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FINAL DRAFT?: State Department officials headed to Capitol Hill today to face questions from Republican lawmakers over security at U.S. missions abroad. The department got an early start on the news-making last night when they officially rewrote the narrative of the deadly attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The Associated Press: "The State Department now says it never believed the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a film protest gone awry. ... The State Department's extraordinary break with other administration offices came in a department briefing Tuesday, where officials said 'others' in the executive branch concluded initially that the protest was based, like others in the Middle East, on a film that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad. That was never the department's conclusion, a senior official told reporters."
WHICH BRINGS US TO TODAY: The New York Times: "House Republicans on Wednesday accused the State Department of shortchanging security at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, as the first Congressional hearing into the attack there last month quickly took on a partisan tone. Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee suggested that a vast majority of the security requests had been met."
GOP TARGET: Politico: "Coming under a barrage of criticism was Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who said in the days immediately following Stevens’ death that the attacks appeared to be a 'spontaneous' protest of an anti-Muslim video, rather than a premeditated terrorist attack. One top House Republican—Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.)—is demanding Rice’s resignation."
RELATED READING: The Washington Post has a good look today at how the Benghazi attack and the political fallout could mar Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's legacy.
HAPPY WEDNESDAY and welcome to The Slatest PM, where your host's Halloween costume of Regret is shaping up nicely, what with his yet-to-arrive official MLB Nationals playoff sweatshirt and his old yellow Livestrong bracelets. Follow @JoshVoorhees on Twitter or fill his inbox with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LANCE ARMSTRONG WAS THE VERY BEST (AT DOPING): Or so says the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which made public the details of its extensive case against the cancer survivor/cycling legend this afternoon. "The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," the quasi-governmental body said in a statement.
THE CASE FILE: Among the evidence touted by USADA as proof of Armstrong's doping: financial payments, emails, scientific data, laboratory test results and—perhaps most damning—sworn testimony from 11 of Armstrong's former teammates whom the agency said have admitted to doping themselves. Among those testifying against Lance are some of the biggest names in American pro cycling, including Levi Leiphimer and George Hincapie.
LEVI SPEAKS: Leiphimer pens a WSJ op-ed explaining his decision: "Until recently—or maybe even until today—when people thought about doping, they thought about a guy, by himself, using banned substances to get ahead. What people didn't realize—what I didn't realize until after I was already committed to this career—was that doping was organized and everywhere in the peloton. Doping wasn't the exception, it was the norm."
ROMNEY STEPS TO THE CENTER: "There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda," the GOP hopeful told the Des Moines Register's editorial board yesterday, adding that he would, however, still use an executive order to to block federally funded international nonprofits from providing abortion abroad.
ROMNEY STEPS BACK TO THE RIGHT: After those comments were published online, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul released a statement clarifying that: "Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president." She gave a somewhat more specific answer to the National Review Online's Katrina Trinko earlier in the day, telling the conservative outlet that: "Governor Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life."
WEASEL WORDS: Slate's Will Saletan: "[Romney] is a man with a long history of using technicalities to disguise his abortion views. ... I count at least three loopholes in that sentence: legislation, familiar, and agenda. ... If you want to understand what will happen to the no-legislation assurance Romney gave to the Register yesterday, look at what happened to the assurances he gave to voters in Massachusetts a decade ago. ... That’s why you need to spot the weasel words up front. In the end, with Romney, they’re all that matters." Full piece here.
MORE ANALYSIS: Courtesy of Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere: "For the third time in a week, Mitt Romney has taken a prominent U-turn on something that’s supposed to be a matter of fundamental principles. ... At a time when Romney’s family is urging his campaign to 'let Mitt be Mitt,' the rush of recent reversals suggests that moderate Mitt is the one he’s most comfortable with—as conservatives long feared—a problem for a candidate who spent a year and a half taking hard-line stances he needed to win the Republican nomination."
SCOTUS UPDATE: USA Today: "The Supreme Court openly struggled Wednesday with the racial preferences used by the University of Texas to achieve student diversity, as several conservative justices questioned how much is enough to declare affirmative action programs no longer necessary."
SPEAKING OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: Slate's Emily Bazelon takes a look at the complicated emotions behind the issue.
SLATE QUICK HITS—
XX Factor: Why the Taliban Fears Teenage Girls
Moneybox: The Real Jobs-Numbers Mistake
Brow Beat: Did You See This? Mr. Romney’s Neighborhood.
CHECKING THE REST OF THE TRAPS:
WaPo: "Despite an apparent bounce for Mitt Romney in recent weeks, the fundamental dynamic of the electoral map appears to be locked in for now—with both campaigns focused on the nine states that have dominated for most of this year, according to interviews with strategists on both sides."
NYT: "Turkey sharply escalated its confrontation with Syria on Wednesday, forcing a Syrian passenger plane to land in Ankara on suspicion of carrying military cargo, pre-emptively banning Turkish planes from Syrian airspace and warning of increasingly forceful armed responses if Syrian artillery gunners keep lobbing shells across the border."
AP: "The specialty pharmacy linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak may have misled regulators and done work beyond the scope of its state license, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Wednesday."
We'll see you back here tomorrow. But until then, tell your friends to subscribe here, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.