"Good Friday afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here. I appreciate your patience. Before I take your questions, I just wanted to note, because it’s been reported, we did, as many of you know, have a background briefing here at the White House earlier. I think 14 news organizations were represented, ranging from online to broadcast TV, print and the like. And we do those periodically. We hope that participants find them helpful. I will say that no one here believes that briefings like that are substitute for this briefing, which is why I’m here today to take questions on whatever issues you want to ask me about."
That was just Jay, Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Not to be confused with the "press conference" for invited press only, which occurred just a few hours earlier. It was a private session offering something called "deep background" and screams suspect right from the start.
But please be reassured, "I will say that no one here believes that briefings like that are substitute for this briefing, which is why I’m here today to take questions on whatever issues you want to ask me about."
Oh, I feel better already.
Let's return to a commencement speech of late, and the words of our president:
"Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can't be trusted."
It sheds a whole new light on who to trust, doesn't it?
But what about....
"Thanks, Jay. Two subjects, starting out with the IRS issue. The IRS says it's flagged conservative groups with names like “patriots” or “tea parties” for review, and says that in some instances that its workers inappropriately asked for the identities of donors, and it has apologized. When did the White House become aware that the IRS engaged in this? And in a tax collection system that relies on trust, isn’t the IRS’s credibility at stake here? And will the White House, as called on by Senator McConnell, call for an investigation?"
JUST JAY: Well, two things, Jim. I appreciate the question, and we’ve certainly see in those reports. My understanding is this matter is under investigation by the IG at the IRS. The IRS, as you know, is an independent enforcement agency with only two political appointees. The fact of the matter is what we know about this is of concern, and we certainly find the actions taken, as reported, to be inappropriate. And we would fully expect the investigation to be thorough and for corrections to be made in a case like this. And I believe the IRS has addressed that and has taken some action, and there is an investigation ongoing.
But it certainly does seem to be, based on what we’ve seen, to be inappropriate action that we would want to see thoroughly investigated.
Q Given that the President was so critical of some of these groups, both in 2010 and in 2012, isn’t it natural for the public to think that these things are politically motivated? What assurances can you --
JUST JAY: Well, I think that, first of all, two things need to be noted, which is IRS is an independent enforcement agency, which I believe, as I understand it, contains only two political appointees within it. The individual who was running the IRS at the time was actually an appointee from the previous administration. But separate from that, there is no question that if this activity took place, it’s inappropriate and there needs to be action taken and the President would expect that it be thoroughly investigated and action would be taken.
[Two things: Jay likes to say two things just before he rattles off a number of things, or repeats old news, things already stated in the first thing.]
ah yes...Mr. President...
"...you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices..."
I do feel better knowing that the IRS is an independent enforcement agency, and just for the record, "the individual who was running the IRS at the time was actually an appointee from the previous administration." Not that we like to make anything political, or anything, or blame Bush for everything. Oh touché, Jay!
Next question, please, and hurry --
Q On Benghazi, and with all due credit to my colleague on the right, we have had emails showing that the State Department pushed back against talking-point language from the CIA and expressed concern about how some of the information would be used politically in Congress. You have said the White House only made a stylistic change here, but these were not stylistic changes. These were content changes. So again, what role did the White House play, not just in making but in directing changes that took place to these?
JUST JAY: Well, thank you for that question...
yeah, okay. that's sincere. but please, go ahead with whatever you are going to say, Jay...
JUST JAY, cont.: The way to look at this, I think, is to start from that week and understand that in the wake of the attacks in Benghazi, an effort was underway to find out what happened, who was responsible. In response to a request from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to the CIA, the CIA began a process of developing points that could be used in public by members of Congress, by members of that committee. And that process, as is always the case -- again, led by the CIA -- involved input from a variety of agencies with an interest in or a stake in the process, and that would include, obviously, the State Department since it was a State Department facility that was attacked and an Ambassador who was killed, as well as three others; the NSS, the FBI, which is the lead investigating authority, and other entities.
The CIA -- in this case, deputy director of the CIA -- took that process and issued a set of talking points on that Saturday morning, and those talking points were disseminated. Again, this was all in response to a request from Congress. And the only edit made by the White House or the State Department to those talking points generated by the CIA was a change from -- referring to the facility that was attacked in Benghazi, from “consulate,” because it was not a consulate, to “diplomatic post.” I think I had referred to it as “diplomatic facility." I think it may have been “diplomatic post.”
But the point being, it was a matter of non-substantive/factual correction. But there was a process leading up to that that involved inputs from a lot of agencies, as is always the case in a situation like this, and is always appropriate. And the effort is always to, in that circumstance, with an ongoing investigation and a lot of information -- some of it accurate, some of it not, about what had happened and who was responsible -- to provide information for members of Congress and others in the administration, for example, who might speak publicly about it that was based on only what the intelligence community could say for sure it thought it knew. And that is what was generated by the intelligence community, by the CIA.
Q But this information that -- was information that the CIA obviously knows about prior attacks and warnings about those. Does the President think that it was appropriate to keep that information away simply because of how Congress might use it?
JUST JAY: Well, first of all, the CIA was the agency that made changes to the edits -- I mean, to the talking points and then produced the talking points, first of all. Second of all, I think the overriding concern of everyone involved in that circumstance is always to make sure that we’re not giving, to those who speak in public about these issues, information that cannot be confirmed, speculation about who was responsible, other things like warnings that may or may not be relevant to what we ultimately learn about what happened and why...
Well first of all, let's just stop you right there, Jay. But second of all, you sound stupid.
So Jay, what I believe you are saying then -- in an effort not to 'gum up' the information available then and now -- is that only information CONFIRMED was disseminated to the public; for to do otherwise, would be speculative, inaccurate, and prove to be a cause for concern of the American people, and may possibly lead to distrust two things -- either the administration, or the intelligence community as a whole. Oh the irony looking back at everything, huh, Jay? But please, go ahead.
"... But on the substantive issues of what happened in Benghazi, and at that time, what the intelligence community thought it knew, that was reflected in the talking points that were used, again, that weekend by Ambassador Rice and by others, including members of Congress. And I think if you look at the information that’s been reported, you can see that evolution and that it was -- the talking points were focused on what we knew and not speculation about what may or may not have been responsible or related."
For the record, Jay, your administration was on the record for weeks after the terrorist attack in Benghazi blaming a VIDEO! The Secretary of State, the UN Ambassador Susan Rice, even the president, himself, in front of an audience at the General Assembly of the United Nations continued to blame the very same video that was neither relevant then, or now, in any way, shape, or form. Even you! All that could be said of the attack on Benghazi was centered upon an obscure, rogue video.
**The question and answer batted back and forth for some time -- just go here for further review of the full White House transcript on the day**
JUST JAY: But again, I think you're conflating a couple of things here. The White House, as I said, made one minor change to the talking points drafted by and produced by the CIA, and even prior to that made very few --
Q But is that just parsing words, Jay? I mean, does that --
JUST JAY: -- had very few inputs on it. The other discussions that went on prior to this in an interagency process reflected the concerns of a variety of agencies who had a stake in this issue, both the FBI because it was investigating; the CIA, obviously, and other intelligence agencies; and the State Department, because an ambassador had been killed and a diplomatic facility had been attacked. And what I think the concern was is that these points not provide information that was speculative in terms of whether it was relevant to what happened. [but the video was a "non-event" per reputable boots on the ground, both Gregory Hicks, as well as, the president of Libya! -- just how could this administration throw out un-verified information all willy-nilly like that? Wouldn't it have been better to say you know nothing at this present time?]
And what could not be known at that time was the relevance of issues about warnings. [but that's not true -- Ambassador Stevens asked for help directly to the State Department a month before the attack] There's the discussion about -- the Republicans -- again, in this ongoing effort that began hours after the attacks when Mitt Romney put out a press release to try to take political advantage out of these deaths, or out of the attack in Benghazi, in a move that was maligned even by members of his own party. And from that day forward, there has been this effort to politicize it.
And if you look at the issue here -- the efforts to politicize it were always about were we trying to play down the fact that there was an act of terror and an attack on the embassy. And the problem has always been with that assertion is that it's completely hollow, because the President himself in the Rose Garden said this was an act of terror. [GENERALLY SPEAKING] And he talked about it within the context of September 11th, 2001. And then we had other officials of the administration refer to this as a terrorist act... [um NO, "we didn't"]
blah, blah, blah
Q Jay, since you say this is a minor change -- a minor change in venue, with the wording changed in venue -- why such a big deal today with this deep background, deep, deep background, off-the-record briefing? It makes it seem like --
JUST JAY: Well, let's be clear, it wasn't off the record. [WHAT? How do you define "off the record" then, Jay?] And that was an erroneous report. [Say WHAT? are you calling some in the press corps liars? poor sports? what then?] But the -- I mean, it's a big deal because Republicans have chosen, in the latest iteration of their efforts, to politicize this, to provide -- leak this information to reporters -- information that we provided months ago to Republican lawmakers from the relevant committees and Republican leadership, as well as Democratic. And there's an ongoing effort to make something political out of this.
But the problem with that effort is that it's never been clear what it is they think they're accusing the administration of doing, [...well for starters, two things, not telling the truth to the American people, and manufacturing a deep background scandal -- or two! -- within the people's house...but go on...] because when it comes to who is responsible, we were very open about what we knew, what we thought we knew, what we did for a fact know, [what? "we were very open about what we knew, what we thought we knew, what we did for a fact know....Seriously? You were very open about a total lie -- it was never about a video, while the consulate -- rather the "diplomatic post" whatever you want to call it -- was left unprotected for months, including the night of 9/11/12 and the administration knew it and tried to cover it up for there was an election around the corner, wasn't there, Jay] and the fact that this was an ongoing investigation, and we would certainly learn more that would change our view of what had had happened in Benghazi.
oh my goodness. enough already.
Take it away, Mr. President:
"Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices --
-- "Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can't be trusted--"
Let's wrap things up with a few thoughts from Francis Bacon --
"It is not what you eat,
but what you digest
that makes you strong.
It is not what you earn,
but what you save
that makes you rich.
It is not what you preach,
but what you practice
that makes you a Christian."
And dare we add --
It is not what you hear,
but how you respond
that makes you wise...
very very brave.
Clearly today, that goes for all of us -- from the president on down; ooooh correction, make that, from we the people on up. But maybe the old G thing is just "conflating a couple of things" right, Jay -- or just maybe, the substantive issues are just getting blurry in the fog of blog.
Make it a Good Day, G