How different history might have been if the news media were as blase about Watergate as they've been about Benghazi, if Republicans back then were as uninterested in truth as Democrats are now.
If Watergate had not brought Richard Nixon low, the "emerging Republican majority" Kevin Phillips predicted in his 1969 book might actually have emerged. Democrats wouldn't have won the lopsided majorities in the 1974 congressional elections that led to the vast expansion of domestic spending that now threatens to bankrupt the country. Nixon, if unweakened by scandal, wouldn't have abandoned South Vietnam when the North Vietnamese invaded.
The Watergate burglars were caught while removing a bug they had put on the phone of a Democratic National Committee official. President Nixon and his senior aides were furious when they found out. They were undone by their attempt to cover up a crime in which they were not involved.
The Obama administration's coverup of what happened in Benghazi on 9/11/2012 is more extensive, we learned Wednesday.
• Gregory Hicks, then the deputy chief of mission in Libya, told the House Oversight Committee that he'd told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the attack that it was being carried out by terrorists, so his "jaw dropped" when he heard U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice on TV blaming protests against a YouTube video that offended Muslims.
• As soon as word of the attack reached the embassy in Tripoli, a small rescue force was assembled by "Lt. Col. Gibson," a special forces officer, but he was ordered twice to "stand down," Mr. Hicks testified. Shocked and angry, Lt. Col. Gibson, Mr. Hicks said, told him "this is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than someone in the military."
• Mark Thompson, deputy coordinator for operations at the State Department's counterterrorism bureau, was told not to mobilize the Foreign Emergency Support Team.
• The consulate in Benghazi was one of only 14 diplomatic posts where the risk of attack was considered "critical" or "high," but it failed to meet the minimum standards for security set after the al-Qaida attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, testified Eric Nordstrom, regional security officer in Libya until July 2012.
He said the State Department refused requests for more security and reduced the number of diplomatic security agents assigned to Libya. Security for the consulate was placed mostly in the hands of a militia suspected of ties to al-Qaida. Only the secretary of state can waive security standards when threat levels are so high, Mr. Nordstrom said.
• We know now that security in Libya was unbelievably lax, that the secretary of state knew this, that no effort was made to upgrade security as the anniversary of 9/11 approached, as was routine in the Bush administration. But we don't know why.
• We know that senior administration officials were lying when they blamed a mob angered by the anti-Muslim YouTube video for the attack, but we don't know why.
• We know that then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's claim that no order to "stand down" was issued wasn't true, at least as far as Lt. Col. Gibson's team was concerned. And while sending help might not have saved Ambassador Christopher Stevens and information officer Sean Smith early in the fight, might help have arrived in time to save former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods hours later? If so, why wasn't it sent?
Richard Nixon ultimately was forced to resign because most Republicans cared about the truth and stopped supporting him. But every Democrat on the House Oversight Committee cares more about protecting the Obama administration. One blamed lax security in Libya on budget cuts, which the State Department flatly denied in October. Another claimed Hillary Clinton didn't know what the security situation was.
The revelations of the whistleblowers should put CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, the Woodward and Bernstein of Benghazi, in line for a Pulitzer. Instead, they may cost her her job. The suits at CBS are unhappy with her dogged pursuit of the truth, reports Politico.
The whistleblowers' testimony makes it harder for Mr. Obama's apologists in the news media to claim the GOP probe is motivated purely by partisanship. There was "tragic incompetence" in how the administration handled Benghazi, but no coverup, said Michael Hirsh of the National Journal. The lies told by senior officials, the stonewalling of requests for information by congressional committees (and Ms. Attkisson) and the intimidation of witnesses suggest otherwise.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (email@example.com, 412-263-1476).