He could have run as a safe pair of hands in a scary world. He could have said that the terrorists are out their, plotting against us night and day. That our enemies are trying to win over the masses to launch a new clash of civilizations. That the situation in Iran presents the United States with its biggest challenge since the fall of the Soviet Union. In that kind of world, who can you trust? Obviously, the campaign could have said, an experienced man, tough enough to kill bin Laden, but deft enough to reach out to moderates in the Middle East. No gaffe-prone challenger would be safe in these troubled times.

But the Obama administration believes that civilianizing American political discourse is necessary for Democrats to do well over the long haul, and to shift resources from the defense budget to domestic priorities. Talk of threats and terrorist enemies appalls and disheartens the Democratic base. The President therefore decided to run as the man who built peace and, if given four more years, would build that much more.

He therefore needs for the world to look calm. Anything that undercuts that narrative undercuts his campaign. This is the most important problem Benghazi creates for him: it suggests a genuinely poisonous alternative narrative that the President in his naive eagerness to spread democracy and build bridges to moderates opened the door to radicals and then failed to deal with the threat they posed.