Benghazi and Going 'The Full Nixon'

Choosing which is worse between the Benghazi and IRS scandals is probably as much a Rorschach test of the chooser as it is anything else. Both scandals are hugely serious and likely to be with us for a long time.

For me, however, Benghazi is worse, in part because it is easier for some to dismiss and rationalize. Here’s an example of how that’s being done in a rundown of the scandals by John Avlon in the Telegraph. After tut-tutting about the seriousness of the IRS scandal (but careful not to go “The Full Nixon” -- nothing could be as bad as that), Avlon writes:

Finally, there is the continuing inquiry into the killing of four Americans in Benghazi. After damning congressional testimony from former deputy chief Libya diplomat Greg Hicks, the White House belatedly released a barrage of emails - which showed that the editing of the now-infamous "talking points" used by officials in television interviews was largely the product of a bureaucratic turf war between the CIA and the State Department.

Largely? How about minutely? Even in the relatively small number of emails as yet released, the "limited hangout," we see the whip hand of administration personnel Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor, and also references to the national security staff (NSS) reviewing the material, indicating even more people at the White House were involved.

Whatever minor-league turf wars were being played out, with an ambassador murdered and three other Americans dead, the administration was undoubtedly worried about considerably more than intramural rivalries.

The White House and the State Department were on the brink of serious humiliation before an election. They had screwed up royally. What were they going to say? They had to figure it out and at some point they decided to lie, downplaying the heavily armed terrorist attack and Ansar al Sharia and placing the blame on a video trailer almost no one saw. (For those who missed it, the only place the actual full-length film played was one screening at the Vista Theatre in L.A.’s Silver Lake district. According to an usher, the place was empty.)

Weeks later in front of the UN and on the Late Show with David Letterman and even, pathetically, on The View, the president was still blaming the terrorist attack on the ludicrous video.

John Avlon may find this largely a turf war. I don’t.