When politicians don’t know what they’re talking about

The controversy over the statement from the U.S. embassy in Egypt, hours before a mob invaded the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. and killed four people, including the U.S. ambassador, continues to fester, and more than a few people aren’t sure why.

“I think most Americans would look at that and say this is not the appropriate response when your embassy was assaulted when the American flag is taken down and two Islamic flags put up over American territory,” Sen Rob Portman of Ohio told CBS this morning in an appearance that had to leave people wondering if politicians have the ability to say, “whoops, my bad.”?

Give some credit to the questioner for CBS News who pointedly said, “as you know,” before pointing out that Portman’s timetable was completely wrong — the statement from the embassy came before there were any attacks.

That’s when Portman said he didn’t know that, which brings up the question, “why not?” How can a U.S. senator, more than 24 hours after the statement was released, still not know what he’s talking about?

He could’ve read the Wall Street Journal’s website, which published the timeline of events at noon yesterday. So did NBC. So did The Atlantic. And so did the National Journal.

Roger Ebert asks on his blog today, “which parts (of the statement) would you disagree with? Why?”


Sentence One: One-quarter of the earth’s population is Muslim, including many Americans. Yes, their feelings can be hurt by a crude attack on the Prophet. I would go so far as to suggest those who made the trailer hoped to hurt their feelings. Why else, when their original effort failed to attract attention, did they pay to have it translated into Arabic, so it could be understood in nations where the box office appeal of the so-called film would be non-existent? The only purpose must have been to hurt feelings.

Sentence Two: True. Sincere. Heartfelt.

Sentence Three: I’ll repeat it. “Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy.” This expresses one of the fundamental founding principles of our nation.

Sentence Four: The statement rejects the actions of the mysterious people responsible for posting the trailer and the having it translated into Arabic.

“The statement said, at its start, ‘we apologize,’” Portman told CBS this morning.

Shockingly, no journalist on the set stopped him to say, “no, it doesn’t say any such thing.”

Here’s the statement:


“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

“It’s not all that complicated,” Portman insisted.

That one he got right.

  • BJ

    This is Romney’s proxy for Obama in debate prep? GOP really doesn’t have a hope to win this year do they?

  • Kevin Watterson

    Our embassies are under attack and this is what we’re worried about? The Obama campaign must be sitting back smoking cigars wondering how on Earth they’re managing to get away with all of it.

  • MikeB

    I think that most people would be horrified to find out that this is the norm. Members of Congress are mainly self absorbed political animals that do not concern themselves with policy. There are exceptions, of course. But the levels of ignorance are masked by blindly repeating talking points and entertainment based news

  • Dylan Kvasnicka

    I would love to have the same optimism as the previous posters, but I fear there are many who will vote Romney and the like because they (the GOP, to put it broadly) spew the rhetoric they do. These voters decide based on that hallowed “truthiness” from within and will believe anything as long as it is in line with said “truthiness.”

  • Bill

    I’d respect a politician that actually was able to admit when he/she was wrong. Instead that is seen as a political wekaness to be exploited for partisan gain.

  • Michael

    “I reject your reality, and substitute my own.” (Good TV for the MythBusters. Lousy TV for one who wants to lead the free world.)

  • Tyler

    I think this election is revealing the true power of the Internet, Youtube, and social media. No longer can politicians say one thing to their base and another thing to the general public. No longer can politicians make statements for purely political reasons. Facts must be checked before statements are made. Context must be considered. Obama’s main campaign strength is that it seems to be one of the best-constructed PR machines ever made. They stay on topic, on message, in context, mostly factual, and don’t deviate for the course they lay out.

  • Jeff

    “The statement said, at its start, ‘we apologize,’” Portman told CBS this morning.

    Shockingly, no journalist on the set stopped him to say, “no, it doesn’t say any such thing.”

    At 2:45 she (Nora? The female reporter) said, “There was no apology that had taken place.” So she didn’t stop him, but she did correct him a few moments later. Shocking that he kept repeating it, though. I wonder if he was furious at his handlers for not informing him of that and making him look like an idiot. Of course he make himself look like an even bigger idiot by repeating it.

    A great moment of video is Portman’s pause and swallow right after she says “There was no apology that had taken place.”

  • Duke Powell

    The Egyptian Embassy did issue their statement hours prior to the attack, however, they issued it again after its walls were breached..

    NewsCut states:The controversy over the statement from the U.S. embassy in Egypt… continues to fester, and more than a few people aren’t sure why.

    Maybe this will help answer that -

    The White House disavowed the Embassy’s statement with one it its own. As reported in Politico, “The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government,”

    Let’s repeat the operative statement – ” ….does not reflect the views of the US government.”

    If not, then, why?

    Romney put his finger on it immediately but saying, in part: “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,”

    Yeah, Portman used the word “apology” instead of sympathy. But if you look at the last sentence of the Embassy’s (now disavowed) statement you will see that sympathy was being extended to a mob because an American exercised their free speech rights.

    That’s what the uproar is all about; Our inalienable rights of free men, under God and natural law.

    Frankly, the reason why many conservatives have been a bit hesitant about Romney is because we haven’t heard him speak like this.

    Conservatives believe that this nation is in a decades old battle between freedom of the individual and the collective, between free markets and a national socialist welfare state. These things are not compatible and one side is going to win.

  • Jamie

    Duke Powell, that is quite a tortured, twisted, contortion of an explanation of Republican lies.

    “I wonder if he was furious at his handlers for not informing him of that and making him look like an idiot.”

    Of course he was not furious. Republicans DON’T CARE if they are caught in lies. They just keep on repeating them because they know that some people – mainly their base – will believe them, and that others will believe them if they’re repeated enough times.

    Also, I disagree with the poster who said something about Obama’s good PR machine. I don’t think it’s very good. They are way too slow and meek at correcting the LyingGreedyBullies (aka GOP) as they continually lie about Obama’s record and about what Democrats are about in general.

  • Duke Powell

    // that is quite a tortured, twisted, contortion of an explanation of Republican lies.

    How so, Jamie?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Duke – “…..battle between freedom of the individual and the collective, between free markets and a national socialist welfare state. These things are not compatible and one side is going to win.”

    The markets closed today at the highest point in years. The healthcare bill was written by the insurance companies.

    I’m confused as to why you continue to attempt to paint Obama as a socialist.

    Some of your arguably valid points regarding the administration’s foreign affairs rhetoric lose credibility because you throw them in with the absurdity of the socialism claims.

  • Duke Powell

    Jim, I not going to respond to you due to the fact that it was my error to introduce thoughts not directly related to the post. Another time, perhaps.

    As the day has gone on, however, it appears that NewsCut needs to change the title of this article to “When Journalists don’t know what they’re talking about.”

  • Bob Collins

    Ah, I see what you did there.

    We must remember this consternation over religious people being “insulted,” in about two months, when there is full-blown hysteria in corners of this country because a checkout clerk at WalMart said “happy holidays.”

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – Fundamentalist Christian full-blown hysteria over “Happy Holidays” will result in some hyperbolic grumbling.

    Islamic full-blown hysteria over a badly made video resulted in murder.