Roger’s Rules

Benghazi as Lazarus, Back from the Dead

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.”

The more we know, the more rancid, not to say criminal, the administration’s behavior appears. The more we know —and we’re learning more almost daily — the worse it looks. One of the best reflections I’ve read on the event is PJ Media columnist Andy McCarthy’s essay “The 10 P.M. Phone Call,” which appeared at NRO yesterday. A former federal prosecutor, McCarthy has an instinct for the jugular, a sixth sense of what the capital issues are.  “Benghazi,” he points out, “ is not a scandal because of Ambassador Susan Rice, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, and ‘talking points.’ The scandal is about Rice and Nuland’s principals, and about what the talking points were intended to accomplish. Benghazi is about derelictions of duty by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton before and during the massacre of our ambassador and three other American officials, as well as Obama and Clinton’s fraud on the public afterward.” [My emphasis.]

McCarthy asks a question that should be posed again and again until we have a satisfactory answer. What did then-Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama talk about when they spoke at 10:00p.m. the night of September 11, 2012?  “There is good reason to believe,” McCarthy points out, “that while Americans were still fighting for their lives in Benghazi, while no military efforts were being made to rescue them, and while those desperately trying to rescue them were being told to stand down, the president was busy shaping the ‘blame the video’ narrative to which his administration clung in the aftermath.”

McCarthy paints a very disturbing picture:

We have heard almost nothing about what Obama was doing that night. Back in February, though, CNS News did manage to pry one grudging disclosure out of White House mendacity mogul Jay Carney: “At about 10 p.m., the president called Secretary Clinton to get an update on the situation.”

Obviously, it is not a detail Carney was anxious to share. Indeed, it contradicted an earlier White House account that claimed the president had not spoken with Clinton or other top administration officials that night.

The earlier story better fit Obama’s modus operandi, which is to disappear in times of crisis. His brief legislative career was about voting “present” because he prefers to be absent when accountability knocks. . . .  He is not a commander-in-chief for the battle but the armchair general of the postmortem.

As McCarthy points out, “Fraud flows from the top down, not the mid-level up.”  In the present case, we saw our secretary of State, our ambassador to the UN, and the president’s press secretary go to town with what McCarthy calls the blame-the-video “fairy tale.”  Where’d they get that idea? Jay Carney declined to answer when CNS News asked.  But I hope that more people like Andy McCarthy will keep hammering away.

Writing at NRO a few days, Conrad Black said that it didn’t look to him as if Obama’s behavior in the Benghazi affair rose to the level of an impeachable offense: “gross material abuse of office, or abuse of office with intent to subvert the Constitution and fundamentally alter the nature of government.” I wonder.