NewsNation | November 19, 2012
>> now to the politics playing out over the aaattack on the u.s. consulate in benghazi. senate leaders say they will now investigate the talking points given to u.n. ambassador susan rice and why they did not reflect cia findings shortly after the attack that was a terrorist-related incident. on "meet the press" senate intelligence committee chairperson dianne feinstein defended the house against allegations it changed the script for plital purposes ahead of the election.
>> this whole process is going to be checked out. we're going to find out who made changes in the original statement. until we do, i really think it's unwarranted to make accusations.
>> and joining me now is rachel smolk and michael smirkonish and jimmy williams . ray she will, let me start off with you. i want to play a couple of other clips from "meet the press." let me play lindsey graham , because what we heard from senator feinstein was a response to some of the comments made particularly by mr. graha mike prorogers.
>> would this white house mislead people about american security events? i think they might. when the bin laden raid occurred they leaked every detail. we heard details about classified information . to make this president look good, so if they would leak classified information to make him look good, would they withhold information to prevent him from looking bad?
>> it went to this so-called deputies committees populated by appointees from the administration. that's where the narrative changed. we do know that the intelligence community as they presented it was accurate.
>> the allegation that the white house changed those talking points , that is false. only one thing was changed, and i've checked into this and i believe it to be absolute fact. that was the word "consulate" was changed to "mission."
>> rachel , you heard a snippet of what was playing out on these sunday morning programs. what is your take? can they get to a point of conclusion, or as senator feinstein said any kind of fact with these allegations that maybe this was all for political gain?
>> the testimony of general petraeus on friday behind closed doors seems to have raised more questions about this. certainly it did not put an end to anything. now we're hearing these questions about the talking points . general petraeus said the cia knew right away it was a terrorist attack , and, in fact, the original version of the talking points made reference to al qaeda and terrorism. that did not emerge in the final set of talking points , so there's questions about why was that taken out, and who took it out? was it taken out to protect classified sources? in other words, it was still early oin the investigation, it was perhaps a tenuous link in the beginning. there may have been some concern over protecting classified information . we don't know. we don't have those answers. the white house , you heard snore feinstein saying they only made a small factual change to the description of the consulate, calling it a mission instead. so if they didn't do that, there are a lot of questions about who did it and why. we don't see anything close to an end on this and it's a very partisan matter.
>> absolutely. michael , are weapon not only far from the end, we are as far away from clarity as we were the day after this incident happened. what are people saying to you as they call in? obviously this, again, has become one of those hot topics that it depends on your perspective and perhaps even depends on who you voted for in the election.
>> i think very much it depends on who you voted for in the election, because those who won't let it go, i tend to believe, are the partisans that never voted for barack obama to begin with. my own perspective for what it's worth is i find the conspiracy theories to be illogical. i keep asking to what end would the administration or someone within the administration want to manipulate the narrative? what would be the political upside in keeping this under wraps from the american people ? tamron, i don't see it. why would someone be motivated to keep from september 11th through election day this quote-unquote secret? it would not bode so poorly for the president if, in fact, it was terror as compared to a spontaneous reaction. remember, the original september 11 , i think, was significantly responsible for the re-election of george w. bush . so that's where it breaks down in my mind.
>> that's interesting. i want to read something from "the washington post ," michael . it says if some or all of these top national security figures ask/or they are deputies were vofld it's not accurate to say they acted alone but never believable on something this significant the white house would not have been in the center of the action. i guess what's amazing to me in so many respects, all the speculation from senator rogers having to be corrected by feinstein . if there's a viable and credible hearing going on, we understand lawmakers love to talk and many love to get in front of the camera. the reality is so much speculation in an almost incendiary form that is stunning in some ways, michael .
>> you saw elected officials and hold press briefings. i say why did they close the door? now we have to pick and choose who we believe in terms of those who come out and confront the media. so that's not a healthy process. why not open the door and let everybody take a look at what's going on? one other quick observation. it seems to me that ambassador rice was parroting the intelligence briefings that she was being provided, and i think that's why governor romney dropped this issue in the final debate. bob schieffer 's first question was about libya, and he wanted nothing to do with it. why? he was getting the same briefings she was.
>> speaking of ambassador rice, let me bring you in. maureen dowd is coming down on susan rice .
>> she wanted to prove she had the gravitas for the job and help out the white house . she was focused on the pevens, not the content said one administration official. that's a quote in maureen's piece there. what do you make, again, of the focus on susan rice and what some perceive as a lack of focus on what former cia director david petraeus said or didn't say? i think peter king came out and gently worded it for peter king that the story was a bit different.
>> well, i mean, i think you find a scapegoat here. she's front and center, but at the same time, i mean, there's all this incendiary talk about this, about ambassador rice, who is eminently qualified by the way. the senate did vote to confirm her four years ago. so we know that she's qualified. the question is, what's different now about susan rice than before? i don't think there is much of it. someone needs a scapegoat. both, the administration from a political perspective and in the congress. the congress does, in fact, have the right to investigate this. they should, as a former senate staffer, i think they should investigate it. if they come up with something of wrongdoing, so be it. if they don't, it's like a whitewater hearing all over again. ambassador rice is very qualified for what she's doing. if president obama puts her up, the republicans have to filibuster her nomination.
>> there are few people who would say, don't investigate. if there are concerns regarding security before the incident took place, of course, the families deserve clarity. the country deserves clarity. we want to know that our diplomats and the people on the front line in these countries for us are protected appropriately. there are quite legitimate questions, which is why it's so baffling for senator mike rogers and lindsey graham to throw out these political grenades, almost testing to see if they can explode.
>> the reason that you're finding lindsey graham do that is because he's now in cycle, which means he's up for re-election. notice that prior to a month ago, if you will, lindsey graham wasn't that much in the press on these issues. he was very quiet, and he was out advocating for governor romney to be president of the united states . all of a sudden, they find an opening. guess what? lindsey graham is utterly terrified as the senior senator from alabama against someone. i'm not surprised by something like that. the question is if they want tovp an investigation, vote to have one. let's have the investigation, and shut the hell up until the investigation is final and done. then if there's a problem, say there's a problem.
>> quickly, rachel , can they get to the bottom of who changed the talking points ? is that something -- again, i was watching " morning joe ," and there was a difference of opinion if you can pinpoint that kind of information.
>> i think they'll keep asking questions until they do get an answer. i think it is likely that more information will emerge about this. you know, the controversy over susan rice is so particularly interesting because the charges that are flying around have gotten so personal. we heard the president call out senators mccain and graham by name at the news conference last week and saying if you want to come after someone, come after me. they answered by saying, all right, mr. president, we'll come after you.
>> thank you very much, rachel . michael it's a great pleasure and jimmy as well. if you don't see you before thanksgiving, happy thanksgiving to you and your families.