You need look no further than the Sunday morning news shows to understand conservatives’ frustration with the mainstream medai. On one hand you had Republicans like Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) asking two succinct points about the Benghazi, Libya, memo recently made public:
1. Why was it intentionally withheld for over a year and only dislodged by a federal court?
2. We know the connection from the video didn’t come from State or from CIA (as former CIA official Mike Morrell testified and we know from previously released documents), so why was the White House putting out this made-up story line?
These aren’t inconsequential questions, nor are they inappropriate. But they are unanswered. David Plouffe and others spinning for the administration either responded with generalized insults about Republicans or a blatant untruth (i.e., the video explanation came from intelligence officials). You would think these mouthpieces would be challenged to stop the name-calling and address the factual problem with blaming the CIA. Nope. Moreover, none of them ever offered any explanation for why it took so long for the memo to be turned over.
There was one interesting revelation (if only by omission): None repeated the explicit falsehood offered by Jay Carney that the memo wasn’t about Benghazi. Why not do you think? Someone should ask Carney at the next briefing why even hard-bitten political hacks sent out to quash the story wouldn’t adopt his excuse. (The favorite generalization was “fog of war,” not “it wasn’t about Benghazi”; as discussed, even in the fog of war, no State Department source or CIA talking point threw out the video connection.)
Even some conservatives concede there is not much to be gained politically by pursuing the investigation. Few voters will punish Democratic Senate and House candidates for the White House’s prevarication. And Obama is not standing for reelection. So why bother?
For one thing, the people involved, including deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and now-national security adviser Susan Rice, are still there. So, for now, is Jay Carney. They either deliberately mislead Americans or were so muddled that they confused the video-inspired riot in Egypt and the planned terrorist attack in Benghazi. In either case, should they still be there?
Second, the State Department and CIA have both been blamed for the video cover story. You can blame CIA for not anticipating the attack. You can blame State for not following the influx of jihadis into Libya, for the light-footprint strategy and for the refusal to respond to requests for more security. But if there is one thing we know it is that the video narrative came from the White House.
The officials in the CIA and at State who’ve been blamed for something they didn’t do deserve to be exonerated. As late as Sept. 25, 2012, the president, at the United Nations, was still talking about the video in relation to Libya. Jay Carney from the podium repeatedly cited the video. No State Department briefer or CIA witness ever did. (As early as Sept. 12, 2012, a State background briefing laid out the specific sequence of events, making clear this was an organized attack.) Why should other officials and other agencies not be exonerated of the charge that they instigated or participated in this politicized fabrication? At the very least, they deserve that.
And third, withholding documents from Congress was either a really convenient error (since it was the only one pinning the video narrative to the White House), or it was a deliberate effort to conceal a relevant document from Congress and the American people. We have no explanation as to why this was done or who was responsible for it. It has never been investigated.
In the end, it will come out. Someone will write a memoir. A future administration will dribble out more documents. Out-of-office officials will be more candid. What there won’t be are any adverse consequences for the White House officials who spun a tragedy to keep the president’s reelection prospects on track and for whoever denied Congress the documents. That’s a shame. They should be held accountable and never returned to a position of public trust. Instead, they’ll likely get lucrative corporate jobs or MSNBC contracts. They might even return in another administration, having gotten away with misleading Americans. It is that injustice that gnaws at conservatives, as it should all fair-minded people, whatever their political orientation.