As it happens, the mouthpiece defense probably has a lot to it. Rice was aiming to please the White House in a high-profile audition. If she’s nominated, Republicans shouldn’t let the ritualistic cries of racism scare them off of holding her accountable. On the other hand, they shouldn’t get distracted from more important questions involving the president himself.

Was he apprised of prior attacks on the consulate, and what did he do with that information? When did he get the accurate account of the attack from the intelligence agencies? What did he do when he learned of the hours-long attack, and what orders did he give to help the besieged Americans?

We know in great detail the president’s involvement in the Osama bin Laden raid. But Benghazi has been a closed book. If the White House had a good story to tell, presumably the New York Times already would have reported the details in a 5,000-word front-page article built on leaks by anonymous administration officials.