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Right Turn
Posted at 12:11 PM ET, 09/21/2012

Obama’s embassy cover story dissolves

It is a measure of how skewed the reporting is and how intellectually inconsistent is most of the “analysis” from the mainstream media that while Mitt Romney’s comment on the embassy attacks held the attention of the press for days (when in fact he had correctly surmised that the administration was trying to make excuses for the embassy attack by expressing regret over an anti-Muslim video), there has been comparatively little concern with a much more critical story: Did the Obama team intentionally lie to voters (or just shoot first and aim later) for a week about what it knew, and did the deaths of four Americans result, in part, from defective security and preparation at the Benghazi consulate? Well, thankfully some reporters are beginning to perk up, although the “opinion makers” are trying their best to bury their heads in the sand, wary, no doubt, about attacking the president and effectively admitting they had failed to grasp the real story.

There is ample evidence that the administration screwed up. The Wall Street Journal has a must-read in-depth report that explains what the administration has refused to tell us:

The deadly assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya on Sept. 11 was preceded by a succession of security lapses and misjudgments, compounded by fog-of-battle decisions, that raise questions about whether the scope of the tragedy could have been contained.
U.S. officials issued alerts and ordered security precautions in neighboring Egypt ahead of protests and violence on Sept. 11, but largely overlooked the possibility of trouble at other diplomatic postings in the region.
The State Department chose to maintain only limited security in Benghazi, Libya, despite months of sporadic attacks there on U.S. and other Western missions

That is a scandal of the first order, which in any unbiased media environment would be the biggest story of the year and reason to demand a full explanation from the White House. Did Obama and his advisers incorrectly assess the ongoing threat of jihadists, lack sufficient intelligence on the ground in Libya (after chest-thumping about our leading-from-behind strategy in the war) and fail to grasp that blaming a video is only feeding into the mentality of the jihadists (i.e., the West is to blame for violence)?

Now, let’s see how the administration, either by mendacity or incompetence, put out a false story of the attacks, which is now shredding day by day.

For a week the White House press secretary, the ambassador to the United Nations and the president told us this was about an anti-Muslim video, was spontaneous and did not reflect on the United States or its policies. Then yesterday, as news reports and lawmakers were decrying this as patently false (and the day after a national security official called the assault a “terrorist” attack), the White House changed its tune. Jay Carney for the first time used “terrorist” in connection with the attack. And the president for the first time conceded that the video was a pretext. The Associated Press reports:

President Barack Obama said Thursday that extremists used an anti-Islam video as an excuse to assault U.S. interests overseas, including an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
The president’s comments came as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton faced questions from members of the House and Senate about the Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi in a series of closed-door classified briefings on Capitol Hill. . . .
“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,” the president said at a candidate forum on the Spanish-language network Univision.
Asked if that meant al-Qaida, Obama said, “We don’t know yet.”

In short, only under pressure from outside reports and lawmakers, who openly disputed the administration’s cover story and blew up over a useless briefing, did the administration try an about-face.

There is no way to reconcile the first Obama story (spontaneous, all about the movie) and the new version (terrorism, the movie was a pretext). By definition, terrorists don’t act spontaneously, nor do they get offended by movies. They are “offended” by the West and are at war with us.

National security reporter Eli Lake is one of the few to connect the dots and point the finger back to the White House. He writes:

Ten days after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the White House’s official story about the incident appears to be falling apart.
In the days following the killing of the U.S. ambassador and two ex-Navy SEALs, President Obama and top State Department officials portrayed the attack as a spontaneous reaction to an Internet video depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad as a lascivious brute. The protests, White House spokesman Jay Carney said last week, were “in response to a video—a film—that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting.”

It remains an open question whether the administration was intentionally misleading the public so as to avoid the appearance of an administration failure, or was simply making things up without pinning down the facts (what the Democrats accused Romney of doing). Lake quotes a retired CIA official as saying: “I think this is a case of an administration saying what they wished to be true before waiting for all the facts to come in.” That’s the most generous take on what happened.

But now that we know the administration was wrong, why no demands for an apology, let alone an explanation? Why do the pundits turn a blind eye after raking Romney over the coals for calling out the administration’s first sniveling responses to the attack?

The State Department spokeswoman was doing her best yesterday to be nondefinitive:

QUESTION: Before we leave this part of the world, can I just ask you about reporting out there? That’s – a former Guantanamo detainee – detainees – is believed to have been behind the attack in Benghazi.
MS. NULAND: I saw that report. Frankly, I don’t have anything for you on it one way or the other. The intelligence community, I expect, will speak to it.

That might be the most honest thing said since the murders occurred, namely that the Obama administration doesn’t know very much.

There is, as always, a media scandal here, a deliberate effort, conservatives believe, to construct narratives that favor the president. But that is small potatoes compared with the mounting evidence of a scandal in the Obama administration. If the administration was negligent in planning, convinced of its own spin (the war on terror is over!) and politicized national security to aid the president's reelection campaign, that is all a big deal. In any event, it should make for an interesting foreign policy presidential debate.

By  |  12:11 PM ET, 09/21/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, foreign policy

 
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