May 4th, 2014
03:06 PM ET
4 years ago

Political Chatter: Benghazi, Ukraine and deconstructing Obama’s veiled humor

At the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night, President Barack Obama and news groups were roasted and toasted amidst a crowd full of Hollywood celebrities. On Sunday morning, journalists got back on topic, dissecting the latest deadly violence in Ukraine, the ongoing investigation into Benghazi and of course, presidential politics.

If you missed the Sunday political talk shows, we’ll get you up to speed on the latest events and opinion in Washington with this comprehensive round up of all things political:

Foreign policy: Republicans continue to beat up on the President over his foreign policy. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said Obama isn’t doing enough to combat Russia’s heavy hand in Ukraine.

“It really is spinning out of control, and you know the sad fact is sanctions haven't worked,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” after a recent trip to Ukraine.

Violence escalated in recent days in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, where a street battle between supporters and opponents of Russia ended in a deadly blaze that killed more than 40 people.

Ukraine releases protesters; PM visits Odessa

Amid continued defiance, Ukrainian official vows: 'We are not stopping'

While Obama said he would impose tougher sanctions on Russia that target the country’s economy if President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine or if he interfered with Ukrainian elections set to take place on May 25, Republicans think tougher sanctions should go into effect immediately, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire.

“The bottom line is if we wait until the elections, it will be too late at that point,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The U.S. and Europe has imposed two rounds of sanctions directed at individuals in Putin’s inner circle. Financial punishment hasn’t been expanded because Europe relies on Russia’s energy exports and knows that industry-focused economic sanctions could harm its economy.

Despite that, Republicans want to see more done.

“Vladimir Putin is only going to respond to action, strength and resolve. He's not going to respond to words,” Johnson said.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the President is “delusional about what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, defended the President’s actions in Ukraine, saying on “State of the Union” that sanctions have “affected” Putin’s behavior, noting that the Russian leader hasn’t yet deployed his military across the border.

The GOP senators on three talk shows mounted another pitch echoed by their party for weeks: Send small arms and “anti-tank weapons” to Ukraine, something Obama has not supported.

Engel cautioned against jumping ahead of European allies. “We’re going to have to work in conjunction with NATO because if we don't, then the NATO alliance is dead,” Engel said, countering Republican demands.

But Johnson insisted the United States do more. “It’s the type of weakness that has given Vladimir Putin certainly the signal that he can continue to do those things with impunity,” he said.

Obama’s leadership – or lack of - has been a Republican talking point throughout his presidency, pointing to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Russia and now it emerged as an issue on the Sunday political shows regarding Nigeria.

In Nigeria, where more than 200 teenage girls have been abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram last month for attending a Western school, Johnson said, “America has to lead. That’s what’s missing now.”

Demand for return of hundreds of abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria mounts

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, had an unsurprisingly similar sentiment: “I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe we have a leading role. I believe in peace through strength. Unfortunately, we have a president who is not believed around the world. He's lost the credibility. I think he had that credibility and had the military strength to back it up, there would be a lot more peace out there.”

Benghazi: A flurry of activity over Benghazi erupted this week with the release of an administration memo written after the deadly attacks that advises Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to underscore that the violence was a result of a protest on a series of Sunday political show appearances.

The fight between the White House and congressional Republicans reached a new level as House Speaker John Boehner announced that he will create a special committee to investigate. But Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, said that Democrats shouldn’t participate in the committee, which he called a “colossal waste of time.”

“I don't think it makes sense for us to give this select committee any more credibility than it deserves,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

While Schiff called the Republicans’ investigations political in nature, Ayotte said the White House’s explanation of what happened on September 11, 2012, just two months before the presidential election, was the thing that was political.

“The President had been saying al Qaeda was on the run. They were trying to push a narrative of strength in foreign policy. This did not fit their narrative,” she said.

And on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chaffetz said he has evidence that further contradicts the White House’s story.

“I have a document in my hand, an internal State Department document that goes to Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, this is on September 12th. The State Department had told the President of the Libyan Congress that it was Ansar al-Sharia, a terrorist organization that had committed these attacks,” he said.

But David Plouffe, former White House senior adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week” that Benghazi is an issue because “there’s a very loud delusional minority that is driving our politics.”

Benghazi - government cover-up or right-wing conspiracy theory?

Graham, who thinks the Obama administration is lying and called Benghazi “a smoking gun,” also thinks the White House was covering up any possible bad news to protect the President’s re-election efforts. But he noted, “Anybody who plays politics with Benghazi will get burned.” That includes the Republican Party.

Obama’s humor at #WHCD: At the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner, you know, the dinner that gives out awards to serious, well-deserved journalists (i.e. CNN’s Brianna Keilar)? The annual event with journalists taking as many selfies as they can with Hollywood’s famous? Yeah, that event.

Obama gets last laugh at Washington's annual correspondents' dinner

Well, Obama told a few jokes about himself, the media and But he also joked about Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, including: “Let's face it, Fox, you'll miss me when I'm gone. It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.”

NBC’s “Meet the Press” deconstructed the meaning behind his Clinton/Biden jokes. Anita Dunn, Obama’s former communications director, said a Clinton Democratic nomination “is as close to a fait accompli as anything that could exist” in the Democratic Party.

New York Times Magazine Correspondent Mark Leibovich, author of "This Town," criticized the dinner and related parties on "This Week," asking, "what are we celebrating exactly?"

Perry for President? Texas Gov. Rick Perry did not say if he would run for president in 2016, but in a telling remark, he said, “American is a place that believes in second chances.”

The governor’s last bid for president in 2012 crashed and burned after a series of mistakes, including not remembering his own positions.

After the Oklahoma execution last week when a three-drug cocktail took more than 45 minutes for the inmate to die, Perry called the execution "botched" but defended Texas’ active death penalty policy as “appropriate,” saying Texas uses only “one drug” during executions.

He also expressed his opposition to the minimum wage rejected by Senate Republicans last week, saying Texas focuses “on the maximum wage rather than the minimum wage.”

Fallout from LA Clippers story: Race was a central topic of the roundtable portions of the Sunday talk shows. The conversations were interesting and best viewed in their entirety:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that Clippers owner Donald Sterling doesn’t realize the seriousness of his remarks. “I don’t think he gets that,” Garcetti said. Sterling has been in hot water ever since racist remarks made on audio recordings were leaked.

Additionally, he thinks there might be a legal battle over the Clippers as Sterling wants to continue to own the team. After speaking with Sterling, Garcetti said that he might encourage a boycott of the Clippers if Sterling tries to keep the team.

“I would certainly keep that arrow in my quiver,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

NBA to name new CEO for the Clippers; team wins in playoffs

Sell the Clippers to the people

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Sterling should “embrace the sanctions and spend the rest of his life proving he was not a racist.”

Kicker: Nancy Pelosi tweets a picture of her tattoo:

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. king

    Benghazi Benghazi Benghazi. when will these repubs get over this none scandal. are they upset because the president withhold a single email, which was same as the other emails they have gotten. wonder if they would have did the same thing.. did the email said something different than what the CIA, state department, and other intelligence agencies had said. what is with these repubs, wasn't they the ones egging on separatist right wingers to shoot federal enforcement officers a few weeks ago, and told them to hide behind women and children, so they can blame Obama when bodies are counted. these repubs doesn't give a flying flit about any federal government bureaucracy, who they trying to fool, with their crocodile tears. the government should investigate fox news for conspiring to shoot federal law enforcement officers in Nevada.

    May 4, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  2. Matt

    Sanctions take time so the level of the sanctions is mute. Harder better, but they work in geological time. Arms well once again Ukraine is the 4th largest exporter of arms. I do not see what it would do as a deterrent. All I hope is that during those 3 hour long conversations with Putin regardless of the policy back flip and legacy, that to prevent a war in Nato countries the President said the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons is an option. And that is not easy the time line the President may opt for it during this crisis, then gain agreement via the EU, you can't just place them in country, then the Russian appeal to the European court to block it. In either case no agreement a loss in court the Baltics or Poland would have to leave the EU. The issue with Russia and mainly Putin and politicians and the military is a view of great fear, yet comedy and ridicule. They express great fear and then laugh like the Bear bomber when they know full well that they are armed with Kent nuclear missiles 2,500km 5 or 6 can't remember. So when it is on you will be intercepting the Kent not the Bear. We don't do it because it cost a lot of money to fly long range strategic bombers to scramble enemy planes.

    May 4, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  3. Guest

    Obama will have a hard time explaining why the Ben Rhodes email was not released when it was subpoenaed. It's bad enough that it refutes everything he said about Benghazi but now obstruction of Justice is now an issue.

    May 4, 2014 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  4. JimBrown

    Obamacare = hillarycare = we deserve better.

    May 4, 2014 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  5. Nick Sem

    Russia's violation of Budapest Memorandum will persuade some rogue states that the only way to keep outside influence out is having a nuclear arsenal and that American reassurances mean nothing.

    May 5, 2014 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  6. YoonYoungJo

    I think the Obama Administrations response to Russia is actually perfect except for the timing of it. At this stage we should already be sanctioning economic portions of Russia's economy. But then again, none of us know what the meetings between Germany and the EU have been like. If the EU wasn't ready then the impact if the sanctions and the solidarity of the US/EU would has been compromised. What I still find funny about the whole incident is how Putin still blames everyone and everything else. And it has nothing to do with the fact he tried corrupting the previous Crimean leadership and it has nothing to do with Russia's calculated plan to destabilize and invade Crimea. Nope, the entire reason for the mess is because the US and EU are making such a big deal over a little country being invaded. It's because the world does agree with allowing disavowing international laws except when it benefits Putin. It's about the US and EU and Ukraine not keeping to their agreement by disarming and allowing Russian operatives to shoot them. And none of this is because Russia tried to steal Crimea and all of the Ukraine. This has nothing to do with Russia's corruption of Crimea, it has nothing to do with Russia's attempt to invade a sovereign nation. The current crisis is because Ukraine decided to defend itself. The current calamity is because the Ukraine wouldn't just let Putin steal Crimea and the rest of the Ukraine. That's why there is issues in the area.

    May 5, 2014 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  7. Humbrrto

    Face it, if security was insufficient, that was due to the people that got killed in Benghazi.
    On the other hand McAuthur calling President Truman to drop the bomb, drop the bomb after he told Truman, he could handle any Chinese invasion across the Korea border but he was in japan.

    May 5, 2014 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  8. J.V.Hodgson

    Gosh the Republican policy of either the US independently of Nato an ally??? sending in weaponry to the Ukriane just gives Putin the excuse to send in his troops to protect " Russians" he will be in Kiev in days and the Ukraine military will have been totally destroyed and a puppet government installed ala Georgia and Crimea.
    If we the US want to ignore our most supportive allies since the end of WWII and also during the cold war ( also in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran negotiations) then the likes of Mc Cain and others saying send in arms that European politicians and Nato does not want = the USA being a dictator.
    Pray do tell republicans what is the national security risk of the USA that exceeds that of The European nations an Nato.
    The answer is certainly not Bully warmongering that we can in no way back up effectively against Russia via Ukraine.
    Militarily in Ukraine, Nato plus the US lose that war military conflict hands down to Russia
    Check it out with the people we In the USA to a more than 2/3rds majority do not want military involvement in Ukraine.

    May 5, 2014 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  9. Tim

    Obama and his minions continue to lie to the American people. It is time to impeach Obama.

    May 5, 2014 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  10. Marie MD

    @Barbara, are you speaking about the shrub #43 and his phantom WMDs? If you are not, see my other post about how many died under that administratin.

    May 5, 2014 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  11. sbast

    We're inching closer to conflict with Russia by the day. Soon, we'll provide arms to Ukraine then Russia will respond by providing advanced weaponry to one or to all of our enemies. War is coming, but all some of you can talk about is George Bush. Such brainiacs... Our commanderless chief has caused this situation, and it isn't good. Let's face it, your welfare checks are now at high risk!

    May 5, 2014 07:16 am at 7:16 am |
  12. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    White House Correspondents Dinner

    Best joke of the night.

    There is NOT a smidgeon of corruption in "My" administration....

    TRUST "Me"
    "I" am NOT a liar !!!

    May 5, 2014 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  13. Gurgyl

    -–just show me "JOBS-BILL" show your faces before you talk further.

    May 5, 2014 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  14. Fair is Fair


    If he had just told the truth from the beginning I think most people would have understood. But to lie to the American people just not to lose a vote or two was disgusting.
    Exactly. Wholeheartedly agree.

    May 5, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  15. TONE


    If he had just told the truth from the beginning I think most people would have understood. But to lie to the American people just not to lose a vote or two was disgusting.

    Can you site your sources? I am tired of right wingers posting talking points from fox, limbaugh, and hannity, gullibles will feed into your talking points, not me. How about the biggest lie in US history WMD that bush, and cheney lied about 5000 lives lost, 40,000 injured families destroyed, but benghazi 4 lives how do you weigh that.

    May 5, 2014 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  16. mark

    I can't understand why you include anything from Fox when you are talking about News organizations.

    May 5, 2014 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  17. JJR

    The community organizer experiment is an epic fail.

    May 5, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Vis-a-vis the President and his jokes at the Correspondent's dinner: looooove my President!

    May 5, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair


    If he had just told the truth from the beginning I think most people would have understood. But to lie to the American people just not to lose a vote or two was disgusting.
    Exactly. Wholeheartedly agree.
    Wrong. Republicans would be conducting investigations into "failures of policy": i.e.: not providing enough security. Look, what all of this is really about is painting a picture of Hillary Clinton as damaged before the 2016 elections. That's all it is.

    May 5, 2014 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  20. Gurgyl

    -–well, that your rant of community organizer is elected to presidency TWICE, I mean Twice by largest majority–338/105 electoral votes. Learn Wars of unfounded false pretext failed this nation, looted the treasury–who benefited? Halliburton. Check your brains, if you have any.

    May 5, 2014 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  21. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Since I can no longer stomach the Sunday news shows my sister told me about "Orange is the new black"! I damn near passed out from laughing so hard. Tell em Mr. President! And know many love and support you!

    May 5, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    If he had just told the truth from the beginning I think most people would have understood. But to lie to the American people just not to lose a vote or two was disgusting
    Most people understood then and understand now the GOPers febril fervor of turning this into something that never was, thus his re-election.
    What's disgusting is the tens of millions that have been spent on futile and unnecessary investigations when nary a penny was spent on a true scandal like those WMD and the tens of thousands that died behind that.
    Talk about disgusting.

    May 5, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  23. Lizzie

    Gurgyl, and the SENATE votes down the bill to increase minimum wage, I thought the DEMOCRATS controll the senate and it would have passed as easily as the ACA.

    May 5, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  24. Joe

    All these people claiming that Benghazi is made up, need to wake up. What if that was your loved one? Stop believing this administration because it is filled with lies.

    May 5, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  25. Marty

    We are living in an interesting historical time. I think history will judge this time on a par with the " War Between the States" and the destruction that accompanied the era.

    May 5, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
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