Sunday, January 26, 2014

2013 & beyond American Politics

For more recent posts, please see 2013 American Politics , 2014 American Politics , 2015 American Politics, and 2016 American Politics.  Thank you.  

— Mary Claire Kendall

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Stunning lack of intellectual curiosity vis-a-vis Benghazi

By Mary Claire Kendall
Credit: Associated Press
The stunning lack of curiosity vis-à-vis Benghazi has fortunately not infected everyone in Washington.  Senator John McCain (R-AZ), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, for one, called for a Pentagon investigation at a press conference on Friday, December 21, which is exactly right. The Pentagon has lots of answers that will dwarf the State Department’s report.  A day after Senator McCain’s remarks, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) said the scandal is worse than Watergate and Iran-Contra 

It seems clear there are many unanswered questions and this story will not go away in 2013.  For, as President Lincoln famously said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the pe0ple some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

The first two questions to ask are this:
  1. Why did Ambassador Chris Stevens go to the Benghazi consulate on 9/11 of all days when NGOs are not even allowed into this and similar consulates –and embassies – given the security situation?
  2. What was President Barack Obama doing while Ambassador Stevens was suffering his final hours? 

For more about Senator McCain's call for a Pentagon investigation, see December 23 report from Washington Times.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Classified Petraeus Testimony: What We Learned (Part III)

By Mary Claire Kendall


Now—five days after General David Petraeus’ testimony where he said, as head of the CIA, he always thought the 9/11 Benghazi attack was terrorism and the CIA talking points the House Intelligence Committee requested initially reflected this fact, but were changed afterwards, but he does not know who changed themNational Intelligence Director John Clapper has suddenly stepped forward to say, it’s me.

I did it. I changed the talking points.

That’s not what he told Congress under oath last Friday.

I smell a cover-up.  

The ghosts of Watergate hover all over Washington this Thanksgiving eve.

Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. She writes a regular column for, most recently "Doolittle's Raiders And The Miracle That Saved Them."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Classified Petraeus Testimony: What We Learned (Part II)

By Mary Claire Kendall

This is getting confusing.

What we thought we learned from leaks about yesterday’s classified congressional testimony by former CIA Director General David Petraeus, USA Retired, was clouded by today’s New York Times, which reported Petraeus said the rationale for changing the talking points requested by the House Intelligence Committee he and the CIA prepared in advance of his September 14 testimony was to avoid tipping off terrorists.  

The report by the New York Times’ Eric Schmitt says Congressman Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat, said “The General was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda.”

Yet, Schmitt reports a few paragraphs earlier Petraeus said he could not say who changed the talking points: “At some point in the process—Mr. Petraeus told lawmakers he was not sure where—objections were raised to naming the groups, and the less specific word ‘extremists’ was substituted.” 

Either Petraeus knows who changed the talking points or he doesn’t. And, if he doesn’t, it can’t be said the White House had no role in what was a patently political decision. These talking points were not being prepared for a policy wonk gathering but for the most political of all bodies, the U.S. House of Representativeslater to be used by Ambassador Susan Rice for her appearances on five Sunday TV shows explaining the attack. Both forums were not exactly benign exercises politically, coming as they did just weeks before the presidential election.

Sensing their vulnerability, even the White House took the extraordinary step today of refuting the testimony, through National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhoades, The Washington Times reported. Rhoades, no political virgin, is a former Obama campaign staffer. He has served as President Barack Obama’s speechwriter since 2007 and has written all of Obama’s key foreign policy speeches.  

But, wait, I thought Cong. Schiff said Petraeus was “adamant” the White House was not involved.

Congressman Peter King, Chairman of House Homeland Security Committee, a New York Republican, reflecting the obvious fact that changing the talking points was a political act, not an intelligence-related one, came out of the testimony and said it was clear to him there was interference outside the intelligence community: “We need to find out who did this and why.”

My head is spinning. If they would just say who altered the Talking Points, we might be able to resolve this inconsistency. (And, it does not work to say an inter-agency process did.) 

Instead, the committees will have to call all in the chain of command and the obvious ones outside the chain of command, starting with Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, to testify under oath about their involvement, or lack thereof, in altering the talking points.  A
bsent the Administration voluntarily identifying who altered, or ordered the alteration of, the talking points, a Special Prosecutor needs to be appointed.

See also Classified Petraeus Testimony: What We Learned (Part III).

Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. She writes a regular column for, most recently "Doolittle's Raiders And The Miracle That Saved Them."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Classified Petraeus Testimony: What We Learned (Part I)

By Mary Claire Kendall

So, WHAT we now know, according to leaks from General David Petraeus’ top-secret, classified testimony—only in Washington!—is that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice’s talking points for her appearances on five news shows on Sunday, September 16, including Fox News SundayMeet the PressFace the Nation, This Week and State of the Union explaining what happened in Benghazi on 9/11, differed from what the CIA had provided. Indeed, General Petraeus made clear that he thought, from the outset of the attack on the consular affairs office in Benghazi, it was terrorism, pure and simplenot a spontaneous uprising over a video.

But, what we don’t know—what is more top-secret than Petraeus’ classified testimony—is WHO changed the Petraeus CIA talking points and report. Cong. Peter King believes the White House changed them.  As he told Fox News: “(These talking points) specifically mentioned al-Qaida, and that al-Qaida was involved in the attack. Somewhere along the line, that was taken out... someone in the administration had to have taken it out.” Echoing Senator John McCain, he called for a special congressional committee to investigate the matter. 

Of course, what we always knew is that the notion that the attack on the Benghazi consulate on 9/11 was a spontaneous demonstration is patently absurd. 

I will never forget the moment I heard Ambassador Rice spouting this nonsense shortly after 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 16—two months ago today—as I was driving downtown, turning onto Garfield just past the National Cathedral to join my friend Jeff for some much-needed R&R. It was a moment akin to JFK’s assassination that will forever stay seared in my memory.  I was aghast that the Administration actually thought they were going to get away with this preposterous claim.

Commonsense tells you when RPGs and mortars are being used—expertly so—that this is no spontaneous demonstration. Unless, by some amazing coincidence, all the spontaneous demonstrators just happened to have these tools of warfare in their houses—maybe under their bed ready to run out at the first news of an offensive video trailer—and every last one of these demonstrators happened to have perfectly mastered the use of these weapons, to boot!

Now, what we dont know is the WHY—why the Mickey Mouse explanation.

See also Classified Petraeus Testimony: What We Learned (Part II).

Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. She writes a regular column for, most recently "Doolittle's Raiders And The Miracle That Saved Them."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

David Petraeus Testimony Will Be Historic

By Mary Claire Kendall

There are two theories in Washington:

#1 David Petraeus was fired from the CIA.  

#2 David Petraeus was pressured to toe the line, with his affair dangling over his head, which was an open secret in Washington. Then, he said 'Enough! I won't be party to this charade any more. I'm going to tell my wife.' The next part is he's going to tell the Congress.

My reporting tells me it’s #2.


Hurricane David is about to hit Washington.  If you thought Sandy was bad, just wait. Well, that might be overstating the case. But make no mistake, Petraeus’ testimony, as Senator John Kerry is fond of saying will “change the dynamic.

Senator Diane Feinstein, Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, November 13: “It’s also my intention… to talk with General Petraeus, Director Petraeus. This ties in to his trip that he made just before all of this broke (i.e., his resignation putatively over the Paula Broadwell affair), to some Middle Eastern countries including Libya.”

After meeting with her Vice Chair, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), “to go over the plan,” both then meeting with Acting CIA Director Mike Morell, she said, “We will proceed.” Her face during the interview showed she’s quite troubled by the whole Benghazi matter.

On Wednesday, however, the White House jauntily announced through spokesman Jay Carney that Morell would be testifying at the Benghazi hearings in lieu of Petraeus. Shortly thereafter, it was reported, in fact, Petraeus would be voluntarily testifying—before the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors on Friday at 7:30 a.m. He will only address events leading up to the Benghazi massacre, not the Broadwell affair. (11/16 Update: He first testified before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors at 7:30 a.m. Then, around 9:30 a.m., he headed for the Senate Intelligence Committee. Separately, after Petraeus volunteered to testify, it was announced that the CIA Inspector General had launched an investigation of the former Director, the New York Times reported late last night. 11/19 Update: Petraeus has hired super lawyer Bob Barnett to represent him.)

It’s a sure bet the committees will be greatly enlightened on events leading up to the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, at the Benghazi consulate on 9/11, and the aftermath.  Also, General Petraeus will perhaps address who gave the “stand down” order and how he was pressured to keep silent.

Feinstein told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Monday the matter is “like peeling an onion.”  “One person tells me he has read (the Petraeus trip report). And then we try and get it and they tell me it hasn’t been done. That’s unacceptable.” She also said “I don’t know what took (the Administration) ten days, candidly” to figure out the Benghazi attack was terrorism and not a spontaneous demonstration over a video, given that RPGs and mortars were used. Senator John McCain, who’s made this point from day one, has called for a Watergate-style panel to investigate the attack. 

Let’s review some relevant recent history. 

On Thursday, October 25, we discovered that officials had watched the attack on real-time video, leaving America to wonder, what gives? Why didn’t they immediately call in military assets—including those the Libyan government had in their possession, many of which we provided to help in their fight to topple Muammar Gaddafi—to the tune of nearly one billion dollars?

Justin Raimondo reports that “Petraeus was only informed of the (FBI) investigation on October 25 or 26. 

Then, like clockwork, on Friday, October 26, on the presidential election eve, the effort to shift blame from State to CIA began accelerating.  Petraeus was being targeted big-time.  The discussion that day was all about who gave the “stand down” order. But, the CIA Director showed refreshing spine: “No one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate,” he said through his CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood. (On Friday, November 2, Petraeus released a timeline of the CIA response to the attack and resigned days later, the announcement made on Friday, November 9. Immediately preceding his resignation he traveled to Libya to found out exactly what happened on 9/11.)

The same day, President Obama twice refused to respond to Denver KUSA-TV reporter Kyle Clark’s question regarding whether the four Americans were denied help, asserting the investigation needs to play out first.

He even had the temerity to suggest “the election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out exactly what happened.”  

But, Clark wasn’t satisfied, asking, “Were they denied requests for help during the attack?”

“Well,” the president reiterated, “we are finding out exactly what happened… as I’ve said (repeatedly)… the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we’re going to investigate exactly what happened so that it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice. And I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number one priority making sure that people were safe.”

Oh really?

Ironically, Obama screened Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln tonight at the White House. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

Ambassador Stevens and the other three Americans might not have been rescued by the hapless Obama crowd.  But, something tells me, as with the Iraq Surge, it’s Petraeus to the rescue, and this won’t be his last. 


11/19 Postscript: As Joseph Curl writes in today’s Washington Times, “Friday’s testimony changed everything. Out there now is that the director of the CIA told whoever would listen that there was ‘al Qaeda involvement’ in the September 11 attack.”

Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. She writes a regular column for, most recently "Doolittle's Raiders And The Miracle That Saved Them."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

“General Combat Fatigue Syndrome”

By Mary Claire Kendall 

Marlene Dietrich
It’s so interesting to see everyone piling on General David H. Petraeus, USA Retired, now former head of the CIA, for his affair, when the founder of the OSS (the CIA predecessor organization), “Wild Bill” Donovan, was known for his affairs, along with so many other high military officials. Not to mention our presidents. Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton leap to mind. Some had better taste than others. For instance, General James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin famously had an affair with Marlene Dietrich. Bill Clinton... Not so much.  (For more, see The American Scandal Tour.) 

It’s not something to emulate or aspire to—and obviously Petraeus weakened and should not have. But, in our sex-drenched culture where women go practically naked and sex without consequences (biological, that is), is the norm, to suddenly strike this pose of “Shock, shock, gambling going on in Casablanca” is the height of hypocrisy and stupidity. 

The only thing I would say is that he showed phenomenally poor judgment in allowing Paula Broadwell to worm her way into his life. Marlene Dietrich she is not!  

But, think of the timing. It was 2006. The Iraq war was at its bloodiest. He was developing the surge plan, which President George W. Bush would ask him to command in early 2007, and then a seductive woman came into his orbit. He was a sitting duck—especially if this area of his life, ahem, was in need of some fortification.  And, let’s face it, for a normal man, that area always needs fortification.

The author with General David H. Petraeus, then CENTCOM Commander, shortly after 
"The Conversation" with him at the American Veterans Center Conference, November 13, 2009... 
here's the link to resulting article,

Call it General Combat Fatigue Syndrome. He is very attractive. I know from personal experience interacting with him. But the woman has the main responsibility to maintain propriety, if the attraction is mutual, and to not do anything that would cause the man to weaken. For instance, working on a book alone with the General was the height of imprudence. Sure it might have helped her career, so she thought, but the primary concern should be protecting your virtue and that of the man, who has much less control. OK, so, I am hopelessly old-fashioned. But, that’s what I believe. If you really love a man, you will not put him in a compromising position. 

As for the FBI investigation, the security issues were overblown, I believe. A West Point grad and Army reservist is not a national security risk. It was a personal matter, plain and simple, which is why, my sense is, the matter was not reported to Senate Intelligence as required by law. But let’s be clear. The investigation began in the summer. The notion that the President, and other key officials in the administration, did not know about it until 5 p.m. the night of the election, strains credulity. 

Still, Petraeus did the right thing in resigning. As the saying goes, God brings good out of evil. He is very blessed to be in his current position, where he will do a lot of good.

As for being the scapegoat for what happened in Benghazi on 9/11, Petraeus is nobody’s fool.  He may have shown incredibly poor judgment vis-à-vis Broadwell, but on national security he’s a pro.  

In a short time, in comparison to Benghazi 9/11, L’affaire Petraeus will seem a quaint matter.

Postscript: The Washington Post had a page one article on Sunday, November 18, titled “The Fog of More: Do Perks Color Generals’ Expectations” which led with this quote: “There is something about a sense of entitlement and of having great power that skews people’s judgment.” – Robert M. Gates, former defense secretary.  In response, General Peter Chiarelli said, “I find it concerning that he and others are not focusing on the effect on our guys of fighting wars for 11 years. No one was at it longer than Petraeus.”

Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. She writes a regular column for, most recently "Doolittle's Raiders And The Miracle That Saved Them."