Commentary Magazine


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.

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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