All In   |  May 16, 2013

Benghazi ‘scandal’ lacks anything actually scandalous

Now that the infamous Benghazi emails have been released in full, it looks like there is even less to the “scandal” than meets the eye. Chris Hayes, Salon’s Joan Walsh, Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman, and Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert parse the facts and the hysteria.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> how do you feel about comparisons by some of your critics of this week's scandals to those that happened under the nixon administration ?

>> well, i'll let you guys engage in those comparisons and you can read history and draw your on conclusions.

>> the president during a joint appearance along the prime minister of turkey . that line of questioning was bound to happen in this week of scandals because the mere mention of the word scandal in washington has a magical brain melting effect. once the beltway starts talking scandal, everyone collectively loses all ability to apply critical thinking and reasoning skills. suddenly no one can distinguish the facts and consequences and implications behind any particular scandal. all anyone cares about or is how scandalously scandalous the scald gate of scandals is.

>> which officials knew about the scandal?

>> my question is, who's going to jail over this scandal?

>> by the way, it is a scandal and john mccain yesterday said it was a cover-up.

>> similar to the cover-up in water gate .

>> i was in the white house during water gate . i know all about coverup.

>> it actually could be, could be criminal.

>> i don't -- i'm not saying this is water gate . it is probably more like iran-contra.

>> wow, that's judicious. when it is scandal time in washington, it is time to talk mindlessly and ceaselessly without any actual information about criminality and jail time and of course to revel in all the best scandals of yesteryear. but that doesn't actually serve any purpose other than narrow partisan ones because there are three sets of events that took place that are not breaches of the public trust . they are being completely olittle bit rated and obscured right now by the word scandal. the grand irony is in this week of scandalous scandal overload the least attention is being paid to what is very likely the most scandalous thing to have happened, that's partly because of scandal gate fever and partly by the white house ' own design. i think it is high time we engaged in our own patented secret scandal encoder glasses to find out why. joining me, an nbc news political analyst . we fed ex 'd those. we got them to you. with me here at the table, jim walsh editor at large of salon and author of "what's the matter with white people ," which is a good people. and erin bowler. i want to work our way through this. i really think that there is this tornado blowing and no one is seeing or thinking clearly . that goes for democrats and republicans in many ways. folks are kind of had their heads spun around. talk about benghazi first. here is my take. it is what we like to call in the business a nothing burger. there is nothing there and i think -- well, okay. here's 91% of very conservatives in the united states say it is worse than water gate . yesterday you were part of my favorite ten minutes of television all week. you had papers spread out before you reading e-mails looking for nuggets. but do you agree there is nothing here?

>> well, i can go based on the product of all that frantic attention that we paid to those e-mails yesterday. what i came up with in looking through them, pawing them on the air in real time was that this was in fact a bureaucratic rona rondelai going on, more important to me at any rate was the cia being very, very cautious about naming any groups, talking about al qaeda , anything like that, because the general counsel of the cia , for one, was saying, hey, wait a minute, there are and will be ongoing vegsz here. let's not prejudice them or signal anything. let's cool it here for investigative reasons. so it wasn't hillary clinton 's state department . it wasn't ben rhodes at the white house . it wasn't lord knows david axelrod saying we got to cover this thing up for political purposes. there's nothing. there was none of that. to me that was significant thing.

>> and it wasn't susan rice who is not even on the e-mail chain!

>> susan was not even part of the deal.

>> that's the biggest scandal of this whole thing, she got trotted out and send out on this huge public shaming over a set of talking points that she delivered was -- her staff wasn't on the e-mail.

>> they were really prepared for congress. if you read it, they were handed off to her. that's one scandal. the other scandal is what howard alludes to. state was sort of left holding the bag. this was all hillary clinton 's doing. when this is all about the cia and possibly another -- not scandal but a really interesting set of questions surrounds what was going on at the compound and there were 30 cia operatives and seven state department employees.

>> this is very important -- it was not a diplomatic outpost. it was a cia outpost with diplomatic cover . what you see in the e-mails, state being like oh, no, you don't, cia , don't put this on us, this was your facility that you have to defend.

>> and god knows what went on before that.

>> president obama called it a side show which was being incredibly generous. this story, the fact we are talking about it eight months later, the crafting, editing of basically a pr release for members of congress is amazing. and that's based on very bad reporting in the last week.

>> yes, thank you. on friday when there was e-mails obtained, actually no, e-mails shown to republican congressional staffers who have an ax to grind who they be paraphrased them.

>> who then passed on to the press, passed on to jonathan carl of abc news and passed on inaccurate summaries that the white house was playing politics.

>> paraphrases that appeared in quotes.

>> this signals that the white house itself thinks there's nothing there, but they poured fuel on the fire. they looked at a news cycle in which they've got the irs, they've got the doj, ap an they've got benghazi . yesterday they said here's 100 e-mails.

>> i think that's called in firefighting building a backfire.

>> that's exactly right. they built a backfire. president himself, unprompted, said the word benghazi today. just like come on, let's talk about it more. hold that thought, howard. i want to finish this and also talk about the other two, the irs and apdoj and where they are substantively and politically right after this break.