Another day, another step in the Obama administration’s narrative collapse. Last night, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became the highest-ranking administration official to admit that the fairy tale of a “spontaneous” protest that “spun out of control” in Benghazi was untrue. Instead, Clinton went so far as to suggest that al-Qaeda had succeeded in striking an American diplomatic mission for the first time since the twin embassy bombings in 1998, while her husband was President:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday suggested there was a link between the Qaeda franchise in North Africa and the attack at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the American ambassador and three others. She was the highest-ranking Obama administration official to publicly make the connection, and her comments intensified what is becoming a fiercely partisan fight over whether the attack could have been prevented. …
Her remarks added to the administration’s evolving and at times muddled explanation of what happened on the evening of Sept. 11 and into the next morning. Republicans in Congress have accused President Obama of playing down possible terrorist involvement in the midst of a re-election campaign in which killing Osama bin Laden and crippling Al Qaeda are cited as major achievements. …
A senior administration official said that Mrs. Clinton intended to underscore the rising threat that the Qaeda affiliate and other extremist organizations pose to the emerging democratic governments in countries like Tunisia and Libya, adding that the group clearly intended to make contact with extremists in Benghazi and elsewhere. The final determination of the group’s role, the official said, would await the investigation by the F.B.I.
Mrs. Clinton has also ordered a review of diplomatic security that is being led by Thomas R. Pickering, a veteran diplomat and former undersecretary of state.
If that seems a bit like locking the barn door after the horse has bolted, you’re not alone. The Wall Street Journal rips the Obama administration for its lax approach to security in Benghazi, which has long been an area where radical Islamist terror networks have operated. Barack Obama’s decision to depose Moammar Qaddafi without any boots on the ground made that situation worse. Yet, even with all that known and red flags being raised repeatedly about security, the Obama White House — and especially Clinton, who had responsibility for diplomatic security — failed to act:
On Friday, our WSJ colleagues showed that starting in spring, U.S. intelligence had been worried about radical militias in eastern Libya. These armed groups helped topple Moammar Ghadhafi last year but weren’t demobilized as a new government has slowly found its legs. As we’ve noted since last winter, the waning of American and European interest in Libya could have dangerous consequences.
Deteriorating security was no secret. On April 10, for example, an explosive device was thrown at a convoy carrying U.N. envoy Ian Martin. On June 6, an improvised explosive device exploded outside the U.S. consulate. In late August, State warned American citizens who were planning to travel to Libya about the threat of assassinations and car bombings.
Despite all this, U.S. diplomatic missions had minimal security. Officials told the Journal that the Administration put too much faith in weak Libyan police and military forces. The night of the Benghazi attack, four lightly armed Libyans and five American security offices were on duty. The complex lacked smoke-protection masks and fire extinguishers. Neither the consulate in Benghazi nor the embassy in Tripoli were guarded by U.S. Marines, whose deployment to Libya wasn’t a priority.
What about the media? After all, Obama and Clinton sent UN Ambassador Susan Rice out to five Sunday talk shows on September 16th to flat-out lie and claim that the sacking came from a protest over a YouTube video that “spun out of control.” The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler casts a critical eye on what he calls “a red herring” and the failed effort by the Obama administration to avoid having to admit that al-Qaeda has succeeded in a terrorist attack against the US:
For political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead the administration kept the focus on what was ultimately a red herring — anger in the Arab world over anti-Muslim video posted on You Tube. With key phrases and message discipline, the administration was able to conflate an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt — which apparently was prompted by the video — with the deadly assault in Benghazi.
Officials were also able to dismiss pointed questions by referring to an ongoing investigation.
Ultimately, when the head of the National Counterterrorism Center was asked pointblank on Capitol Hill whether it was a an act of terror — and he agreed — the administration talking points began to shift. (Tough news reporting — as well as statements by Libya’s president — also played a role.) Yet President Obama himself resisted using the “t” word, even as late as Tuesday, while keeping the focus on the video in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
“Tough news reporting”? Er, not really. In fact, it took a town-hall audience to finally ask Obama a tough question about the attack, as Kessler notes with the transcript from Obama’s 9/20 Univision appearance:
OBAMA: “What we’ve seen over the last week, week and a half, is something that actually we’ve seen in the past, where there is an offensive video or cartoon directed at the prophet Muhammad. And this is obviously something that then is used as an excuse by some to carry out inexcusable violent acts directed at Westerners or Americans.
“And my number-one priority is always to keep our diplomats safe and to keep our embassies safe. And so when the initial events happened in Cairo and all across the region, we worked with Secretary Clinton to redouble our security and to send a message to the leaders of these countries, essentially saying, although we had nothing to do with the video, we find it offensive, it’s not representative of America’s views, how we treat each other with respect when it comes to their religious beliefs, but we will not tolerate violence.”
QUESTION: “We have reports that the White House said today that the attacks in Libya were a terrorist attack. Do you have information indicating that it was Iran, or al-Qaeda was behind organizing the protests?”
OBAMA: “Well, we’re still doing an investigation, and there are going to be different circumstances in different countries. And so I don’t want to speak to something until we have all the information. What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage over the video were used as an excuse by extremists to see if they can also directly harm U.S. interests.”
We have seen precious little “tough news reporting” on this story, at least so far. None of the Sunday talk shows on which Rice spun her don’t-blame-us-it-was-the-video fantasy demanded a White House explanation for her now-obvious untruths. When CNN reported from a journal it found at the still-unsecured “crime” scene in Benghazi, their fellow journalists didn’t demand answers from Hillary on Stevens’ security fears — they ripped their colleagues at the network for reporting on them at all. What we need — and in fairness, what at least Kessler is trying to provide — is a lot more toughness from these media buttercups.