice unqualified and untrustworthy and promised to scuttle her nomination if President Barack Obama nominates her to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“All of the things they have disliked about things that have gone on in the administration, they have never called a male unqualified, not bright, not trustworthy,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the next chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “There is a clear sexism and racism that goes with these comments being made by unfortunately Sen. McCain and others.”

Rice's G.O.P. critics have not complained that she is hysterical, angry, manly, or conniving and have avoided stereotypes of women.  Her supporters appear to have forgotten

The House has voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress over his failure to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal, the first time Congress has taken such a dramatic move against a sitting Cabinet official.

The vote was 255-67, with 17 Democrats voting in support of a criminal contempt resolution, which authorizes Republicans leaders to seek criminal charges against Holder. This Democratic support came despite a round of behind-the-scenes lobbying by senior White House and Justice officials - as well as pressure from party leaders - to support Holder...

Since the Justice Department would have to seek an indictment of Holder - a department he oversees as attorney general - no criminal charges will be brought against him. Previous administrations, including the Bush administration in 2008, refused to seek criminal charges against White House officials when a Democratic-run House passed a criminal contempt resolution over the firing of U.S. attorneys.

Boehner’s office, though, is expected to submit a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen, in the next few days, according to a Republican official.

Holder, as with Rice, is black, and racial animus may play a role in Repub criticism of both officials.   But Holder is a man and, properly, there was no suggestion when he was under attack by Republicans that males were being targeted- and they were trying to remove an individual from office, not merely (as in Rice's case), prevent a promotion.

Clearly, the primary motive of the U.N. ambassador's critics is that she serves a Democratic president.    But a disaster has taken place and responsibility should be determined.   Evidently, that is not going to be the Republican whose first name is "General," although

Petraeus testified that the CIA draft written in response to the raid referred to militant groups Ansar al-Shariah and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, but that those names were replaced with the word extremist in the final draft, according to a congressional staffer. The staffer said Petraeus testified that, to get the CIA talking points out quickly, he allowed other agencies to alter the draft as they saw fit, without asking for final review.

The congressional officials were not authorized to discuss the hearing publicly and described Petraeus' testimony to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Sen. Mark Udall (D., Colo.) said Petraeus explained that the CIA's draft points were sent to other intelligence agencies and to some federal agencies for review. Udall said Petraeus told them the final document was put in front of all the senior agency leaders, including Petraeus, and everyone signed off on it.

"The assessment that was publicly shared in unclassified talking points went through a process of editing," Udall said. "The extremist description was put in because, in an unclassified document, you want to be careful who you identify as being involved."

Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) said it remained unclear how the final talking points developed. The edited version was used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice five days after the attack when the White House sent her out for a series of television interviews. Republicans have criticized Rice for saying it appeared that the attack was sparked by a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video.

According to published reports, everyone- including the esteemed David Petraeus- signed the document whose contents were to be used by an administration representative when responding to the media.   Those comments substituted "extremist" for mention of any terrorist groups. 

King added "The fact is, the reference to al-Qaeda was taken out somewhere along the line by someone outside the intelligence community.   We need to find out who did it and why."  

They certainly do.  Presumably, it was not the C.I.A. director who took out the reference, especially because his agency apparently suspected the involvement.   But he agreed with the others that the American public ought to be deceived, a decision which will be disregarded by Democratic, and eagerly so by Republican, members of Congress.

So too, though, ought Ms. Rice's defenders avoid excessive deference to the awesome power represented (and until his resignation, held) by The Man Called Petraeus.    Once they take a break from charging sexism, perhaps Susan Rice's defenders might notice what others refuse to, that the man who failed in Iraq and failed in Afghanistan went on to fail at the Central Intelligence Agency.

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