“It is, to me, equivalent to what was discovered with the Nixon tapes,” said columnist Charles Krauthammer.
He was referring to an email Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes wrote two days after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack on our consulate in Benghazi on 9/11/2012.
Senior officials should stress “these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy,” Mr. Rhodes said. His email was among 41 obtained by a conservative watchdog group and made public April 29.
This was intended to mislead to protect the president’s re-election. At the time Mr. Rhodes wrote his email, the CIA, the military’s African Command and senior Pentagon and State Department officials knew the Benghazi attack was mounted by an affiliate of al-Qaida. The Youtube video lampooning the Prophet Muhammad had nothing to do with the attack, AFRICOM’s deputy intelligence chief at the time told the House Oversight Committee May 1.
There was no mention of the video in the memo acting Assistant Secretary of State Beth Jones sent to senior officials at State on 9/11/2012, or in a Defense Intelligence Agency analysis written a day later.
They’d made an honest mistake based on faulty intelligence reports, administration officials said after the Youtube video story was proved false.
That was another lie. But it was embraced eagerly by most in the news media, who parroted administration talking points or ignored the story.
The paucity of coverage in the “mainstream” media prompted Mr. Krauthammer to say April 10: “The clock has run out on Benghazi. Politically speaking, the administration has won.” But fissures have formed in the media wall of Omerta since disclosure of the Rhodes email.
It wasn’t about Benghazi, said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, a lie so preposterous it drew scorn from normally supportive journalists. “As someone who has admired Jay and wants my White House to succeed, it was painful to watch that briefing and get Baghdad Bob flashbacks,” said Ron Fournier of the National Journal.
Mr. Carney’s “dissembling” is insulting, said CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Even NBC’s David Gregory — heretofore a swiller of whatever Kool-Aid the administration served — wondered if the Benghazi attack had been mischaracterized for political reasons.
Now that House Speaker John Boehner has formed a select committee to investigate, it’ll be harder for journalists to ignore Benghazi questions.
Here are some that require answers:
• Security at the consulate was put primarily in the hands of a militia with ties to al-Qaida. Repeated pleas from the ambassador to upgrade security were ignored. Why?
• The military should have attempted a rescue, said the AFRICOM intelligence chief mentioned above. Why didn’t it?
• President Barack Obama wasn’t in the White House situation room during the seven-hour siege, said former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. Where was he?
• It’s been 19 months since President Obama pledged “to hunt down whoever did it and bring them to justice,” but no arrests have been made. Western journalists have located for interviews the leader of the militia which claimed responsibility for the attack. Why can’t the FBI find him?
By appointing Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, a former federal prosecutor who is sharp as a tack and tough as nails, to chair the select committee, Speaker Boehner signaled he’s determined to find the answers.
Former Obama campaign guru David Plouffe dismissed the investigation as a partisan witch hunt by “a loud, delusional minority.” But in the wake of the Rhodes memo, the administration’s claim there is nothing to see here is a harder sell.
Despite the paucity of reporting, majorities in polls from last May on have supported GOP efforts to investigate Benghazi.
House Democrats may boycott the select committee to try to delegitimize it. They’d be betting no more evidence of a coverup will emerge. The administration’s strenuous efforts to conceal documents and witnesses indicate they may lose that bet.
“If they were to boycott it, and if they have another one of these Ben Rhodes memos, they’d look really stupid right before the midterm elections,” according to military historian Victor Davis Hanson.
Aside from the president, the only Democratic politician with much to lose is Hillary Clinton. But if Democrats boycott and more evidence emerges, they’ll be complicit in a failed coverup. That’s not likely to redound to their electoral benefit.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1476).