Belmont Club

America's National Security Team

For some reason Tommy Vietor’s interview with Brett Baier on what happened the night of the attack on Benghazi has aroused strong reactions.  Vietor’s performance moved Smitty at Robert Stacy McCain‘s almost to the point of invective. He wrote,  “listen, Tommy, you smarmy little creep. … His first job for Obama was as the driver of a press van … You went to some little liberal arts school in Ohio” etc, etc.

He wasn’t happy. Here’s the Vietor-Baier exchange that moved him to such high dudgeon.

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This follows an explanation by Jay Carney that the emails by Ben Rhodes instructing everyone “to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy” were not about Benghazi but rather an observation about the political weather in the Middle East in general.

It’s not an overstatement to say that skeptics have been creeped out by the manner of these White House responses in a way that goes beyond their factual implausibility.  It’s like they are putting you on and not even bothering to conceal it. Is that what’s so disturbing about it?

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No. There’s more to it. For starters implausibility is not exactly the right word for this situation. Strangeness is nearer the mark. That odd quality was evident from the first. It probably moved CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson to request images of officials on the night of the Benghazi attacks not long after the event. The requests were denied. Attkisson wrote:

The White House Photo Office has declined CBS News requests to release images taken of US officials during the Sept. 11 Benghazi attacks.

CBS News first requested the images on Oct. 31. In the past, the White House has released photos showing US officials during national security incidents. A half dozen images related to the mission that captured and killed Osama bin Laden were given to the public last year. One depicts President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the national security team gathered in the Situation Room on May 1, 2011.

A White House official referred our request regarding the Benghazi attacks to the White House Photo Office. On Nov. 1, an official there indicated she would process our request quickly, but then did not respond further. Finally, this week, the White House Photo Office told CBS News it would not release any images without approval of Josh Earnest in the White House Press Office. Earnest did not respond to our telephone calls and emails.

Attkisson’s reporter’s instinct was probably piqued by a circumstance that Edgar Allen Poe so brilliantly captured in one of his stories when he wrote that the key to a puzzle  “is not so much ‘what has occurred?’ as ‘what has occurred that has never occurred before?’”  What should have occurred was typecast by the photo the White House released during the Bin Laden operation.

Not This Time

Not This Time

But as per Vietor this scenario never happened. Instead everybody was ‘monitoring’ the situation. The Rhodes emails have renewed interest in what Obama and Hillary were up to that fateful night.  Glenn Beck recently spoke to Attkisson about those non-pictures. Still no dice.

“I’ve asked for the White House photographs taken that night,” Attkisson told Beck. “The White House photo office went from telling me the very day I asked that I could have them to referring me to Josh Earnest, a press officer at the White House, saying he had to release them. And it’s been a year-and-a-half and he won’t return my calls or emails.” …

Attkisson, who was assigned by CBS News to investigate Benghazi about three weeks after the attack, said she was regularly stonewalled by the Obama administration.

“We don’t even know what the commander-in-chief did that night,” Attkisson said. “We’re not allowed to know. And I think that’s pretty shocking.”

The trademark of the Obama years has been the strange reticence to disclose information that we would not normally regard as sensitive or even private. Information on questions like ‘where were you born’, ‘what were your grades in college’ and now ‘what was the president doing on the night a US ambassador was being murdered’ has been dribbled out so reluctantly that it’s almost unnatural.

This probably explains the creep-out factor. There’s mystery where there shouldn’t be. As I pointed out in an earlier post, all this strangeness has aroused a — perhaps unwarranted — paranoia in any observer who is unwilling to give the president the absolute benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it’s a deliberate ploy by White House PR to manufacture phantoms in the minds of administration critics. To drive them crazy. Or maybe something’s really going on.

To steal a tagline from the 2014 Godzilla movie, we are like the Bryan Cranston character, who suspects something very horrible is out there in the Pacific deeps but unable to guess its true nature.

You’re not fooling anybody when you say that what happened was a natural disaster. You’re lying! You’re hiding something out there! It was not an earthquake, it wasn’t a typhoon … you have no idea what’s coming … and it is going to send us back to the stone age..

Nah. Obama’s admirers will reassure everyone that’s there’s nothing to worry about, or that it was about a video. But people like Tommy Vietor and Jay Carney have not inspired much confidence of late. Isn’t that so, dude?

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