June 28, 2016
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Benghazi report released Tuesday makes clear that one dreadful constant of President Obama’s foreign policy is simply this: Deflect. Muddy the picture. Question the motivation.
Blame the wrong culprit when naming the right culprit might interfere with your narrative, or if doing so might oblige you to act when you do not wish to act.
In an addendum to the report, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mike Pompeo detail the fact that the administration knew perfectly well in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that it had been planned and directed by Islamist radicals as an evil commemoration of 9/11.
For example, at 11:23 p.m. on the night of the attack, Hillary Clinton e-mailed her daughter Chelsea to say, “Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Quedalike [sic] group”.
The next morning, she said, “We are working to determine the precise motivations and methods of those who carried out this assault.”
Sound familiar? Of course it does. After the attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando by home-grown terrorists, administration officials made a point of refusing to name the enemy publicly — in this case, ISIS, which had not yet come into existence at the time of Benghazi.
On the day following Orlando, the president himself said we had yet to discern “the precise motivations of the killer,” even though everyone knew by that point he had called 911 to swear his allegiance to ISIS while he was killing people.
Two weeks after the Orlando shooting — two weeks — Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “I cannot tell you definitively that we will ever narrow it down to one motivation. We will look at all motivations.”
With Benghazi, as with Orlando, the reason for these evasions is to make mystery and ambiguity a part of the narrative in order to buy the White House and the administration time and space — the time to control the story and the space to impress upon its supporters the impracticality and uselessness of responding to these acts of war.
That’s why the first administration statement on the Benghazi attacks, made by Hillary Clinton, specifically made reference to the anti-Islamic video “Innocence of Muslims,” which had just created an international scandal — but did not make reference to the Islamic terrorists who perpetrated it. It came only an hour before Hillary e-mailed Chelsea and assigned blame to al Qaeda elements.
At this point, a familiar face pops up in Section 2 of the Benghazi report, which lays out the administration’s actions in the wake of the attack.
Yes, it’s none other than our buddy Ben Rhodes, the man who bragged to The New York Times Magazine about manipulating the press to adopt the administration’s line on the Iran deal.
The report makes clear he was helping to design the administration’s response as he began the work of setting up the echo chamber in which the media would provide Obama exactly the time and space he wanted and needed.
Rhodes did something odd in his testimony before the Benghazi committee. He claimed that the sentence about the anti-Islam video in the “Statement on the Attack on Benghazi” wasn’t really about Benghazi but was about “the region.”
“It’s not intended to assign responsibility for what happened in Benghazi,” Rhodes testified. “It’s meant to describe the context of what happened, what’s happening in the region.” There had been protests in Cairo centering on the video that same day.
His questioner responds incredulously: “So everything in this document is about Libya and Benghazi except you’re saying this sentence doesn’t apply to Libya and Benghazi?”
Rhodes responds with gobbledygook about protecting Americans elsewhere. His strange claim here is telling, because it makes clear the administration seemed to want above all to mention the video in its first words on the attack to direct attention away from it or to include it in a larger list of troubles stemming from a reaction to “Innocence of Muslims.”
All these misdirections and prevarications have taken their toll.
An unambiguous response to a terrorist attack on an American facility in 2012 would have prevented the creation of the Benghazi committee in the first place.
Due to the Benghazi committee’s efforts to secure the facts of the case, the world came to learn about Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of public e-mail — an irresponsible and reckless act that more than anything else jeopardizes her presidential ambitions.
But when it comes to radical Islam and the Obama administration, the truth is always the first casualty. Hillary is hoping her presidential bid isn’t its last.