Rice on Libya: Obfuscating From Behind
There's also wiggle room in Rice's rote qualifier that her remarks are based on "the information that we have at present." Should facts emerge to substantiate the more credible theory that it took planning to show up on Sept. 11 with heavy weapons, target the consulate while the ambassador was visiting, and then locate and attack the separate safe house, there's no need for the administration to admit to denying, dismissing or trying to spin into oblivion the obvious. Any unavoidably embarrassing details can be consigned to an update. As an exercise in managing what is known these days as "the narrative," this is pretty adept.
But why choose Susan Rice to deliver this message? Surely there are plenty of administration officials more directly involved with Libya these days?
My guess is that Ambassador Rice herself is part of the message. She represents America at the UN. And the UN is where the Obama administration goes to unburden itself of responsibility for tough choices in world affairs. It's a place where success leaves room for individual bragging rights, but failure can be blamed on others, on the collective -- on everyone, and no one. The UN is where Obama, after some dithering, chose to lead from behind to remove Gaddafi. When he fell, Obama was glad to take credit for success, saying "The United States is proud of the the role we played in supporting the Libyan revolution and protecting the Libyan people." But now what?
Certainly Gaddafi was a monstrous tyrant, whose departure was decades overdue. But there was always the tough question of what might follow Gaddafi, and who would take the lead in dealing with anything that might go badly wrong. That was an issue well below the U.S. election radar until this past week. Suddenly, Libya is all over the headlines, looking like a fiasco, with photos of the murdered ambassador and gutted consulate in Benghazi. Time to start deflecting responsibility away from Washington and toward the collective. That, I would wager, is why Ambassador Rice, our envoy to the UN, was dispatched by the administration to be the Sunday TV expert on the Sept. 11 attack in Libya.
At PJ Tatler from Bridget Johnson: Obama Campaign Sticks By Rice and Fires Away at McCain