NYT's Tom Friedman Proclaims 'Libya is Not a Scandal'

Appearing on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman worked to downplay the terrorist attack in Libya: "There are diplomats that go to dangerous places, and sometimes...they get killed. It is a tragedy. To me, Libya is not a scandal, it's a tragedy."

While the murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was indeed a tragedy, Friedman has insisted on protecting the Obama administration from criticism over the attack. On the October 21 Meet the Press, he declared of the growing scandal: "To me, this is an utterly contrived story in the sense that 'this is the end of,' you know, 'Obama's foreign policy.'"

On Sunday, moments before Friedman's comments, Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador criticized U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for making misleading statements about Libya on Meet the Press and other shows. Moderator David Gregory immediately ran to the defense of Rice and President Obama:

Again, I think that will not stand without being pushed – a – rebutted, particularly this issue of if she was working off talking points where the terror element was taken out, why was that the case? And – and the intelligence chairs do not agree with the assessment that somehow she was misleading. And I think that's important for people watching this, this morning, that that debate will continue, and of course it's adamantly denied by the President and others that she would willfully mislead, or what Senator Graham said, wanted to somehow, you know, cover up or make a political point.


Here is a transcript of the November 18 exchange:

11:11AM ET

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RAUL LABRADOR [REP. R-ID]: I want to get back to Ambassador Rice for a second, though.  Lindsey Graham's absolutely right. She was misleading on your show. And she was misleading on every single show that she appeared. On your show, she said, we have decimated Al Qaeda, if you remember that. Right after that clip that you showed, she made it – she emphasized that we have decimated Al Qaeda. She emphasized not just once, but two or three times on your show, that this was a response to a hateful and offensive video. She wanted the narrative to be something – a – a different – different than what the intelligence community was telling her after she went on your show.

GREGORY: Again, I think that will not stand without being pushed – a – rebutted, particularly this issue of if she was working off talking points where the terror element was taken out, why was that the case? And – and the intelligence chairs do not agree with the assessment that somehow she was misleading. And I think that's important for people watching this, this morning, that that debate will continue, and of course it's adamantly denied by the President and others that she would willfully mislead, or what Senator Graham said, wanted to somehow, you know, cover up or make a political point.

Tom, if you can, sort of catch all of these things together. This sort of human reaction to Petraeus, the impact on – on – on the national security team, at a time when this is now – this Benghazi question is coming up in such a furious way.

TOM FRIEDMAN: Well, I want to go back first to Petraeus. You know, I think Petraeus exhibited a singular act of leadership when he summoned the country for the surge that saved Iraq from really going into a death spiral. It would have been a – a great disaster for American foreign policy. At the same time, though, that surge in Iraq coincided with a Sunni Muslim surge of their own, driven entirely for their own reasons to break with Al Qaeda, side with the United States. It was the combination of our surge and the Sunni uprising that made that success.

We completely over-read that, is my belief. And Petraeus turned that into a counterterrorism strategy that he said, "I did it in Iraq, now I can do it in Afghanistan." That same thing has been a complete failure in Afghanistan precisely because there was no Afghan surge. We keep training Afghans, training Afghans to fight, okay? Every time I hear that, you know, I'm – I'm thinking, who in the world has to train Afghans to fight? But any time you're training Afghans to fight, you're in the wrong place. So what worked in Iraq was a failure in Afghanistan and Petraeus has to take responsibility for that, I – I believe. Because he's partly responsible, he and the other military brass who rolled Obama, basically, kept putting pressure on him to – to repeat in – in Afghanistan what – what did not work in Iraq.

At the same time, about Libya. And again, these – these are two stories that are tied together like this. We have completely over-militarized our foreign policy. Our foreign policy is all about numbers of troops and generals. We forget there are diplomats. There are diplomats that go to dangerous places, and sometimes, David, they get killed. It is a tragedy. To me, Libya is not a scandal, it's a tragedy. It's a story of a, I think, incredibly courageous ambassador who wanted to work with the people on the ground and who produced something we have not seen since the Arab uprising, which is masses of Libyans on their own coming out to defend and praise our ambassador. Again, precisely the kind of authentic surge that makes something possible, precisely what's missing in Afghanistan.

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Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC