Commentary Magazine


Topic: Benghazi

Bob Woodward on Benghazi

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, America’s greatest living investigative reporter, was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and said this: “I would not dismiss Benghazi. It’s a very serious matter.” Mr. Woodward recounted his own memories of Richard Nixon’s role in editing Watergate transcripts in order to mislead the public.

The Benghazi scandal is obviously not comparable to Watergate at this stage and may never be. Watergate, after all, involved the president being at the center of a criminal conspiracy. But not every scandal has to be Watergate to be serious; and a scandal need not lead to impeachment to be deeply problematic.

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The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, America’s greatest living investigative reporter, was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and said this: “I would not dismiss Benghazi. It’s a very serious matter.” Mr. Woodward recounted his own memories of Richard Nixon’s role in editing Watergate transcripts in order to mislead the public.

The Benghazi scandal is obviously not comparable to Watergate at this stage and may never be. Watergate, after all, involved the president being at the center of a criminal conspiracy. But not every scandal has to be Watergate to be serious; and a scandal need not lead to impeachment to be deeply problematic.

What we know right now about the lethal attacks on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi and the subsequent cover-up is serious enough. And one cannot help but feel that if the truth is finally revealed, it will reveal even more damaging things about the ethical grounding of the Obama administration. Whether the truth is finally unveiled is an open question. That’s why we have things called investigations. And unfortunately for the president, but fortunately for the truth, they are proceeding.

Stay tuned. 

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Obama’s Defenders: He’s Not Corrupt, Just Dishonest and Incompetent

There was a running joke in the fall of 2008 that John McCain should simply re-air Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m. phone call” ad, which highlighted Barack Obama’s lack of experience and meager knowledge of world affairs, and just tack on “I’m John McCain, and I approve this message” at the end of the ad. The point was that thanks to the bitter primary battle between the Clintons and Obama, Democrats had already developed the most effective lines of attack against Obama, and Republicans needed only to nod their heads in agreement.

Something similar is taking place amid the several Obama administration scandals that have surfaced almost simultaneously. (There has been new information on Benghazi, but the issue itself isn’t new; the IRS and AP phone records scandals, in contrast, hit less than a week apart.) Both Democrats and Republicans are raising the prospect that the GOP could get carried away or bungle their response to the scandals–surely a possibility. One way to prevent that, however, would be to simply echo the way Obama’s supporters have tried to defend him.

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There was a running joke in the fall of 2008 that John McCain should simply re-air Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m. phone call” ad, which highlighted Barack Obama’s lack of experience and meager knowledge of world affairs, and just tack on “I’m John McCain, and I approve this message” at the end of the ad. The point was that thanks to the bitter primary battle between the Clintons and Obama, Democrats had already developed the most effective lines of attack against Obama, and Republicans needed only to nod their heads in agreement.

Something similar is taking place amid the several Obama administration scandals that have surfaced almost simultaneously. (There has been new information on Benghazi, but the issue itself isn’t new; the IRS and AP phone records scandals, in contrast, hit less than a week apart.) Both Democrats and Republicans are raising the prospect that the GOP could get carried away or bungle their response to the scandals–surely a possibility. One way to prevent that, however, would be to simply echo the way Obama’s supporters have tried to defend him.

As I wrote on Monday, one clear lesson from this is the danger of ever-expanding, unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy at the center of an increasingly powerful central government. That also happens to be the crux of President Obama’s governing strategy. Indeed, the IRS’s reach and power is expanded as part of ObamaCare–itself an expansion of government along demonstrably failed strategic lines. So it’s no surprise that after the IRS systematically targeted conservative and pro-Israel groups in order to eviscerate the First Amendment rights of those who disagreed with President Obama (and at the direction of high-ranking elected Democrats), the IRS official responsible for overseeing tax-exempt groups has since been moved over to run the IRS office responsible for ObamaCare.

Because this critique of big government is so difficult to deny without appearing foolish, many on the left have tried another tack to minimize the scandals. They argue that President Obama is not corrupt, but rather that he is dishonest and incompetent. This was the defense (such as it was) of Obama and Clinton with regard to Benghazi. The Accountability Review Board, which sought to exonerate Clinton as much as possible, noted that the State Department was a complete mess under Clinton. Security requests were ignored, because Clinton didn’t take the time to understand what was going on in Libya. And the chain of command was difficult to discern, leading to total chaos within the department. In other words, Clinton, who seems to be planning a run for the presidency, is a dangerously poor executive with a shallow grasp of geopolitical realities.

And a similar defense has arisen from the left of Obama on the issue. Here is Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post claiming that Benghazi was brought about by incompetence and carelessness. And here is the New York Times editorial board trying to shift the conversation from Obama’s initial failure in Libya to his ongoing failure in Libya. Liberal “defenses” of Obama and Clinton paint a picture of two hopelessly unqualified leaders.

It doesn’t get much better from there. As Pete noted this morning, Obama’s former chief strategist David Axelrod defended his former boss by saying that the government has become so vast and unwieldy that Obama couldn’t possibly know what his own government was doing or why it was doing it. The fact that Democrats can acknowledge this while still planning to make the government larger and less accountable shows the ideological nature of their obsession with expanding the state at the expense of the people.

And Jeffrey Rosen utilizes this explanation for the Obama administration’s seizure of the Associated Press phone records. Obama isn’t Nixon, Rosen argues, nor George W. Bush. According to Rosen he’s more like the maniacally antidemocratic Woodrow Wilson (again, this is a defense of Obama):

Unlike Obama, George W. Bush never ran for president by touting his praise of government transparency and whistleblowing. As a result, while Bush never pretended to be a defender of whistleblowers, he was sensitive, at least in his first term, to avoiding subpoenas that might threaten press freedom…. Obama has no similar self-doubts about his own credentials as a First Amendment advocate: Didn’t he defend the American free speech tradition at the U.N. even as he put pressure on YouTube to reconsider its decision not to remove the Innocence of the Muslims video?

[…]

And that law points to a better historic comparison. Obama’s rediscovery of the 1917 Espionage Act is grimly appropriate, since the president whose behavior on civil liberties he is most directly channeling isn’t, in fact, Richard Nixon or George W. Bush. It’s Woodrow Wilson.

Rosen, who calls this “technocratic arrogance,” is making two separate points here. One point is the inevitability of abuse when the president locks out criticism and empowers unelected bureaucrats to put his worldview into practice. The other point is that Rosen makes Obama out to be a fundamentally dishonest person. Obama gave grand addresses praising free speech while acting to undermine it. Obama offered self-righteous blather about the supposed evils conducted by his predecessors, and therefore he was entitled to expand on those supposed evils.

Conservatives are probably thinking they couldn’t have said it better themselves. And liberals seem determined to save them the trouble.

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David Axelrod, Limited Government Conservative?

David Axelrod was once Barack Obama’s closest chief political adviser. He now comments for MSNBC, where he trotted out the latest defense of President Obama, who is being buffeted by three unfolding scandals: misleading the public in the aftermath of the lethal assault on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, the seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters, and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS.

On the latter, the Axelrod defense goes like this: “There’s so much underneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.”

Now isn’t that convenient.

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David Axelrod was once Barack Obama’s closest chief political adviser. He now comments for MSNBC, where he trotted out the latest defense of President Obama, who is being buffeted by three unfolding scandals: misleading the public in the aftermath of the lethal assault on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, the seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters, and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS.

On the latter, the Axelrod defense goes like this: “There’s so much underneath you that you can’t know because the government is so vast.”

Now isn’t that convenient.

Mr. Axelrod has suddenly discovered the problems associated with a federal government that is so vast that the president cannot possibility be held accountable for what goes wrong underneath him. Barack Obama is president of the United States; he simply shouldn’t be held accountable by the misdeeds of the government of the United States. Funny, I don’t recall Mr. Axelrod making this same argument during the Bush years.

In any event, one of the political effects of these scandals is that Republicans, who until now have been sullen in the aftermath of the 2012 election, will be re-energized. I say that because these scandals go some distance toward confirming some of their worst suspicions about the president and the threat posed by the Nanny State.

To put it another way: If Republicans were animated by the policy overreach of Obama/Big Government in 2010, in the form of the stimulus package and the Affordable Care Act, they may well be energized by the abuse of power by Obama/Big Government in 2014.

Now the 2014 elections are still a long way off, and the full ramifications of these scandals are impossible to know at this stage. But one thing that is being vindicated is the concern conservatives have about the vast size, scope and reach of the federal government. Even David Axelrod is now acknowledging it.

Can a subscription to COMMENTARY be far behind?

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Obama is the Ultimate Ad Hominem President

At a fundraising event earlier this week in New York City, President Obama said this:

What’s blocking us right now is a sort of hyper-partisanship in Washington that I was, frankly, hoping to overcome in 2008. My thinking was when we beat them in 2012 that might break the fever, and it’s not quite broken yet. But I am persistent. And I am staying at it. And I genuinely believe there are Republicans out there who would like to work with us but they’re fearful of their base and they’re concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them…

As a consequence we get the kind of gridlock that makes people cynical about government. My intentions over the next 3 ½ years are to govern. … If there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation then I want to make sure there are consequences to that.

Mr. Obama’s statement, a variation of what he’s said countless times in the past, is worth examining for what it reveals about him.

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At a fundraising event earlier this week in New York City, President Obama said this:

What’s blocking us right now is a sort of hyper-partisanship in Washington that I was, frankly, hoping to overcome in 2008. My thinking was when we beat them in 2012 that might break the fever, and it’s not quite broken yet. But I am persistent. And I am staying at it. And I genuinely believe there are Republicans out there who would like to work with us but they’re fearful of their base and they’re concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them…

As a consequence we get the kind of gridlock that makes people cynical about government. My intentions over the next 3 ½ years are to govern. … If there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation then I want to make sure there are consequences to that.

Mr. Obama’s statement, a variation of what he’s said countless times in the past, is worth examining for what it reveals about him.

1. President Obama is once again engaging in what psychiatrists refer to as projection, in which people lay their worst attributes on others.

In this instance, the most hyper-partisan president in modern times is ascribing that trait to Congressional Republicans. What we’ve learned about Mr. Obama over the years is that he that while he is unusually inept at governing, he’s quite good at campaigning. He certainly enjoys it, having taken the concept of the Permanent Campaign beyond anything we’ve ever seen. It turns out it’s the only thing he does well—no human being in history has raised campaign cash quite like he has—and it’s all he seems interested in doing.

On some deep, subconscious level, though, Mr. Obama seems ashamed of the path he’s chosen. And so the president projects those traits he loathes in himself on to others. To give you a sense of how deep the malady runs, the president does more than merely project; he actually preaches against the very character flaws he himself cannot overcome.

2. The president can hardly go a day without impugning the motivations of his opponents. They never have honest differences with the president. Instead they are suffering from an illness (“fever”), cowardice (afraid of what Rush Limbaugh might say about them), and lack of patriotism (caring about elections rather than future generations). Mr. Obama is the ultimate ad hominem president.

3. The president spoke about cynicism toward government. But if the president is really concerned about this phenomenon, he might look at his own administration, which is dealing with multiplying scandals. I would submit that misleading the country in the aftermath of the deadly siege on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, the IRS’s targeting of political opponents, and seizing the phone records of journalists might well deepen the public’s cynicism toward government. And for the record, trust in the federal government has reached new lows during the Obama years. Might he have some responsibility for that?

4. Mr. Obama professes deep concern “about the next generation.” Those words would be a bit more believable if he were not handing off to the next generation a crushing debt burden that will take generations to undo, if  it is ever undone. No president holds a candle to Mr. Obama when it comes to engaging in generational theft.

5. As for gridlock: This is actually inherent in our system of government. It’s called “checks and balances” and “separation of powers.” The president might want to consult this document for more. 

I understand Mr. Obama has complained many times that there are checks on his power, but I prefer the wisdom of James Madison to the ambitions of Barack Obama. And, oh, by the way: greater gridlock in Mr. Obama’s first two years in office would have prevented passage of the Affordable Care Act, which the presidential historian George Edwards has called “perhaps the least popular major domestic policy passed in the last century” and which Democratic Senator Max Baucus has warned is a “huge train wreck coming down.” It turns out that gridlock, if not always ideal, beats passing really bad legislation.

Just over a hundred days into his second term, the president finds himself weak, wounded, and on the defensive. Which means Mr. Obama will need to find new enemies to blame, new people to target, and new divisions to exploit.

This is what Hope and Change looks like five years in. 

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Obama Is Counting on a Double Standard

As the Obama administration seems to stagger under the weight of dealing with three scandals at the same time, Republicans who have been frustrated by the president’s seeming golden touch the last four and a half years are obviously gleeful. While not licking their chops at the thought of tearing into the president’s aides about the IRS scandal, the Justice Department’s fishing expedition into the AP’s phone records, or Benghazi, they’re asking a salient question of journalists: What would you do with this material if it was George W. Bush or Dick Cheney who were accused of lying about a terror attack, infringing on the rights of the press, or selectively enforcing the laws to punish political opponents?

The answer is pretty obvious, since the mainstream media did its best to sink Bush under the weight of the blowback from the Iraq war, the fallout from Hurricane Katrina and the financial meltdown, and demonized Cheney to the point where he became a pop culture villain. While liberals will try to argue that Obama’s problems don’t rise to the level of those of Bush, they know that, as John Steele Gordon pointed out earlier today, the accumulation of woes are about to reach critical mass and doom the president to the same kind of dismal second term that virtually all of his predecessors have suffered.

But though anyone who listened to White House spokesman Jay Carney or Attorney General Eric Holder tap dance their way through brutal press conferences today might be forgiven for thinking this presidency is tottering, the administration’s seemingly clueless efforts to deflect blame may be an indication of confidence that this rough patch can be ridden out without serious long-term damage being inflicted on Obama’s ability to govern or his legacy. Though the media is up in arms over these scandals, especially the government’s snooping on the AP, the president seems to think his magic touch with the media hasn’t worn off. Is he right?

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As the Obama administration seems to stagger under the weight of dealing with three scandals at the same time, Republicans who have been frustrated by the president’s seeming golden touch the last four and a half years are obviously gleeful. While not licking their chops at the thought of tearing into the president’s aides about the IRS scandal, the Justice Department’s fishing expedition into the AP’s phone records, or Benghazi, they’re asking a salient question of journalists: What would you do with this material if it was George W. Bush or Dick Cheney who were accused of lying about a terror attack, infringing on the rights of the press, or selectively enforcing the laws to punish political opponents?

The answer is pretty obvious, since the mainstream media did its best to sink Bush under the weight of the blowback from the Iraq war, the fallout from Hurricane Katrina and the financial meltdown, and demonized Cheney to the point where he became a pop culture villain. While liberals will try to argue that Obama’s problems don’t rise to the level of those of Bush, they know that, as John Steele Gordon pointed out earlier today, the accumulation of woes are about to reach critical mass and doom the president to the same kind of dismal second term that virtually all of his predecessors have suffered.

But though anyone who listened to White House spokesman Jay Carney or Attorney General Eric Holder tap dance their way through brutal press conferences today might be forgiven for thinking this presidency is tottering, the administration’s seemingly clueless efforts to deflect blame may be an indication of confidence that this rough patch can be ridden out without serious long-term damage being inflicted on Obama’s ability to govern or his legacy. Though the media is up in arms over these scandals, especially the government’s snooping on the AP, the president seems to think his magic touch with the media hasn’t worn off. Is he right?

It needs to be understood that though conservatives have spent the years since January 2009 acting as if Barack Obama was always on the precipice, he is a uniquely popular president who has always counted on favorable press coverage. Part of this is due to liberal bias in the mainstream press, but it is also a function of the president’s historic status as the first African American in the White House. Republicans have always underestimated his appeal, and though they lament media bias they consistently fail to understand how it made his re-election easier if not inevitable.

Coming into his second term, some of us have wondered whether Obama could escape the same second-term blues that afflicted nearly every other two-term president, and now the accumulation of scandals is answering that question in the negative. The problem is not just that these stories have legs and are serious. It is that once congressional investigations with subpoena power or federal investigations such as the one Holder announced on the IRS scandal begin, there is no telling where it will all end.

Yet the president seems to still be under the impression that his historic status and popularity insulate him against the problems that handicapped the ability of other presidents to govern once they had been re-elected. Listening to him lash out at his opponents about Benghazi or his aides calmly deflecting blame or even fibbing about these issues, it’s hard to avoid coming to the conclusion that he thinks the double standard that allowed him to blame his predecessor for the economy still applies. He also probably thinks Republicans will take as much of a beating for overreaching in their attacks as he gets for the scandals.

But this confidence may be misplaced.

Though most of the press still despises conservatives and likes Obama–or what they think he stands for–scandals are generally an equal-opportunity affair in Washington. While most liberals have operated from the administration’s talking points on Benghazi, the relentless spill alienated working reporters who don’t like being lied to. But the IRS scandal and the AP story are both designed to anger the media and to create a feeding frenzy that not even Obama’s reputation can withstand without injury. The president has always benefited from a double standard that allowed him to escape scrutiny that was given to his predecessor, but even a liberal press can smell blood now.

Republicans who assume today that this marks the moment when Obama becomes a lame duck may be premature. He’s on the ropes, but not down on the canvas yet. But if the president thinks he can fake his way through this siege coasting on his reputation he may be in even deeper trouble than his foes think.

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Are Obama’s Scandals Reaching Critical Mass?

Last week was one of the worst for Obama in his presidency. This week looks no better. Indeed, it may be a long, hot summer for the White House. As Jonathan has pointed out, the IRS scandal is growing bigger, seemingly by the minute. The Benghazi scandal is continuing to percolate.

Now, the brand-new AP scandal has erupted. This one, because the victims are newsmen, is likely to have a powerful effect on the mainstream media. If the Justice Department has been going after the phone records of AP reporters, what other reporters are having their privacy violated? Even the New York Times, which thought page 11 was just fine for the IRS scandal, put this one on page 1, above the fold. The White House is “dodging and weaving” today according to the Times.

But wait, there’s more, as the TV commercials have it.

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Last week was one of the worst for Obama in his presidency. This week looks no better. Indeed, it may be a long, hot summer for the White House. As Jonathan has pointed out, the IRS scandal is growing bigger, seemingly by the minute. The Benghazi scandal is continuing to percolate.

Now, the brand-new AP scandal has erupted. This one, because the victims are newsmen, is likely to have a powerful effect on the mainstream media. If the Justice Department has been going after the phone records of AP reporters, what other reporters are having their privacy violated? Even the New York Times, which thought page 11 was just fine for the IRS scandal, put this one on page 1, above the fold. The White House is “dodging and weaving” today according to the Times.

But wait, there’s more, as the TV commercials have it.

The Washington Post is reporting that Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is comparing Kathleen Sebelius’s attempt to raise money from private organizations to help implement ObamaCare to Iran-Contra. Alexander says,

This is arguably an even bigger issue because, in Iran-Contra, you had $30 million that was spent by Oliver North through private organizations for a purpose congress refused to authorize, in support of the rebels. Here, you’re wanting to spend millions more in support of private organizations to do something that Congress has refused.

And now the Washington Examiner is reporting that the EPA routinely waives the fees for FOIA requests made by liberal organizations and media outlets, but does not for those from conservative ones.

Let’s consider a few things here.

One is that separate scandals, such as IRS and Benghazi, tend to have synergistic effects on each other even though they are dissimilar. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Another is that scandals such as the IRS and EPA that are similar inevitably produce a hunt for an overall pattern. Where else has the federal government under Obama been stiffing conservatives and giving liberals a pass?

A third is that reports of abuse produce more and more reports of abuse, as people and organizations realize that what happened to them was part of a pattern. John Podhoretz’s tale of COMMENTARY magazine’s woe at the hands of the IRS is very unlikely to be the only one to come out.

Finally, as the separate scandals begin to grow and, worse for Obama, begin to coalesce, even a media that has been an army of water-carriers for the Obama administration up until now will, despite themselves, smell the blood in the water and their instincts as journalists will kick in. Off they will go on the hunt for scoops. Undoubtedly they will find them.

When and if that happens, the scandals will have reached critical mass and the Obama presidency will be in mortal danger. The beating up of Jay Carney at the White House daily news briefing last Friday by the media generally was not a good sign.

If Obama loses the media, what does he have left? A record of accomplishment at home and abroad? Not exactly.

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The Real Libya Scandal

The dramatic testimony of Gregory Hicks, former U.S. deputy chief of mission in Libya, has shone the media spotlight on what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, when U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terrorist attack. Republican lawmakers and conservative journalists have managed to raise substantial and serious questions about the administration’s response to the attack, both as it was occurring and in the days that followed. The mainstream news media have been obliged to follow suit, putting White House spokesmen on the defensive, even if charges of a “cover up” remain far from proven.

But, oddly enough, almost no one is talking about what I regard as the real scandal here–the shameful failure of the Obama administration to extend state-building assistance to Libya’s pro-Western leaders after having helped them to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. The inability of the Libyan government to control its own territory created the conditions that led to the 2012 attack–and those conditions have not changed since.

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The dramatic testimony of Gregory Hicks, former U.S. deputy chief of mission in Libya, has shone the media spotlight on what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, when U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terrorist attack. Republican lawmakers and conservative journalists have managed to raise substantial and serious questions about the administration’s response to the attack, both as it was occurring and in the days that followed. The mainstream news media have been obliged to follow suit, putting White House spokesmen on the defensive, even if charges of a “cover up” remain far from proven.

But, oddly enough, almost no one is talking about what I regard as the real scandal here–the shameful failure of the Obama administration to extend state-building assistance to Libya’s pro-Western leaders after having helped them to overthrow the Gaddafi regime. The inability of the Libyan government to control its own territory created the conditions that led to the 2012 attack–and those conditions have not changed since.

A recent Reuters dispatch from Tripoli notes: “More than 18 months after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s new rulers have yet to impose a firm grip on a country awash with weapons. Rebel groups that helped to overthrow him are still refusing to disband, and remain more visible on the streets than the state security forces.”

Libya ostensibly has democratic institutions, but in reality it seems to be prey to mob rule. At the end of last month, for example, gunmen besieged the foreign and justice ministries, demanding the passage of a law to ban anyone who had held a senior position in the Gaddafi government. As Reuters further notes: “Parliament bowed to the demand and approved the legislation a week later, despite criticism from rights groups and diplomats who said it was sweeping, unfair and could cripple the government.”

The U.S. is being derelict in not doing more to help the elected government in Libya to establish its authority–and in the process we are allowing an opening for al-Qaeda and its ilk. Shouldn’t someone in a position of authority in Washington be talking about this? And, even better, doing something about it?

No doubt President Obama, in the full grip of Iraq Syndrome, regards any attempts to stabilize Libya as the first step toward getting involved in a “quagmire.” And no doubt, too, Republicans are loathe to criticize him on this front because “nation building” remains as anathema in their ranks as it does in the Obama administration. But in the process we are not doing nearly enough to address the critical threat in Libya, which could result in more attacks on U.S. personnel and interests in the future.

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Obama Doubles Down on Benghazi Denial

President Obama faced the press briefly today in a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. He got out in front of the IRS scandal by condemning the actions of officials who targeted conservative organizations for special treatment. But his response to a question about the Benghazi terror attack demonstrated that he has yet to come to terms with the fact that the administration won’t be able to go on pretending the issue can be ignored as a case of partisan sniping by Republicans.

But what was most instructive about the president’s presentation at the press conference was the contrast between the clinical way in which he described his disagreement with the blatantly illegal actions of the IRS and the passionate manner with which he claimed there was “nothing new” to discuss about Benghazi while demanding that the press and the public ignore the growing pile of troubling evidence of incompetence, cowardice and lies by administration figures in the days preceding and following the attack on 9/11/12 that took the lives of four Americans.

The president had a chance to acknowledge that what the American people were told last September was the product of talking points concocted by his aides in order to deflect attention from the revival of al-Qaeda as well as the administration’s culpability for failing to provide security for U.S. personnel. But instead he chose to bluster and sarcastically treat the whole thing as a plot by Republicans to make a mountain out of a molehill. And his use of terms like “sideshow” to describe the growing inquiries about the discrepancies between what was said then and the truth or to claim “there’s no there there” tells us more about his arrogant approach to governing than it does about the shelf life of this scandal.

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President Obama faced the press briefly today in a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. He got out in front of the IRS scandal by condemning the actions of officials who targeted conservative organizations for special treatment. But his response to a question about the Benghazi terror attack demonstrated that he has yet to come to terms with the fact that the administration won’t be able to go on pretending the issue can be ignored as a case of partisan sniping by Republicans.

But what was most instructive about the president’s presentation at the press conference was the contrast between the clinical way in which he described his disagreement with the blatantly illegal actions of the IRS and the passionate manner with which he claimed there was “nothing new” to discuss about Benghazi while demanding that the press and the public ignore the growing pile of troubling evidence of incompetence, cowardice and lies by administration figures in the days preceding and following the attack on 9/11/12 that took the lives of four Americans.

The president had a chance to acknowledge that what the American people were told last September was the product of talking points concocted by his aides in order to deflect attention from the revival of al-Qaeda as well as the administration’s culpability for failing to provide security for U.S. personnel. But instead he chose to bluster and sarcastically treat the whole thing as a plot by Republicans to make a mountain out of a molehill. And his use of terms like “sideshow” to describe the growing inquiries about the discrepancies between what was said then and the truth or to claim “there’s no there there” tells us more about his arrogant approach to governing than it does about the shelf life of this scandal.

The president’s barely concealed rage about having to answer questions about Benghazi explains Jay Carney’s tap dance last week in front of a frustrated White House press corps when he denied that there was any contradiction between the lies told by the administration eight months ago and the equally disingenuous spin it has been trying to sell the country in the last week. Clearly, Carney’s boss is taking the position that neither he nor the subordinates who did his dirty work for him on Benghazi have anything to answer for. Yet rather listen to any counsel about owning up to the problem and thereby taking the sting out of the attacks coming in from Republicans, the president is letting his temper get the best of him.

The premise of the president’s Benghazi tirade is twofold.

On the one hand, he seems to genuinely believe there was nothing wrong with a set of talking points that deliberately omitted the fact that Benghazi was a terror attack and tried to foist the false story that it was a case of a movie review run amok. But his claim that this narrative—which fit like a glove with his re-election campaign boasts about having destroyed al-Qaeda—was the product of the best intelligence available at the time is flatly contradicted by the emails between staffers about the talking points.

While the president insists there’s nothing new to discuss, the emails and the testimony of the whistle-blowers to Congress last week makes it clear there’s plenty of evidence to show that there was a deliberate intention to deceive the American people by both the State Department and the White House. His Nixonian denial of the problem illustrates not only his arrogance but also the way the White House bubble insulates him from political reality and inconvenient facts. Far from being a sideshow, the president’s rhetorical question about his critics providing help in ensuring that these events are not repeated is easily answered. The best way to do so is make sure those who made these mistakes are held accountable for them.

The president’s demeanor also indicates his confidence that the liberal mainstream media as well as Democrats will continue to support an administration stonewall on Benghazi. Accustomed as he is to a press that goes into the tank for him and an adoring public, he has little patience with the thought of having to apologize or backtrack from a stance that absolves the White House of any responsibility for what occurred in Benghazi or the lies that followed it. He seems sure that if he keeps saying Benghazi is just a GOP attack, he’ll get away with it. But, as I wrote yesterday, the cracks starting to appear in an otherwise solid, liberal wall of omerta about the administration’s folly may be the prelude to a general free-for-all in the press that will follow once a congressional investigation with subpoena power starts to unravel the web of deception and incompetence.

Obama’s challenge now places the ball squarely in the court of House Speaker John Boehner, who has the power to create a select committee to get to the bottom of the Benghazi mess. What the president did today was to more or less dare Boehner to do so. He should not delay in picking up the gauntlet and unleash investigators who may take the smirk off of the president’s face.

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All the Banality That’s Fit to Print

I rarely read editorials by the New York Times anymore, not because they’re liberal (Michael Kinsley is liberal and worth reading) but because they’re banal. I was reminded of this when I actually did read a recent Times editorial, in this case one titled “The Republicans’ Benghazi Obsession.”

The editorial is worth referencing only to make a broader point, which is the dangers that can happen to journalists when they begin to view themselves as on a team rather than as individuals dedicated to unearthing truth (the role of reporters) or deepening the public’s understanding of issues (the role of commentators). I spoke about this issue during the last few minutes of my interview on NPR’s program On Point.

What often happens is ideology trumps detached judgment. So in the case of the Times, a cover-up by the Obama administration is characterized as nothing more than a GOP obsession. A false account of a lethal attack on an American diplomatic outpost given by the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the U.N. ambassador, and the president’s press secretary? Not a problem. Because the point isn’t to find out the truth, let alone speak “truth to power.” It’s to be a fierce advocate for a fixed ideology. 

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I rarely read editorials by the New York Times anymore, not because they’re liberal (Michael Kinsley is liberal and worth reading) but because they’re banal. I was reminded of this when I actually did read a recent Times editorial, in this case one titled “The Republicans’ Benghazi Obsession.”

The editorial is worth referencing only to make a broader point, which is the dangers that can happen to journalists when they begin to view themselves as on a team rather than as individuals dedicated to unearthing truth (the role of reporters) or deepening the public’s understanding of issues (the role of commentators). I spoke about this issue during the last few minutes of my interview on NPR’s program On Point.

What often happens is ideology trumps detached judgment. So in the case of the Times, a cover-up by the Obama administration is characterized as nothing more than a GOP obsession. A false account of a lethal attack on an American diplomatic outpost given by the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the U.N. ambassador, and the president’s press secretary? Not a problem. Because the point isn’t to find out the truth, let alone speak “truth to power.” It’s to be a fierce advocate for a fixed ideology. 

The mindset is transparent: One’s “team” is under attack and it must be defended at all costs. The editorial writers for the Times, for example, are not engaged in a journalistic enterprise. They are engaged in an ideological one. Their role isn’t to enlighten the public; it’s to be a weapon in a partisan war.

This isn’t a crime. And I’d certainly grant you that good arguments can be made by partisans. My point is that readers simply need to understand that the Times has a self-selected role to play: use facts–and if necessary manipulate facts–in order to serve their client (the Obama administration) and their cause (liberalism). So if the same events had occurred during the presidency of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan instead of Barack Obama, they would trigger a feeding frenzy. But because this cover-up is occurring under a liberal president, the offenses need to be systematically ignored or underplayed–or better yet, turned on Republicans.

Now this phenomenon isn’t confined merely to those on the left. Both sides engage in it. And the truth is that none of us is perfectly detached and capable of viewing things from Olympian heights. We all bring to events certain biases, a particular cast of mind, a certain angle at which we view things. The question, I think, is where we find ourselves on the continuum, how willing we are to hold our own side to account, and the degree to which people can trust our interpretation of events. How much do we attempt to push back, if at all, against our ideological predilections in order to ascertain the reality of things? 

The English essayist William Hazlitt once said of Burke that he “enriched every subject to which he applied himself, and new subjects were only the occasions of calling forth fresh powers of mind which had not been before exerted.”

In this regard, as in so many other regards, the Times is thoroughly un-Burkean. Its editorial writers produce polemics rather than reasoned arguments–and they do so in the most hackneyed way imaginable. To be rigidly dogmatic is bad enough; to be shallow and boring in the process mightily compounds the error.

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The Liberal Wall of Benghazi Denial Cracks

On Friday, I wrote about what seemed to be a solid wall of liberal indifference to the recent revelations about Benghazi. The chorus of “move along, there’s nothing to see here” admonitions from Democrats and liberal journalists lacked credibility. As Peter Wehner said this morning, White House spokesman Jay Carney’s disgraceful “no regrets” performance Friday afternoon showed just how desperate the administration has become. But its determination to keep stonewalling and denying was rooted in a not unreasonable conviction: So long as the Democrats and liberal journalists close ranks behind the president, and more importantly, the reputation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Benghazi will be viewed as a partisan club used by Republicans rather than a genuine scandal.

But while most in the chattering classes are sticking to the new talking points, a prominent exception today marks a significant crack in that heretofore-solid wall of liberal opinion. Conservatives rightly disdain Maureen Dowd as the New York Times’s queen of snark, a writer whose work has long become the byword for pointless nastiness and deeply unserious takes on the news of the day that gives a bad name to political hatchet work. Yet, harking back to her salad days in the 1990s when she earned a reputation as the rare liberal who was willing to challenge Bill Clinton’s cult of personality, Dowd has today written what may be the first sign that Hillary is not going to be able to escape accountability for 9/11/12 and the cover-up that followed that tragedy.

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On Friday, I wrote about what seemed to be a solid wall of liberal indifference to the recent revelations about Benghazi. The chorus of “move along, there’s nothing to see here” admonitions from Democrats and liberal journalists lacked credibility. As Peter Wehner said this morning, White House spokesman Jay Carney’s disgraceful “no regrets” performance Friday afternoon showed just how desperate the administration has become. But its determination to keep stonewalling and denying was rooted in a not unreasonable conviction: So long as the Democrats and liberal journalists close ranks behind the president, and more importantly, the reputation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Benghazi will be viewed as a partisan club used by Republicans rather than a genuine scandal.

But while most in the chattering classes are sticking to the new talking points, a prominent exception today marks a significant crack in that heretofore-solid wall of liberal opinion. Conservatives rightly disdain Maureen Dowd as the New York Times’s queen of snark, a writer whose work has long become the byword for pointless nastiness and deeply unserious takes on the news of the day that gives a bad name to political hatchet work. Yet, harking back to her salad days in the 1990s when she earned a reputation as the rare liberal who was willing to challenge Bill Clinton’s cult of personality, Dowd has today written what may be the first sign that Hillary is not going to be able to escape accountability for 9/11/12 and the cover-up that followed that tragedy.

In discussing the revelations of the last week, Dowd must, of course, try to depict Republican attempts to bring accountability to the scandal as equally reprehensible as the administration’s failures and lies. But her framing the current debate as a contest between “Hillaryland” and “Foxworld” has at least the virtue of acknowledging the fact that what we are discussing is a disgraceful dereliction of duty by the administration:

The toxic theatrics, including Karl Rove’s first attack ad against Hillary, cloud a simple truth: The administration’s behavior before and during the attack in Benghazi, in which four Americans died, was unworthy of the greatest power on earth.

This is important not because Dowd’s any kind of a moral authority but because as one of the resident op-ed gods of the New York Times, her breaking of the liberal code of omerta on the subject of administration misconduct on Benghazi signals that what is unfolding is a genuine scandal with unforeseen repercussions, and not a Republican temper tantrum.

In the midst of a re-election campaign, Obama aides wanted to promote the mythology that the president who killed Osama was vanquishing terror. So they deemed it problematic to mention any possible Qaeda involvement in the Benghazi attack. … Looking ahead to 2016, Hillaryland needed to shore up the mythology that Clinton was a stellar secretary of state.

Dowd goes straight to the heart of the matter when she rightly notes that the lives of Americans were sacrificed for the sake of trying to make Libya appear as if it were a triumph of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Just as important, the subsequent cover-up was clearly intended to protect Mrs. Clinton’s reputation. The lies that were told about the attack being caused by a video and the effort to quash mention of al-Qaeda and terrorism were clearly intended to bolster the president’s re-election efforts as well as avoid damaging a future Democratic candidate.

There are three issues here that still remain unresolved.

How is it that decision makers failed to understand the danger?

How is it that forces were not made available to save four Americans when they were placed in peril?

Why did the administration fail to tell the truth about all of this?

Those questions will require the formation of a select congressional committee with subpoena power to get to the answers the American people need. Democratic counter-attacks trying to portray the effort to get those answers as mere partisan squabbling are failing. The premise of Hillary Clinton’s rhetorical question, “What difference does it make?” was the belief that the media would protect her and ensure that Americans wouldn’t care. She’s wrong, and the betting here is that Maureen Dowd won’t be the last rat to leave the sinking ship of liberal denial. 

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The Corruption of Jay Carney

On November 28, 2012, during a press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney–in addressing the matter of the talking points the Obama administration used to characterize the attacks on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi–said this:

The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two, of these two institutions were changing the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility,” because “consulate” was inaccurate.

We now know that statement was false. Enormous substantive changes were made at the request of the State Department. And it’s not simply that changes were made; it’s that the changes did violence to the truth. With each new revision, the story became less and less accurate, so by the time U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday talk shows, a massive fabrication was being peddled. And the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state all participated in the false narrative.

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On November 28, 2012, during a press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney–in addressing the matter of the talking points the Obama administration used to characterize the attacks on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi–said this:

The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two, of these two institutions were changing the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility,” because “consulate” was inaccurate.

We now know that statement was false. Enormous substantive changes were made at the request of the State Department. And it’s not simply that changes were made; it’s that the changes did violence to the truth. With each new revision, the story became less and less accurate, so by the time U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on five Sunday talk shows, a massive fabrication was being peddled. And the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state all participated in the false narrative.

Yet on Friday, during his on-camera briefing, Mr. Carney was asked repeatedly whether he or the administration deliberately misled reporters last fall about the changes in the talking points. “Mr. Carney,” the New York Times reports, “expressed no regrets.”

“I do stand by that,” Mr. Carney said of his statement that the White House changed only a word or two to make clear the diplomatic post in Benghazi was not referred to as a consulate. “White House involvement in the talking points was very limited and nonsubstantive.”

Except that what Mr. Carney said in November is that neither the White House nor the State Department made substantive changes. In addition, as ABC’s Jonathan Karl reported, “Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote an email saying the State Department’s concerns needed to be addressed. ‘We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation.  We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.’” And third, the White House hosted a Deputies Committee meeting on September 15, out of which emerged the final, false talking points.

So Mr. Carney obviously misled the public in November; the only question is whether he did so willfully. Yet rather than admit to his multiple misleading statements in the past, Carney blamed Mitt Romney and Republicans. The spin Carney used was transparently dishonest. He constructed a false reality to defend himself and the administration. In the process, he has merely further damaged his credibility. You can watch the whole painful press briefing here

Once upon a time, Jay Carney was a journalist who wanted to search for truth. Now he is an Obama White House official awkwardly attempting to hide it. He is now part of a cover-up. The questions are just how wide and deep the cover-up extends, how many more falsehoods the Obama White House will employ in its defense, and whether being played for fools by a liberal administration will bother the elite media and White House press corps.

We’re about to find out.

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Pickering Apart Benghazi

The testimony of three State Department whistle blowers raises fours issues regarding Benghazi:

(1)    Who pushed the notion that a YouTube video rather than premeditated terrorism was the cause of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi? Was this simply State Department and White House spin or, even worse, is it possible that Secretary of State Clinton was so insulated in a bubble that she did not understand the threat posed by Islamist extremism?

(2)    Who turned down the consulate’s request for additional security?

(3)    Would the U.S. military have had time to respond had they been called at the earliest opportunity?

(4)    Who ordered the State Department to circle its wagons and suggested to employees that they not speak with congressional investigators? Such actions suggest fear of the truth rather than a desire to determine what went wrong.

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The testimony of three State Department whistle blowers raises fours issues regarding Benghazi:

(1)    Who pushed the notion that a YouTube video rather than premeditated terrorism was the cause of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi? Was this simply State Department and White House spin or, even worse, is it possible that Secretary of State Clinton was so insulated in a bubble that she did not understand the threat posed by Islamist extremism?

(2)    Who turned down the consulate’s request for additional security?

(3)    Would the U.S. military have had time to respond had they been called at the earliest opportunity?

(4)    Who ordered the State Department to circle its wagons and suggested to employees that they not speak with congressional investigators? Such actions suggest fear of the truth rather than a desire to determine what went wrong.

Secretary of State Clinton appointed veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering to chair an Accountability Review Board to investigate just what went wrong in Benghazi. At the time of Pickering’s appointment, the Washington Post explained:

The inquiry announced by Clinton will be carried out by an independent four-member panel chaired by retired diplomat Thomas Pickering. The panel, required by law, will look at whether security procedures were adequate at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and make recommendations to the secretary of state. Pickering was once the boss of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the Benghazi attack last week, along with another diplomat and two security personnel.

Many journalists correctly described Pickering as a “veteran diplomat,” and commentators described him as “highly-regarded.” That his name now arises in the context of a cover-up, however, should not surprise: Pickering is also one of the most agenda-driven and political former ambassadors.

  • Pickering was at the forefront of lobbying for Chuck Hagel.
  • Pickering serves on the board of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) but, when confronted by reporter Eli Lake about NIAC’s activities, Pickering dissembled.
  • Pickering has never been one to allow facts to get in the way of political argument. For example, when castigating supposed U.S. disrespect for the Islamic Republic, he has written that Iranians bristle at the term “carrots and sticks,” even though the official Iranian press has used the same exact phrase.
  • Pickering has a curious sense of what terrorism is. In July 2009, he met with Hamas representatives in Lebanon.

In short, Pickering has never sought to be a measured judge; he has always placed himself at the forefront of policy advocacy. Rather than be a neutral observer, he is deeply enmeshed in a policy agenda which perhaps he sees fit to protect, even if it comes at the expense of full transparency or accountability. That questions are now being raised by witnesses about the breadth of Pickering’s investigation given attempts by the State Department to prevent witness testimony should not surprise. Perhaps it is time for a truly independent counsel to look into Benghazi, not an in-house investigation led by someone whose instincts might be to protect the culture from which he emerged.

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The Obama Administration’s Tower of Fabrications Begins to Crack

We continue to learn more disturbing things about the Benghazi scandal. In addition to the story by ABC’s Jonathan Karl, which Jonathan Tobin referenced, Stephen Hayes–who has been doing fantastic reporting on this matter–has a story in the forthcoming issue of the Weekly Standard in which we learn this:

CIA director David Petraeus was surprised when he read the freshly rewritten talking points an aide had emailed him in the early afternoon of Saturday, September 15. One day earlier, analysts with the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis had drafted a set of unclassified talking points policymakers could use to discuss the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. But this new version — produced with input from senior Obama administration policymakers — was a shadow of the original.

After recounting the details, Hayes says this:

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We continue to learn more disturbing things about the Benghazi scandal. In addition to the story by ABC’s Jonathan Karl, which Jonathan Tobin referenced, Stephen Hayes–who has been doing fantastic reporting on this matter–has a story in the forthcoming issue of the Weekly Standard in which we learn this:

CIA director David Petraeus was surprised when he read the freshly rewritten talking points an aide had emailed him in the early afternoon of Saturday, September 15. One day earlier, analysts with the CIA’s Office of Terrorism Analysis had drafted a set of unclassified talking points policymakers could use to discuss the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. But this new version — produced with input from senior Obama administration policymakers — was a shadow of the original.

After recounting the details, Hayes says this:

This candid, real-time assessment from then-CIA director Petraeus offers a glimpse of what many intelligence officials were saying privately as top Obama officials set aside the truth about Benghazi and spun a fanciful tale about a movie that never mattered and a demonstration that never happened.

It’s worth recalling here that in the aftermath of the attacks on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, the Obama White House was eager to throw the CIA under the bus. During the vice presidential debate, for example, Joe Biden was asked why the White House had attributed the death of Ambassador Stevens to the video. He responded: “Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community.” (h/t Michael Gerson.)

That statement is exactly false, as are so many of the things said by the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, the U.N. ambassador, and the White House press secretary weeks after the attacks–and weeks after the truth was fully known.

The president’s courtiers in the press clearly wish this story would go away. I can understand why. Because it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Obama administration’s account of events was built on a tower of fabrications. That tower is beginning to crack. And there will be more to follow. 

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Liberal Denial Can’t Derail Benghazi Probe

Eight months after al-Qaeda-linked terrorists murdered four Americans in Benghazi, liberal talking heads, columnists and editorial writers don’t need Hillary Clinton’s State Department mafia or the Obama spin team in the West Wing to give them their talking points about what happened. They’ve figured out on their own that discussion of what led to this disaster and the administration’s furious attempt to deceive the American people afterwards will do more than undermine President Obama’s credibility. The more we learn about this affair, the less invulnerable the person they want to succeed Obama looks. That’s why despite the drip-drip of information leaking out about the prelude, most liberals are still portraying the tragedy as a trumped-up non-scandal that has been blown out of proportion.

It’s true that it is going to be difficult for Benghazi to become a front-burner issue so long as the New York Times editorial page pooh-poohs it as a Republican “obsession” or leading columnists like the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson puts it down as a “witch hunt.” Like legislation, scandals need bipartisan support from all sectors of the media in order to generate the sort of political crisis that impacts the future of politicians. Yet the problem with TIME magazine’s Joe Klein’s “Republicans are chasing their tails” over Benghazi talking point is that there is already enough known about the decisions taken to send Ambassador Chris Stevens to Benghazi or the failure of the United States to have forces available to rescue him and his colleagues, and especially about the politically-motivated lies that were told about the event after the event, to provide fodder for investigators for weeks of future hearings. It may be that congressional Republicans are acting like they smell blood rather than appearing as impartial investigators, but they are no guiltier of that than any other participants in a D.C. inquisition. So long as we have journalists, like ABC’s Jonathan Karl, following up on the work of the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes about the damaging trail of email evidence about doctored talking points, the pressure for a special committee to investigate Benghazi with subpoena power will escalate.

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Eight months after al-Qaeda-linked terrorists murdered four Americans in Benghazi, liberal talking heads, columnists and editorial writers don’t need Hillary Clinton’s State Department mafia or the Obama spin team in the West Wing to give them their talking points about what happened. They’ve figured out on their own that discussion of what led to this disaster and the administration’s furious attempt to deceive the American people afterwards will do more than undermine President Obama’s credibility. The more we learn about this affair, the less invulnerable the person they want to succeed Obama looks. That’s why despite the drip-drip of information leaking out about the prelude, most liberals are still portraying the tragedy as a trumped-up non-scandal that has been blown out of proportion.

It’s true that it is going to be difficult for Benghazi to become a front-burner issue so long as the New York Times editorial page pooh-poohs it as a Republican “obsession” or leading columnists like the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson puts it down as a “witch hunt.” Like legislation, scandals need bipartisan support from all sectors of the media in order to generate the sort of political crisis that impacts the future of politicians. Yet the problem with TIME magazine’s Joe Klein’s “Republicans are chasing their tails” over Benghazi talking point is that there is already enough known about the decisions taken to send Ambassador Chris Stevens to Benghazi or the failure of the United States to have forces available to rescue him and his colleagues, and especially about the politically-motivated lies that were told about the event after the event, to provide fodder for investigators for weeks of future hearings. It may be that congressional Republicans are acting like they smell blood rather than appearing as impartial investigators, but they are no guiltier of that than any other participants in a D.C. inquisition. So long as we have journalists, like ABC’s Jonathan Karl, following up on the work of the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes about the damaging trail of email evidence about doctored talking points, the pressure for a special committee to investigate Benghazi with subpoena power will escalate.

What Hayes and Karl have learned is that there was a conscious effort on the part of State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland (acting, as she stated, at the behest of her “building’s leadership”—a clear reference to Clinton) and White House spinmeister Ben Rhodes, to scrub the administration talking points of references to al-Qaeda, among other topics that might undermine the Obama re-election campaign’s theme that terrorism was no longer an issue. The attempt to claim the event was merely feedback to a YouTube video trailer was also part of the pattern of deception. Add in evidence that the State Department has tried to intimidate whistle blowers to keep their mouths shut and what you’ve got is something that no one doubts would be treated by these same outlets as a scandal of the first order if we were talking about a Republican administration.

But the issue here isn’t whether this is damning stuff. It’s whether the accumulation of stupid decisions, lies after the fact and bumbling attempts to cover it all up afterward are enough to create a story that will have legs. Democrats and their liberal cheering section in the press keep telling us that this is “old news” and tend to echo Hillary Clinton’s exasperated rhetorical question when she was on the Senate hot seat and demanded to know “what difference does it make?”

What these liberal outlets are finding out is that the deeper enterprising journalists dig into this business, the more apparent it is that the ones who are chasing their tails here are those trying to ignore it rather than the reporters doing their jobs and following the trail to its end points at the top of the State Department and the White House. Only once we unravel all of the disparate strands of evidence about Benghazi and its aftermath will we know whether it will materially affect Clinton’s presidential chances. Doing so won’t prevent official Washington from doing its job in debating immigration reform or confronting the crisis in Syria or even in pondering what’s going wrong in Libya today, as the Times editorial page helpfully suggests Benghazi probers do instead of looking at the scandal.

The political left in this country may not like the direction the newly discovered information is taking us. But for all of their attacks on the House GOP and their indignant claim that it is much ado about nothing, they are helpless to stop it. It may be that without the Times and the Washington Post and all the other liberal mainstream organs chiming in on this story, Benghazi will not be enough to persuade Democrats that Hillary Clinton should not be our 45th president. But whether they like it or not, it may be enough to fatally damage her chances of ever moving back to the White House.

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The Benghazi Scandal Grows

National Journal’s Michael Hirsh, in writing about the House hearings on the September 11, 2012 attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, said, “Benghazi was a tragedy. It will, almost certainly, remain a political issue. What it is not – by a long shot — is a scandal yet.”

To understand why this judgment is wrong, it’s helpful to keep in mind that weeks after the attack the Obama administration claimed the cause of the violence was a spontaneous demonstration, not pre-planned attacks; that the cause of the demonstrations was an anti-Muslim YouTube video; and that there was no terrorist involvement in the attacks.

Now compare that narrative with some of what we learned based on the testimonies of Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission in Libya before he became the top American diplomat in Libya after Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered, as well as Mark Thompson, the former deputy coordinator for operations in the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau and Eric Nordstrom, an official in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

1. Mr. Hicks confirmed that he received a call from Ambassador Stevens shortly before he died. Stevens said to Hicks, “Greg, we’re under attack.” (Not, “There’s a demonstration outside the diplomatic outpost.”) Mr. Hicks also confirmed that the night of the attacks the Libyan president, Mohamed Yusuf al-Magariaf, called him and said these attacks were led by Islamic extremists with possible terror links. Five days after the attack the Libyan president said on CBS’s Face the Nation that the attacks were “pre-planned” and “pre-determined.” And Mr. Hicks told the House committee, “The only report that our mission made through every channel was that this was an attack. No protest.” Mr. Hicks also emphasized there was “no report” from anyone on the ground that that there was a demonstration. 

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National Journal’s Michael Hirsh, in writing about the House hearings on the September 11, 2012 attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, said, “Benghazi was a tragedy. It will, almost certainly, remain a political issue. What it is not – by a long shot — is a scandal yet.”

To understand why this judgment is wrong, it’s helpful to keep in mind that weeks after the attack the Obama administration claimed the cause of the violence was a spontaneous demonstration, not pre-planned attacks; that the cause of the demonstrations was an anti-Muslim YouTube video; and that there was no terrorist involvement in the attacks.

Now compare that narrative with some of what we learned based on the testimonies of Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission in Libya before he became the top American diplomat in Libya after Ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered, as well as Mark Thompson, the former deputy coordinator for operations in the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau and Eric Nordstrom, an official in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

1. Mr. Hicks confirmed that he received a call from Ambassador Stevens shortly before he died. Stevens said to Hicks, “Greg, we’re under attack.” (Not, “There’s a demonstration outside the diplomatic outpost.”) Mr. Hicks also confirmed that the night of the attacks the Libyan president, Mohamed Yusuf al-Magariaf, called him and said these attacks were led by Islamic extremists with possible terror links. Five days after the attack the Libyan president said on CBS’s Face the Nation that the attacks were “pre-planned” and “pre-determined.” And Mr. Hicks told the House committee, “The only report that our mission made through every channel was that this was an attack. No protest.” Mr. Hicks also emphasized there was “no report” from anyone on the ground that that there was a demonstration. 

 2. We learned of a September 12 e-mail from Beth Jones, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who wrote to several key individuals in the State Department that she had a direct conversation with the Libyan ambassador. Ms. Jones wrote, “I told him [the Libyan ambassador] that the group that conducted the attacks, Ansar al-Sharia, is affiliated with Islamic terrorists.”

3. Asked about the role played by the YouTube video that the administration said had sparked the attack in Benghazi, Mr. Hicks told the House Oversight Committee, “The YouTube video was a non-event in Libya.” He added, “The video was not instigative of anything that was going on in Libya. We saw no demonstrations related to the video anywhere in Libya.”

4. When Mr. Hicks was asked his reaction to Ambassador Susan Rice’s televised account of the events in Benghazi–when she blamed the attacks on the YouTube video; repeatedly characterized it as a spontaneous demonstration; and insisted there was no involvement by terrorist elements–Hicks said he was “stunned,” that “my jaw dropped” and that he was “embarrassed.”

5. According to Hicks, Special Forces were “furious” when they were told to stand down during the Benghazi attack. “I will quote Lieutenant Colonel Gibson,” Hicks told the committee. “He said, ‘This is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.’” (Lt. Colonel Gibson, located in Tripoli, was ready to board a C-130 to go to help the Americans under attack.) The previous claim by others that “there was never a stand down order by anybody” was false, according to Hicks.

6. Mr. Hicks said that after a long and distinguished career, there was “a shift” in the way State Department officials treated him after he asked why Susan Rice had blamed the Benghazi attack on protests sparked by a YouTube video. 

“In hindsight, I think it began after I asked the question about Ambassador Rice’s statement on the TV shows,” Hicks said. He had asked Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Beth Jones why Susan Rice had said the Benghazi attack stemmed from a demonstration. Jones said that she didn’t know, according to Hicks. “The sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning,” Hicks added.

Mr. Hicks went on to tell the committee that Ms. Jones gave a “blistering report” of his performance when he returned to the U.S. to attend the funeral of Ambassador Stevens, though he was given “no indication” there were issues with his work. “She even said she didn’t understand why anyone in Tripoli would want me to come back,” Hicks recalled. “I’ve been effectively demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer,” he said.

7. Mr. Hicks testified that he was instructed not to be personally interviewed by Representative Jason Chaffetz, who was visiting Libya to investigate what had happened. He also said he had “never,” in any other circumstance, been told not to talk with Members of Congress investigating an event. And when a lawyer was excluded from one meeting with intelligence officers because he lacked security clearances, Hicks received a furious call from then-chief of staff to Hillary Clinton, Cheryl Mills. According to Hicks, Ms. Mills called him directly. Mr. Hicks described her as being ”very upset.” Mills, Hicks said, demanded to know what was said in the meeting. 

8. Those testifying yesterday said they felt that the investigation of the Benghazi attack by the State Department, the Accountability Review Board, was inadequate because many people who were directly involved in the attacks–including those testifying as well as Secretary of State Clinton–were not interviewed. “They stopped short of interviewing people who I personally know were involved in key decisions,” said Eric Nordstrom.

Add to all this the reporting of Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard. Thanks to his story, we know that the early talking points produced to explain the Benghazi attacks were accurate–but after the State Department and the White House altered them, the American people were presented with an utterly false account of events.

As I wrote earlier this week, early (accurate) references to “Islamic extremists” were removed. Early (accurate) references to “attacks” were changed to “demonstrations.” And there was no mention of any YouTube video in any of the many drafts of the talking points — even though everyone from the president of the United States to the secretary of state to the U.N. ambassador blamed the attacks on the “awful, “heinous,” “offensive,” “reprehensible,” “disgusting” and “widely disseminated” video. Except that we now know the video was irrelevant to what happened.

It sounds like a scandal to me. 

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The 2012 Election Is Over; the Benghazi Scandal Is Not

I have a somewhat different take than that of Seth Mandel, who says that Stephen Hayes’s scoop on Benghazi “is probably more significant than it may have seemed at first glance, even though he didn’t provide much in the way of new information.”

My first reaction–which I spoke about on Friday during my appearance on the panel discussion on Fox News’s Special Report with Bret Baier–was that the story is explosive, largely because Hayes’s story provides much in the way of new information.

It provides fresh evidence that, in the words of Hayes, “senior Obama administration officials knowingly misled the country about what had happened in the days following the assaults [on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi on September 11, 2012].” (Emphasis added).

We now know, for example, that the early talking points were accurate–and it was only after the State Department and the White House, among others, got done revising the talking points that the truth was transformed into a false account.

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I have a somewhat different take than that of Seth Mandel, who says that Stephen Hayes’s scoop on Benghazi “is probably more significant than it may have seemed at first glance, even though he didn’t provide much in the way of new information.”

My first reaction–which I spoke about on Friday during my appearance on the panel discussion on Fox News’s Special Report with Bret Baier–was that the story is explosive, largely because Hayes’s story provides much in the way of new information.

It provides fresh evidence that, in the words of Hayes, “senior Obama administration officials knowingly misled the country about what had happened in the days following the assaults [on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi on September 11, 2012].” (Emphasis added).

We now know, for example, that the early talking points were accurate–and it was only after the State Department and the White House, among others, got done revising the talking points that the truth was transformed into a false account.

To be specific: early (accurate) references to “Islamic extremists” were removed. Early (accurate) references to “attacks” were changed to “demonstrations.” And there was no mention of any YouTube video in any of the many drafts of the talking points–even though everyone from the president of the United States to the secretary of state to the U.N. ambassador blamed the video for the attacks.

The Benghazi scandal has always been multi-layered. There was the near-criminal negligence before and during the assault on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, when pleas for more security prior to the attacks and assistance during the attacks were denied. And then there were the misleading accounts after the attacks.

It now seems clear, based on the reporting by Steve Hayes and the accounts of those who were key actors during the attacks, that the accounts of the attacks by the Obama administration were not simply wrong; they were knowingly and willfully wrong. Which turns a mistake into a lie.

For the president and his team, there was probably both ideology and self-interest at play. To take them in order: This is the latest example of the Obama administration living in a fantasy world of its own making, in which Islamic extremism barely exists and poses no real threat to America. We saw it in the aftermath of the Ft. Hood massacre, where a jihadist attack (by Major Nidal Hasan) was said to be an example of “workplace violence.” They refuse to call evil by its name. 

But it’s also obvious that the president and his administration wanted to advance a storyline that al-Qaeda was in retreat. The Benghazi attacks eviscerated that claim–and so the president and his team decided to disfigure the facts, to mislead the American people, to fit their story and advance their political interests. Barack Obama had an election to win–and so he had a scandal to hide.

That has worked until now, when the House will hold hearings later this week featuring whistleblowers who will, by all accounts, tell a story fundamentally at odds with the version the Obama administration has been peddling.

On Friday I referred to the Benghazi scandal as a time-release capsule, where a delay takes place before the full effects are felt. The Obama administration lied about an Islamic attack on an American outpost that killed an American ambassador and three others. They have been caught in the lie. We’re now in the process of seeing how deep, and how high, the corruption goes.

The election is over. This scandal is not.

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The Return of Clintonian Politics

Stephen Hayes’s scoop on Benghazi is probably more significant than it may have seemed at first glance, even though he didn’t provide much in the way of new information. His article was built around the emails released by a group of Republican House committee chairmen after a congressional investigation into the Obama administration’s response to the September 11 anniversary attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. Those emails detailed the efforts of the administration to craft talking points that downplayed or omitted information the administration already knew about the role of Islamic terrorist actors in the attacks, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens.

The resulting talking points were designed to mislead the American public about what happened, because then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s leadership at Foggy Bottom was marked by negligence and incompetence, and the new talking points were written to exonerate her. But Hayes provided a key piece of information: names. Specifically, he revealed the authors of some of those emails. As a result, it’s far easier to piece together what happened. Hayes explains that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland raised concerns that the original talking points too accurately portrayed the incompetence at the highest levels of State. Hayes continues:

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Stephen Hayes’s scoop on Benghazi is probably more significant than it may have seemed at first glance, even though he didn’t provide much in the way of new information. His article was built around the emails released by a group of Republican House committee chairmen after a congressional investigation into the Obama administration’s response to the September 11 anniversary attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. Those emails detailed the efforts of the administration to craft talking points that downplayed or omitted information the administration already knew about the role of Islamic terrorist actors in the attacks, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens.

The resulting talking points were designed to mislead the American public about what happened, because then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s leadership at Foggy Bottom was marked by negligence and incompetence, and the new talking points were written to exonerate her. But Hayes provided a key piece of information: names. Specifically, he revealed the authors of some of those emails. As a result, it’s far easier to piece together what happened. Hayes explains that State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland raised concerns that the original talking points too accurately portrayed the incompetence at the highest levels of State. Hayes continues:

In an attempt to address those concerns, CIA officials cut all references to Ansar al Sharia and made minor tweaks. But in a follow-up email at 9:24 p.m., Nuland wrote that the problem remained and that her superiors—she did not say which ones—were unhappy. The changes, she wrote, did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership,” and State Department leadership was contacting National Security Council officials directly. Moments later, according to the House report, “White House officials responded by stating that the State Department’s concerns would have to be taken into account.” One official—Ben Rhodes, The Weekly Standard is told, a top adviser to President Obama on national security and foreign policy—further advised the group that the issues would be resolved in a meeting of top administration officials the following morning at the White House.

As I’ve written in the past, there is simply no way around Clinton’s failure to address security needs, her dismissal or ignorance of threats on the ground, and the general chain-of-command disorganization and bureaucratic confusion that prevailed during her tenure at State. But Clinton also wants to run for president, presumably, or at least have the option open to her. So her staff demanded the White House tell the public a different story, and the White House complied. (The mainstream media comes out of this looking ever worse, by the way.)

What came next wasn’t very surprising to anyone who has endured the brand of politics practiced by the Clintons. Though it was obviously on Clinton to explain what had just happened, she didn’t want to be within a mile of accountability. So Clinton kept silent and the administration sent out Susan Rice to deliver the misleading talking points on the Sunday shows. That proved a setback to Rice–who should have seen the whole thing coming a mile away–in her quest to succeed Clinton when the latter stepped aside after the election. But Clinton wants to be president and doesn’t want Rice elevating her stature and developing her own power base, so Clinton’s allies in the media fairly brazenly sabotaged Rice’s sputtering nomination.

As Clinton gears up to attempt to return to the White House, the Benghazi episode is worth keeping in mind as a reminder of the Clintonian politics of personal destruction and ruthless dishonesty that would surely return with her. But the Benghazi revelations weren’t the only such reminder in the news recently. MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry drew some attention for cutting a promo for the network lamenting the lack of a “collective” notion of child-rearing, suggesting that “we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”

This generated the attention MSNBC was looking for, since it was creepy and mildly totalitarian, and people seemed genuinely surprised that this was the image the network wanted to project of its own programming. (If the public actually watched MSNBC they would probably be less surprised, but they don’t.) Yet if Harris-Perry’s Orwellian idea of who your children belong to sounded familiar, it should: as Jonah Goldberg wrote in a 2007 column, Hillary Clinton once said that “As adults we have to start thinking and believing that there isn’t really any such thing as someone else’s child. … For that reason, we cannot permit discussions of children and families to be subverted by political or ideological debate.”

Goldberg protested:

But here’s the thing: There really is such a thing as somebody else’s child. I don’t want to live in a country where there’s no such thing as somebody else’s child, because that means there’s no such thing as my child. And the fact is, my child is mine and nobody else’s (save, of course, for her mother). Almost as important, I don’t want to live in a country where I am a “subversive” simply by offering political or ideological debate against this vision.

That objection to Clinton’s worldview was relevant then and is relevant now. Clinton is popular largely because she has stayed out of the partisan fray and enjoyed the approval ratings shared by secretaries of state from both parties (though a lower approval rating than some of her predecessors). But if and when Clinton runs for president again, it’s worth remembering what brand of politics she’ll bring with her.

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The Benghazi Scandal and Media Bias

I served in the Bush White House during the intense press coverage about who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent, to Robert Novak. It was a story that obsessed the media and led to a three-year criminal investigation by a special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald.

In the end, it turned out Richard Armitage was the person responsible for leaking Ms. Plame’s name, no laws were violated related to the leak, and the favorite target of the press, Karl Rove, was innocent of any wrong-doing. Though one individual in the administration was convicted of lying under oath, no underlying crime was committed. Ms. Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson, who we know made misleading statements during the whole episode, became celebrities of a sort. It was, in retrospect, much ado about very little, even if the press made life hell for innocent individuals.

Call it collateral damage from a scandal-crazed media.

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I served in the Bush White House during the intense press coverage about who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent, to Robert Novak. It was a story that obsessed the media and led to a three-year criminal investigation by a special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald.

In the end, it turned out Richard Armitage was the person responsible for leaking Ms. Plame’s name, no laws were violated related to the leak, and the favorite target of the press, Karl Rove, was innocent of any wrong-doing. Though one individual in the administration was convicted of lying under oath, no underlying crime was committed. Ms. Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson, who we know made misleading statements during the whole episode, became celebrities of a sort. It was, in retrospect, much ado about very little, even if the press made life hell for innocent individuals.

Call it collateral damage from a scandal-crazed media.

I thought about all this in light of the testimony last Thursday of outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey. As Bill Kristol and I point out in our op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, we learned from their testimony that President Obama, upon being told about the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, never once followed up with Panetta, Dempsey, or anyone else to see how things were developing. We learned that Messrs. Panetta and Dempsey both knew the assault on the compound were terrorist attacks on the night of the assault, even as the administration – in the persons of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama – continued to peddle a false version of events for weeks afterward. And despite having been told about Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ repeated warnings that the embassy could not sustain an attack and he was concerned of the chaos and rise of Islamist elements in Benghazi, no forces were put in place or made ready nearby to respond to a possible attack. And during the actual attack, which we knew about in real time, not a single major military asset was deployed to help rescue Americans under assault.

As a result, the first American ambassador in more than 30 years was murdered, and so were three other Americans.

Here’s a thought experiment. Assume during the Bush or Reagan years three things happened: (1) four Americans were killed in a terrorist-led attack on an American compound; (2) the president and his top aides showed stunning indifference and passivity before and during the lethal attacks; and (3) the nation was misled for weeks after the attacks, even though the highest ranking members of the administration knew the true story.

Do you think the elite media would have covered this story with intensity comparable to, or greater than, the Plame story? Absolutely. Presidents Bush or Reagan would have been bombarded with questions. There would have been a feeding frenzy. They would not have been subject to obsequious “60 Minutes” interviews.  The press narrative would have made this scandal a central part, not a footnote, of both presidencies. 

Yet with a few honorable exceptions, journalists have devoted only a fraction of the attention to the Benghazi story as it did to the Plame story. The press, in fact, has shown a remarkable incuriosity to the period before, during, and after the terrorist attack that cost the lives of Ambassador Stevens, security personnel Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, and information officer Sean Smith. There has been none of the burning passion and obsession with the lethal Benghazi attack and the administration’s misleading accounts of it that we witnessed during the Plame story.

I’ll leave it to discerning readers to figure out why. 

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In Mali, Stand with the French

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent much of Wednesday being grilled on Capitol Hill about the conditions which led to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. As John McCain, among others, pointed out, the chaos which prevailed in Libya was not inevitable; it was due in no small part to the administration’s failure to do more to support state-building after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in an American-supported insurgency.

The failure to follow up has destabilized not only Libya but also nearby countries such as Mali, where the French have felt compelled to rush into the vacuum to prevent Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and associated extremist organizations from consolidating their hold on the northern part of the country and even marching on the capital. What’s truly odd is how reluctant the administration is to help the French, even though they are on the front lines of our common battle against jihadism.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent much of Wednesday being grilled on Capitol Hill about the conditions which led to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. As John McCain, among others, pointed out, the chaos which prevailed in Libya was not inevitable; it was due in no small part to the administration’s failure to do more to support state-building after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in an American-supported insurgency.

The failure to follow up has destabilized not only Libya but also nearby countries such as Mali, where the French have felt compelled to rush into the vacuum to prevent Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and associated extremist organizations from consolidating their hold on the northern part of the country and even marching on the capital. What’s truly odd is how reluctant the administration is to help the French, even though they are on the front lines of our common battle against jihadism.

The administration has finally agreed to airlift a French battalion into the fight but is still holding off on a French request for aerial refueling. The reason for the administration’s reluctance is truly bizarre: According to the New York Times, “A French official, speaking on ground rules of anonymity to describe bilateral discussions, said some officials in Washington were concerned that assigning American tanker planes to refuel French warplanes bombing Islamist militant targets in Mali might make the United States appear as a co-belligerent in the conflict. Even if that view was not supported under international law, it could be the perception across the Muslim world.”

If accurate, this would suggest that “some officials in Washington” are worried that by fighting terrorists we ourselves will become a target for terrorism. Earth to Washington: the jihadists already hate us and are already doing everything possible to do us harm.

Americans, after all, were just killed along with the citizens of other countries in the hostage-taking at a gas plant in Algeria. It seems a little far-fetched at this late date to imagine that we might propitiate the extremists by not fighting them too hard. Actually, if we abstain from the fight, the most likely result is that the Islamists will be able to consolidate their gains in Mali and then turn Mali into a base for terrorism against Western interests—including American interests.

The French may not always stand with us, but in the present instance we must stand with the French and not imagine that we can somehow get out of the line of fire.

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Hillary Clinton’s Postmodernism

I wanted to weigh in on the Congressional testimony yesterday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As most people know by now, when Secretary of State Clinton was asked by Senator Ron Johnson about the Benghazi terror attack and the fact that the story we were told by the administration was false, Mrs. Clinton exploded.

“With all due respect,” Hillary shouted, “the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans. What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Let’s be clear what Mrs. Clinton is saying. It really doesn’t matter whether the president and his advisers misled the public on the origins of a lethal terrorist attack that claimed four American lives, including the first ambassador murdered in more than 30 years. What matters, she insisted, is what we do going forward. There is no useful purpose to be served by dwelling on the past. Get over it. Move on. Chill out.

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I wanted to weigh in on the Congressional testimony yesterday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

As most people know by now, when Secretary of State Clinton was asked by Senator Ron Johnson about the Benghazi terror attack and the fact that the story we were told by the administration was false, Mrs. Clinton exploded.

“With all due respect,” Hillary shouted, “the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans. What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Let’s be clear what Mrs. Clinton is saying. It really doesn’t matter whether the president and his advisers misled the public on the origins of a lethal terrorist attack that claimed four American lives, including the first ambassador murdered in more than 30 years. What matters, she insisted, is what we do going forward. There is no useful purpose to be served by dwelling on the past. Get over it. Move on. Chill out.

What a perfectly post-modern approach to things. For Mrs. Clinton, like her husband, truth seems to have no intrinsic worth. It’s an instrument to be used in the quest to gain and maintain power. If people have to manipulate the truth, ignore it, or roll their eyes at it in order to maintain “political viability” (to use an infamous phrase from her husband), then so be it. If misleading the public is necessary to help a president prevail in a bitter election—well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. That, at least, is the Clinton logic.

Having a president and his administration mislead the nation is problematic. How problematic depends on whether the story was intentionally misleading or not. That is the difference between a mistake and a lie. And I’m not prepared to say the president and his administration lied. What I am prepared to say is that the Obama administration misled us. That is serious enough. And for Mrs. Clinton to simply wave that off with a dismissive and aggressive outburst offers us a disturbing (if not altogether unsurprising) insight into her worldview.

What difference does it make?

A lot, actually.

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