If, deep into the fifth year of the Obama presidency, we have learned nothing else, it’s that when administration officials claim there is nothing left to be said about a topic – from climate change to IRS targeting of conservative groups to Obamacare to the gender pay “gap” – the truth of the subject is only just clearing its throat.
To that tortured list we can add now the White House’s purposely erroneous explanation for the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, less than two months before Election Day, 2012. A memo written days after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three aides were slaughtered by al-Qaida insurgents but only recently revealed through the tireless efforts of Judicial Watch demonstrates the administration’s desperate desire to control the political fallout by obscuring the truth.
Written by Ben Rhodes, a political operative and advisor to the president on national security, and headed “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET,” the memo describes the White House’s goals from then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice’s now-infamous appearances on Sunday network talk shows.
Five times that fateful Sunday, Rice pitched the notion that the Benghazi massacre spontaneously erupted from a demonstration over an inflammatory Internet video, precisely as Rhodes prescribed – although who directed him remains anybody’s guess – in direct contravention of CIA reports.
What had to be avoided was any hint that the consulate disaster was in any way “a broader failure or policy.”
“We now have the smoking gun,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina. “Three days after the attack they did not give a damn about the intelligence. They wanted to create a political narrative to protect the President.”
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, just a couple of weeks after having urged the GOP to move on from a story that had grown stale, became newly re-interested. “The fact that it was redacted when the documents were asked for [by Congress] and only revealed by a court order is telling you that this is a classic cover-up of a cover-up.”
It is instructive that the memo was circulated among the chief operatives in the President’s reelection campaign and top aides in the White House, including spokesman Jay Carney, who was reduced to sputtering either fibs or nonsense under questioning by ABC’s Jon Karl at Wednesday’s briefing. Asked why this particular memo had to be ripped from the administration’s desperate clutches 18 months after it was originally sought, Carney laughably claimed it was because it was about the Middle East upheaval in general, and wasn’t specific to Benghazi – an assertion refuted by the memo itself.
But even if you concede Carney’s argument, as Karl Rove noted on “The O’Reilly Factor” Wednesday, you have to believe the fairy tale that “the central story is not the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans; the real story is that we’ve got protests outside the embassy in Khartoum and Cairo inspired by a video that no one had seen.
“If Jay Carney is telling the truth, and that’s what the administration was focused on, then the administration was clearly trying to distract attention from this incredible example of a terrorist attack killing Americans.”
Neither explanation reflects favorably on the White House. The only real question now is whether a critical mass of Americans will take another, sterner look – as Krauthmammer has – at this graying and complicated episode. Yes, it’s hard, considering it began with security failures, unfolded under operational neglect while top officials – including the President – went MIA, morphed into purposeful misleading of the American people (aided by a willing media corps) and has since become a unattended tumor on the bodily politic.
Well, guess what just went malignant.