Last fall, I thought the premeditated terrorist attack on our consular facility in Benghazi — an attack, let us remember, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead — would cost Barack Obama the election. I was wrong about that, as indeed I was wrong about the basic dynamics of the election more generally. I looked at Obama’s dismal record, his incontinent spending, the failure of his economic policies to spark growth or jump-start the jobs market, his “you-didn’t-build-that” attack on individual effort, and I thought “He’s toast.” The September 11 attack on Benghazi by (as we now know) an al-Qaeda affiliate was, I thought, another, perhaps the biggest, nail in the coffin of his hubris.
As all the world knows, it didn’t turn out that way, partly because of Obama’s superior ground game, partly because of Romney’s many missteps. But one of the biggest reasons, I believe, was the administration’s skillful though deeply duplicitous stage-management of the Benghazi crisis. They somehow managed to spin it out of all recognition. Instead of appearing as what it was — a deadly terrorist attack by an al-Qaeda affiliate — the Obama administration managed to make us (well, some of us) believe that it was primarily about our sins, not terrorist perfidy. The real cause of the event, we were told, was a sophomoric anti-Islamic internet video, not the RPG-wielding thugs who overran our consulate in Libya and murdered Chris Stevens and three of his colleagues. Islamophobia, not Islam, was supposedly the culprit.
I never believed this and I was powerfully dismayed to discover just how successful the Obama Narrative was. From the moment Susan Rice hit the airwaves on September 16, the story, the real story, began to evaporate. Plenty of fresh details emerged — above all the detail that the Obama administration did absolutely nothing to help Stevens and his colleagues despite their desperate pleas for help over the course of hours. But outside the conservative echo chamber, they had no resonance. The presidential election loomed. Obama had offed Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was supposed to be yesterday’s news. The central fact about Northern Africa was supposed to be the “Arab Spring,” which in turn was supposed to corroborate Obama’s foreign policy genius and justify his Islamophilia. No one — certainly not the mainstream media — was interested in stories that gainsaid that rose-colored picture. Benghazi had died.
Until, that is, the testimony before Congress by Gregory Hicks, the State Department’s number two official in Libya at the time of the attack, earlier this month. Hicks directly contradicted the official Obama narrative. The attack — which took place, remember, on the anniversary of 9/11 — had nothing to do with that hitherto obscure internet video. It had everything to do with al-Qaeda-sponsored terrorism. Suddenly Benghazi, like Lazarus, sprang back to life.
There is still a huge amount we do not know about the event. But more and more pieces of the puzzle are being unearthed, dusted off, and fit into the mosaic. And the more we know, the worse it looks for Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “What difference does it make,” an angry, or at least angry acting, Clinton asked last fall when questioned about the event.
Turns out it — that is, she and her boss — might have made a big difference. But instead of doing something that could have challenged the narrative of Obama’s foreign-policy prowess, they fabricated the internet video wheeze and hid behind the smokescreen of putative “Islamophobia.”