More information about the Benghazi terrorism attack was revealed to a House investigative committee on Wednesday, and like everything that was already known about the deadly fiasco it was damning to the Obama administration. Many questions remain unanswered, but at this point the president and his supporters can only wonder how severe the political damage will be.
It should be very severe. After bombing an odious but largely defanged dictator out of power in Libya, and without any of the congressional or United Nations approval that liberals usually demand, the administration sent American diplomatic personnel into the ensuing chaos without the security arrangements that longstanding State Department rules require. Numerous impassioned requests by the highest ranking of those personnel for more security were repeatedly denied, on cables carrying the signature of the Secretary of State, even as the ominous date of Sept. 11 approached. When a terrorist group attacked the consulate in Benghazi on that date and murdered the ambassador and three other brave Americans, normal response procedures were ignored, the president went to bed in order to be fresh for a fund-raiser in Las Vegas, and military units that might have been able to save those under attack were told stand down. Afterwards the president and other members of his administration repeatedly lied to the public that the deaths occurred during a spontaneous demonstration rather than an al-Qaeda terror attack, in service of a broader lie that al-Qaeda had been vanquished. The lie made a scapegoat out of an American who had exercised his constitutional rights by making a little-seen video about Islam, and the filmmaker was soon imprisoned on a parole violation charge that would have surely been overlooked if not for the administration’s dishonest vilification of his work. Investigations into such misfeasance and malfeasance were subsequently thwarted by administrative stonewalling and outright bullying of people with embarrassing information to divulge, and we’re sure we have left out some other disgraceful aspect of the scandal.
In our time a president was forced to resign in disgrace and another was impeached for matters that were trivial by comparison, yet it now seems unlikely that Obama will suffer no such consequences. House Democrats made a half-hearted effort on Wednesday to blame the whole matter of Republican-inspired budget cuts, even though the figures and an internal State Department investigation have refuted such nonsense, but the White House has thus far been content to act as if the matter were a minor mishap of no interest to anyone but their most embittered enemies. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously dismissed a question about her failure to investigate the incident by indignantly asking “What difference, at this point, does it make?” White House press secretary Jay Carney recently characterized the four deaths in Benghazi as something that “happened a long time ago.” Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland added a morbid twist to this insouciant line of defense by musing during Wednesday’s hearings that “Death is part of life.”
Such an audacious response might just work, given the lack of interest among much of the media. Despite the bombshell revelations from Wednesday’s hearings, the big stories of the day on the hourly radio updates were a murder conviction in Arizona and the ongoing investigation of three kidnappings in Ohio. Influential media such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have lately been paying a grudging amount of attention, but without the undisguised outrage that marked their coverage of the minor brouhahas that have afflicted past administrations. More openly partisan outlets have happily echoed the administration’s claim that any attempts to draw attention to the ineptitude and dishonesty are mere political point-scoring. It worked well enough to get the administration through the last election, although the facts known even then were infuriating to anyone paying attention, and it is depressingly possible that it will work well enough to get Hillary Clinton past the next election.
A few bold Republicans in the House seem determined to keep the story in the news, though, and the conservative media will do their best to help. These efforts might not succeed in bringing down the administration, but the president’s critics can take some solace in knowing that there is nothing about the Benghazi story that can help the president.
— Bud Norman