Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Beyond Spin

When a presidential re-election campaign is over, there are an awful lot of people for the winning candidate to thank. I wonder if, when he is alone with his own thoughts, President Obama thanks Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

There is no way to know for sure, but it could well be that those two ex-Navy SEALs did more than any two individuals to ensure the president’s re-election. They are the pair who rushed over from a CIA annex to fight off the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11. It seems probable that the aim of the attack was to take hostages. If that had happened, it could have turned into a drama that might have dragged on for weeks. In the end, Doherty and Woods lost their lives, as did Ambassador Chris Stevens and Information Officer Sean Smith.

Of course, there is no way to know for sure that would have happened. And, if it had, there is no way to know whether it would have hurt Obama politically in the run-up to the presidential election. Such a development could conceivably have helped him, since people tend to rally around their leadership in a crisis. But, if such a crisis drags on too long, it can be damaging politically. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

So why speculate about this now? Because we are all talking about Benghazi now. The president was asked about it at his event with Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday, and he shot back that “there’s no there, there” and “the fact that this whole thing keeps getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations.”

That kind of talk worked okay when Fox News was the only broadcaster working on the story, but now the president has to include ABC News in his political media conspiracy. And, in fairness, he would also have to include Sharyl Attkinson of CBS News who has reliably dug into the affair. There is talk, though, that Attkinson may be leaving the network, which fuels conspiracy theories on the right since CBS News president David Rhodes is the brother of Obama’s deputy national security advisor.

Personally, I don’t think it is realistic or fair to hold the president personally responsible for the security failure at Benghazi. On the other hand, the people who have been held responsible are pretty low level, which seems par for the course in these situations. The deputy chief of mission in Benghazi was demoted after the attack, but now he is in front of Congress saying it was because he questioned UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s version of events the Sunday after the attack. Rice’s own career suffered too. Her reward for being a good political soldier was to be passed over for secretary of state.

As for the “cover up” of Benghazi, yes, it looks very bad. Now, it would be naive not to expect political people to spin things to their best advantage, but the way the State Department and the White House dealt with Benghazi goes beyond spin. We now know for sure that they were all aware of the exact nature of the attack, and yet they continued to begin every answer to every question about it by talking about a YouTube video that they knew was not a factor.

But the real blame for the confusion lies with the establishment press which never pushed back against this deliberate disinformation campaign. The best excuse I have heard for this came out of the mouth of Bloomberg’s Margaret Carlson Sunday on Howard Kurtz’s media criticism show on CNN. She basically said that the mainstream press couldn’t cover the story because there was too much distraction from loud people on the right. Huh?

Carlson also reminded us that she thought that, in congressional testimony on Benghazi in January, “Hillary Clinton did a great job at her hearings.” But what did Clinton say at those hearings? She said, “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?” Four months later she was still throwing every scenario out there other than the one that actually happened.

In the end, I can’t really improve on what I wrote about this back in September. Back then I called the maker of the YouTube video a sleazeball for putting his cast and crew in danger. But didn’t the Obama administration only magnify that danger to them by casting such a relentless spotlight on the video? And for no good reason other than distracting the public from an inconsistency in its narrative about having Al Qaeda on the run?

At least the video maker himself is safe. He has been in federal prison on outstanding charges that the police suddenly decided to follow up on right after the president publicized his video.

No comments:

Post a Comment