It’s a cliché, of course, but it really is true: in Washington, every scandal has a crime and a coverup. The ongoing debate about the attack on the United States facility in Benghazi where four Americans were killed, and the Obama Administration’s response to it, is no exception. For a long time, it seemed like the idea of a coverup was just a Republican obsession. But now there is something to it.
[T]he mere existence of the edits—whatever the motivation for them—seriously undermines the White House’s credibility on this issue. This past November (after Election Day), White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that “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 institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because ‘consulate’ was inaccurate.”
Remarkably, Carney is sticking with that line even now…
This is an incredible thing for Carney to be saying. He’s playing semantic games, telling a roomful of journalists that the definition of editing we’ve all been using is wrong, that the only thing that matters is who’s actually working the keyboard. It’s not quite re-defining the word “is,” or the phrase “sexual relations,” but it’s not all that far off, either.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein says the talking points used on the Sunday news shows following the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were wrong, adding that the administration should have been quicker in calling it a terrorist act.
“I think the talking points were wrong,” the California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think the talking points should not be written by the intelligence community.”
“Unfortunately,” she added, “the word extremist was used which isn’t not as crystal clear as terrorist.”
“For the president’s spokesman to say, ‘Well, there was only words or technical changes made in those e-mails’ is a flat-out untruth,” McCain told Martha Raddatz in an interview on This Week. “I’d call it a cover-up. I would call it a cover-up in the extent that there was willful removal of information which was obvious. It was obvious. Mr. Hicks said in his testimony his jaw dropped. . . I was on another Sunday morning show after Susan Rice, my jaw dropped. I said look, people don’t bring rocket propelled grenades and mortars to demonstrations.”…
“The narrative of the Obama campaign is ‘Bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda is on the run, not to worry about anything,’ and here comes this attack on Benghazi,” said McCain…
McCain did say that the cover-up could potentially implicate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “I think the secretary of state has played a role in this,” he said. “She had to have been in the loop some way, but we don’t know for sure.”
The White House has touted the Accountability Review Board (ARB) investigation of the Benghazi massacre as a review “led by two men of unimpeachable expertise and credibility that oversaw a process that was rigorous and unsparing.” In fact, the report was purposefully incomplete and willfully misleading…
A most obvious question is: why was Secretary Clinton never interviewed for the investigation? She is mentioned only once in the report, as the person who convened the Board. If, as Clinton herself has said, she took full responsibility for what happened in Benghazi, her decisions and decision-making process are materially relevant for investigating what happened before and during the night of September 11, 2012, and preventing what went wrong from ever happening again…
My husband, Joseph diGenova, and I represented two State Department whistleblowers for the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearings held last week, on May 8. Mark Thompson, my husband’s client, testified that he asked twice to be interviewed by the ARB and was not. Mr. Thompson was the deputy assistant secretary in charge of coordinating the deployment of a multi-agency team for hostage taking and terrorism attacks. Yet, he was excluded from all decisions, communications, and meetings on September 11 and 12, 2012. Why? Others asked to be interviewed and were not. Until they see how my client, Gregory Hicks, former chargé and deputy chief of mission (DCM) in Libya, and Mr. Thompson fare after their testimony, they will not step forward.
Since we still don’t know the administration’s decision-making process on post-Benghazi talking points — in part because the trail of e-mails has not been made public — we can’t say definitively how much forethought there was in the way they misrepresented reality. It is possible that there was no overarching “plan” to lie, no marching orders, no formal cover-up. It could well be that members of the administration just panicked and did whatever they could to avoid “al-Qaeda-backed attack kills Americans” headlines in the middle of a presidential campaign.
Some of the people involved may not have even known they were lying, per se. They might have merely reasoned themselves into believing the video was the cause. Such a belief would certainly soothe the kind of mind that thinks all anti-American Islamic terrorism is “blowback” or “chickens come home to roost.” Or they could have been somewhere between, engaging in classic political bull, exploiting the possibility that the video explanation might be true to distract from the far greater likelihood that it wasn’t.
An administration isn’t a hive mind, it’s a crowd — and in a crisis, frequently a mob. So it’s likely that there was some of all this in the administration’s reaction to Benghazi, or that, à la The Logic of Empire, what started as a number of individuals trying to cover their own rear ends, or Madam Secretary’s, or Candidate Obama’s, morphed into official policy — and a great evil…
Conservative commentator Ken Gardner borrows a page from Russell in what is perhaps the best 140-character summary of what we’ve learned about Benghazi so far: “Was the Benghazi attack and its aftermath the result of incompetence or a dishonest coverup with media complicity? Yes. It was.”
“I don’t think he has adequate people questioning him on these things,” said one close Obama ally and Washington veteran. He agreed to speak frankly on the condition that he not be identified…
Chris Lehane, one of the “masters of disaster” who ran the damage-control operation in the Clinton White House, said Obama’s staff has failed to follow some basic rules for dealing with a potential scandal: avoid putting out a narrative that will not be sustained by the facts and get in front of damaging information by making it public before your adversaries do.
For instance, “if they had put those [Benghazi] e-mails out on their own terms, they would have gotten a little more of the benefit of the doubt,” Lehane said. “There’s no question that if they had basically applied the fundamentals of crisis management, they would be in a different situation today.”
But with the attack happening less than two months before voters went to the polls last year, “they may have made the decision that it was better to win the presidential election and deal with the fallout on the other side,” Lehane said.
The dying Los Angeles Times reported this story on its homepage (as a sidebar to “Thirteen Great Tacos in Southern California”) under the following headline: “Partisan Politics Dominates House Benghazi Hearing.” In fact, everyone in this story is a Democrat or a career civil servant. Chris Stevens was the poster boy for Obama’s view of the Arab Spring; he agreed with the president on everything that mattered. The only difference is that he wasn’t in Vegas but out there on the front line, where Obama’s delusions meet reality. Stevens believed in those illusions enough to die for them. One cannot say the same about the hollow men and women in Washington who sent him out there unprotected, declined to lift a finger when he came under attack, and in the final indignity subordinated his sacrifice to their political needs by lying over his corpse. Where’s the “partisan politics”? Obama, Clinton, Panetta, Clapper, Rice, and the rest did this to one of their own. And fawning court eunuchs, like the ranking Democrat at the hearings, Elijah Cummings, must surely know that, if they needed, they’d do it to them, too. If you believe in politics über alles, it’s impressive, in the same way that Hillary’s cocksure dismissal — “What difference, at this point, does it make?” — is impressive.
But the embassy security chief, Eric Nordstrom, had the best answer to that: It matters because “the truth matters” — not least to the Libyan president, who ever since has held the U.S. government in utter contempt. Truth matters, and character matters. For the American people to accept the Obama-Clinton lie is to be complicit in it.
Issa said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he planned to request a deposition from former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two helmed an investigation [the Accountability Review Board] into the September terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Issa said the White House “effectively lied” to the public about the nature of the attack, by initially downplaying an terrorist aspects and saying the attack was more spontaneous and mob-oriented.
“The real truth is the people who were there in Tripoli and Benghazi knew it was a terror attack from the get-go,” he said. “When the wheels come off, when in fact people make a decision to give us something that’s false and then that’s shown to be false, of course we have an obligation to look at it.”
Via the Corner.