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BOTH SIDES NOW: Benghazi-Gate, Toomey-Gate and Ammo-Gate.

05/12/2013 09:36 pm ET
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Spitzer and Matalin debate if Benghazi will prove to be more Whitewater than Watergate. Is Toomey gutsy to chide the Right for opposing his bipartisan bill just to stymie Obama? Are tyrannical feds buying up ammo to undermine gun rights? Would you prefer your teen daughter get a pill or get pregnant?

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Eliot Spitzer and Mary Matalin discuss several politically incorrect assertions that challenge conventional wisdom. Were Senator Toomey, Jonathan Karl and Darrell Issa daring or foolish when they implied, respectively, that some GOP Senators were just spiteful of Obama, that POTUS 44 was already a "lame duck,' and that Benghazi was a coverup by a scheming Hillary MacBeth?

*On Toomey & Guns/GOP. In a local interview, Senator Pat Toomey (R. - PA) attributed the defeat of his bipartisan background checks bill to a polarized atmosphere where "some people on my side didn't want to help Obama." Mary argues that it was Obama who originally told "naïve little Eric Cantor that 'I won, you lost'" and that, in any event, Toomey's bill "has nothing in there to stop these tragedies." She laments "feel-good, fact-free politics."

Eliot applauds Toomey's admission-against-interest because, since the Inauguration, the GOP "will oppose anything Obama suggests even if they proposed it originally." Mary replies that it was Obama who originally told "naïve Eric Cantor that 'I won, you lost'." Eliot rebuts that "in the aggregate" this bill and others could certainly reduce gun violence, which is 100 times higher in the U. S. than some comparable industrialized nations.

The duo then discuss the cultural power of guns in the context of a family that buys their five-year-old an actual gun for his birthday and then it discharges killing his two-year-old sister...a calamity that doesn't shake their community's faith in kids having guns. "Five year olds don't drive -- they shouldn't have guns," says the former governor. Mary agrees, adding however that "it's a parenting problem, not a government problem."

What about folks like radio shock jock Alex Jones and Senator Jim Inhofe (R. - Okla.) implying that the right to bear arms helps protect Americans from a tyrannical government and that the feds are engaged in a plot to buy ammo so people can't buy bullets? Mary explains that she did recently try to buy ammo only to be told there's a shortage due to a government buy-up. Eliot will have none of it: "Did you try Walmart?... Inhofe is way out-of-line here. Next he'll be talking about black helicopters overhead..."

Host: Conclusion -- the NRA is sticking to its guns but, given the plunging polls of Senators Ayotte & Flake after voting no on expanded background checks vote and the rise of the Giffords-Newtown bloc, get ready for a mulligan that could attract 60 votes in the Senate.

*On Obama's lack of 'juice.' The president is challenged for lacking legislative mojo and defensively denies it. We refer of course to Bill Clinton's presidential press conference on April 18, 1995 when he explains why he's still "relevant." Nearly identically, ABC's Jonathan Karl asks President Obama about whether his frustrations with guns & the Sequester show that he lacks the "juice" to get his agenda enacted.

Mary argues that at some point second term presidents become lame ducks and it's now happening "precipitously" due to Obama's lack of relationships. Eliot instead focuses on obstructionist Republicans (see Toomey above) and asks "whether any set of relationships would close the partisan chasm?" He also goes on make the usual reference to LBJ's congressional magic. The Host wonders: is it fair to compare today's current situation to a former senate majority leader who follows a martyred president and has two-thirds majorities in both chambers and moderate Republicans to work with? Mary still pins the tail on the donkey.

*On Benghazi. We listen to witnesses at the Issa hearings express their dismay at what happened at the consulate last September 11. Mary and Eliot exchange whether this was a tragedy in a world with terrorists or a political cover-up implicating the likely Democratic nominee for president in 2016?

Mary maintains that the Issa hearings are not partisan and that the facts show that the White House lied about the attack in its response. "If Reagan, Bush or Jesus Christ had done that, we'd be outraged!" But didn't the Pickering-Mullen independent review describe State Department incompetence but exonerate the Department and Secretary of a political cover-up? "There are two disparate sets of facts," says Mary, "and those that support me were based on contemporaneous notes." Eliot thinks that Obama and Clinton acted in a proper and ethical way in this incident and, if the Pickering-Mullen report is regarded as inadequate, "then let's have George Mitchell and James Baker do an investigation."

And the effect of this continuing saga on Hillary in 2016? Mary: "I think she would like to clear this up... but in the end, I think it will be shown that she was forced to be complicit."

The Host too would like to be unPC: based on the aphorism that "all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye," the facts no longer matter. Yes, Congress and State neglected to provide resources to protect this consulate before the attack and yes a State-CIA dispute created confused talking points over the role of a hateful video that did cause riots the prior day in Cairo.

But did Democrats immediately investigate and blame Bush43 after 9/11 for dereliction of duty when not 4 but 2873 died... or when several embassies were attacked and American personnel killed in his two terms? Nope. Republican partisans who have tried to make Fast & Furious and Solyndra into Obama's "Watergate" will keep insisting that talking points for Sunday tv news shows are tantamount to an actual criminal cover-up led by a president in which 29 officials went to jail. Or "10 times Watergate" according to Rep. Stephen King (R. - IA). It helps ratings, fund-raising and base turnout to keep banging the Benghazi drum for 2014 and 2016. "Remember the Maine" has lasted over a century... and that explosion was likely an accident.

So we watch the spectacle of such paragons of ethics and judgment as Oliver North, Elliott Abrams and Dick Cheney sermonize about the scandal of Benghazi. And if all this turns out to be merely a Whitewater accusation confusing smoke for a fire that didn't exist, whatever...

*On Plan B. Where do our panelists stand on federal Judge Edward Korman's decision that girls of any age have access to over-the-counter morning-after pills because they might be too scared to consult with their parents if they think they're pregnant.

Mary regards such a result as "obscene and preserve. You can't get Sudafed without a prescription but can get Plan B? This shows the degradation of the family, churches and other institutions because of a government that takes control of everything." Eliot agrees that ideally teens would talk first to parents or friends but many may not... and young girls and boys have been having pre-marital sex for millennia. Eliot: "Mary, you're the one who wants government to intercede and say a child has no rights here" -- i.e., the issue is to choose a pill or an unwanted pregnancy. Mary admires "Eliot's jujitsu here but a child has no right to make such a life and death decision."

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

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