Politics can't cast fog over racism, sexism

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There are many things still uncertain about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the Obama administration's role in the tragic matter.

But one thing is certain: If a black official's job performance cannot be criticized without his or her fellow partisans accusing the critics of racism -- reflexively, and in highly personal terms -- then we are still nowhere near living in a post-racial society.

Left-wing partisans didn't stop there, though: They claimed that criticism of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was motivated by sexism too. Perhaps they do protest too much -- which raises the question, why?

Last Wednesday on CBS "This Morning," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., responded very soberly to seven minutes of questions. He declined, when asked, to pass judgment on Gen. David Petraeus' bizarre sex scandal, asserting, "I'm much more concerned about the loss of four American lives in Benghazi, the president not telling the truth about what happened there, and what he knew and when he knew it."

"You think the president misled us?" Charlie Rose asked.

"I know he did." Mr. McCain then laid out the case that both President Barack Obama and Ms. Rice continued to assert that "a spontaneous flash mob" was responsible for the 9/11 massacre long after they knew it to be false.

Asked to defend his announcement that he would oppose Ms. Rice's potential nomination as secretary of state, Mr. McCain calmly said, "She's not qualified. Anyone who goes on national television in defiance of the facts five days [after the attack] ... [R]ight after, the president of the Libyan National Assembly said, 'It was al-Qaida,' and yet she never changed her story."

Pressed on his account, Mr. McCain said, "The casual observer [of video from the scene] knew that there was no demonstration. ... If you're going to tell the American people something, you better make damn sure it's true."

But the Obama administration officials who watched that video in real time, as the crisis unfolded, were far from "casual observers." And Mr. McCain is far from alone in asserting that these officials knew from the start this was a well-planned terrorist plot and not a spontaneous response to a lone American's anti-Islamic video.

On Thursday, members of congressional intelligence committees got to see that classified video. The same day, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoed Mr. McCain's criticism.

He did not call Ms. Rice "disconnected to reality," as a CBS web headline falsely claims; he said that of the administration's "story" about Benghazi. But he did say he didn't trust her, "because I think she knew better, and if she didn't know better, she shouldn't be the voice of America."

But rather than seek the truth about this shameful incident, on Friday, Congressional Black Caucus women held a news conference to denounce the senators. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, charged Mr. McCain with "clear sexism and racism" for, among other things, describing Ms. Rice's television performances as "not bright."

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., decried the senators' "unmitigated gall," blaming their election disappointments for their decision to "attack" and "batter" Ms. Rice.

To test the reasonableness of the women's charge of sexism, change the ambassador's gender. If a man had said of another man, "I don't trust him, because I think he should have known better" or "His refusal to change his story even after evidence proved him wrong was not a very bright decision," would there have been an outcry?

Would a president warn people to leave a male appointee alone and come after him? Can a woman really not take the pressure of answering for her own work?

Isn't the true sexism coming from Ms. Rice's left-wing protectors? Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham pay her the same respect they would any other official caught in seeming lies.

As for the charge of racism, I do not recall the Congressional Black Caucus decrying that sin when cartoonists portrayed Condoleezza Rice as "Gone With the Wind" slave Prissy or as George W. Bush's "brown sugar."

Since their charges against these senators are so clearly over-the-top, you have to ask why they are making them. You have to wonder who removed Gen. David Petraeus' mentions of al-Qaida from his White House memo. And you have to wonder if Ms. Rice was sent out to flack the "spontaneous protest" story, whether wittingly or unwittingly, as a sacrificial lamb: When the truth came out and she was attacked, her defenders would respond exactly the way they did, attempting to cow administration critics, confuse the public and prevent any deeper investigation.

The administration defended itself early on by citing "the fog of war." Now they're counting on the fog of politics.


Ruth Ann Dailey: ruthanndailey@hotmail.com.


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