Ben Rhodes’s brother is of course David Rhodes, the president of CBS News — although, if you’re a CBS viewer, maybe I shouldn’t assume that you know that. Anyway, a nifty catch here by John Sexton of Breitbart. The key bit comes 50 seconds in. Quote:
“Our government thinks that, you know, there’s a really good chance this was not just a spontaneous mob reaction to what some thought was an offensive film but actually a coordinated effort timed to the 9/11 anniversary.”
Two days later, Sexton reminds us, Ben Rhodes sent out an e-mail ahead of Susan Rice’s Sunday show appearances urging her “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” What changed between the time his brother said this on September 12th and the time he sent that e-mail on September 14th? Sharyl Attkisson asked a similar question last week, noting that an e-mail chain at the State Department shows that the feds’ earliest suspicions after the attack had focused on Ansar al-Sharia, the jihadi group that had claimed responsibility for it online, rather than a mob driven to fury by the Mohammed video. Somehow the conventional wisdom shifted from the “planned attack” to the “spontaneous protest” theory in 48 hours. And since, it seems fair to assume, David Rhodes’s knowledge of what “our government” thinks was relayed to him at least in part by his brother Ben, it’s more accurate to say that Ben Rhodes’s thinking in particular shifted during those 48 hours. Why?
Depending upon how closely you want to parse David Rhodes’s language here (specifically the word “just” in the quote above, and hedging with “there’s a really good chance”), you can argue that he’s not ruling out the protest theory, just stressing that there may have been more than one group outside the consulate that night. I don’t read it that way; the “just” sounds like a synonym for “merely,” as if he was dismissing the protest theory and offering the attack theory as a substitute. Maybe Trey Gowdy should ask him. Would CBS cover that or would it be blackout time again?
You know what the real irony of Ben Rhodes’s e-mail is? It sets up an either/or between “the protests were caused by a YouTube video” and “the protests were caused by a broader failure of policy” when in reality there was no need to make that move. The fact that Islamists were screaming outside the embassy in Cairo on the anniversary of 9/11 shouldn’t, rationally, be thought of as a “failure of policy.” Screaming outside a U.S. embassy, especially on the day of AQ’s big victory, is what Islamists do. It’s especially goofy to imagine the White House fretting about policy failures when their policy in Egypt to that point had been to support the Islamists’ “democratic” aspirations to power. The Cairo embassy protest took place two months after a member of the Muslim Brotherhood had become president, with U.S. backing; the people protesting were thus hardcore fanatics (among them Ayman al-Zawahiri’s brother) whom no policy would placate. But Obama got elected promising he’d rebuild America’s reputation in the Middle East, so naturally a raucous, ultimately dangerous protest in Cairo — where he’d given his famous speech a few years before — looked bad for him, proof positive that America was still the Great Satan to some people there despite the Lightbringer’s best efforts. If he hadn’t overpromised so much as a candidate, Ben Rhodes might not have been so panicked in shunting blame off onto a video instead of the fact that jihadis hate America no matter who’s president. But he did overpromise, so here we are.