tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
  • Home
Tom Jackson Columns

The Right Stuff: Re-energizing search for Benghazi’s elusive truth

If, deep into the sixth year of the Obama presidency, we have learned nothing else, it’s that when administration officials claim there is nothing left to say about a topic — from climate change to IRS targeting of conservative groups to Obamacare to the gender pay “gap” — the truth of the subject is only just clearing its throat.

To that tortured list we added last week the White House’s purposely erroneous explanation for the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, six weeks before Election Day, 2012. A memo cobbled together three days after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three aides were slaughtered by al Qaeda insurgents but only recently revealed through the tireless efforts of Judicial Watch demonstrates the administration’s desperate desire to control the political fallout by obscuring the truth.

Authored by Ben Rhodes, a political operative, national security advisor to the president and, not inconsequentially, brother of the CBS news president instrumental in reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s decision to quit the network, the memo describes what the White House hoped to achieve from then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice’s now-infamous appearances on Sunday network talk shows. Briefly: It had nothing to do with getting at the truth.

❖ ❖ ❖

Five times that fateful Sept. 16, Rice pitched the fable that the Benghazi massacre spontaneously erupted from a demonstration over an inflammatory Internet video, precisely as Rhodes prescribed — although who directed him remains anybody’s guess — in direct contravention of CIA reports.

What had to be avoided was any hint that the consulate disaster was in any way “a broader failure of policy.”

“We now have the smoking gun,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina. “Three days after the attack they did not give a damn about the intelligence.

They wanted to create a political narrative to protect the President.”

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, just a couple of weeks after having urged the GOP to move on from a story that had grown stale, regained interest: “The fact that it was redacted when the documents were asked for [by Congress] and only revealed by a court order is telling you that this is a classic cover-up of a cover-up.”

It is instructive, too, that the memo circulated among the chief operatives in the President’s reelection campaign and top aides in the White House, including spokesman Jay Carney, who was reduced to sputtering fibs and/or evasions under questioning by ABC’s Jonathan Karl at Wednesday’s briefing.

Asked why this particular memo had to be ripped from the administration’s desperate clutches 18 months after it was originally sought, Carney laughably claimed it was because it was about the Middle East upheaval in general, and wasn’t specific to Benghazi — an assertion refuted by the memo itself.

❖ ❖ ❖

But conceding Carney’s argument, as Karl Rove noted on “The O’Reilly Factor” Wednesday, you have to accept the fairy tale that “the central story is not the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans; the real story is that we’ve got protests outside the embassy in Khartoum and Cairo inspired by a video that no one had seen.”

Although that’s scarcely an explanation flattering to President Obama, it’s hard to shake the impression that the White House prefers it to the alternative.

Thursday, sitting across from Fox News “Special Report” anchor Bret Baier — the only reliable early evening newscaster, says lefty Joe Klein, the former Time magazine columnist — former National Security Council front man and recent teenager Tommy Vietor attempted to dismiss an obvious and pivotal question — Did you change “attacks” to “demonstrations” in Rice’s prep materials? — by going all slacker millennial in front of a national audience.

“Dude, this was, like, two years ago.” Outrageous? There’s educated speculation Vietor’s whiny exasperation was calculated to avoid prickly follow-ups if he admitted authorship: Why the change, and who directed it?

By week’s end, Speaker John Boehner had ordered the GOP-controlled House to vote on formation of a select committee to follow the Benghazi trail.

Emerging as its likely chairman was former federal prosecutor Trey Gowdy, a no-nonsense interrogator and two-term Republican from upstate South Carolina.

The only real question now is whether a critical mass of Americans will take another, sterner look at this graying and complicated episode.

Yes, it’s hard, considering it began with security failures, unfolded under operational neglect while top officials — including the president — went MIA, morphed into purposeful misleading of the American people (aided by a willing media corps) and has since become an unattended tumor on the bodily politic.

Well, guess what just went malignant.

Weather Center