The spinning of the Benghazi report by the media, especially the major newspapers, is truly stunning. The New York Times headline on Tuesday put it this way:
“House Benghazi Report Finds No New Evidence of Wrongdoing by Hillary.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, in his press conference, countered that the hearings he presided over were held to find out just what happened in Benghazi, not whether or not Hillary Clinton did anything wrong. Of course this was ignored by the Times, which assumes Gowdy’s sole purpose was to discredit Hillary and not to find out the truth of what happened.
Today, the Times headline reads:
“Unscathed by Report, Hillary Clinton Faces Emails as Final Benghazi Chapter.”
Here, at least, the paper acknowledges that it was the committee’s investigation that uncovered Hillary’s use of a private email server during her four years as secretary of State. However, they reiterate that the report is good news for Hillary because it lacks any “significant new disclosures” which “amounts to another hurdle Mrs. Clinton has cleared in her long ordeal over the attack in Benghazi, Libya.” Tellingly, it concludes by noting that the “report issued last month by the State Department’s Inspector General was arguably a bigger blow to Mrs. Clinton’s credibility than this one.” That report indicated that if Hillary Clinton had asked permission to set up a private e-mail server, it would have been denied.
The Washington Post echoed the Times with its story on the report. Its headline:
“House Republicans issue report on Benghazi attacks but find no new evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton.”
What both stories ignore is that in fact the official Benghazi report, when combined with the separate addendum to the majority report by Representatives Mike Pompeo and Jim Jordan, proves conclusively that, as a must-read National Review editorial states:
Front and center in every phase of this disgraceful episode is Mrs. Clinton, whose appalling judgement and character flaws are amply illustrated in its pages.
NR’s editors correctly argue that politics drove Clinton and the White House’s response. The national election was a short time away, and President Obama had said that al-Qaeda had been defeated. Accepting the truth that it was a terrorist attack would have threatened to destroy his campaign’s narrative.
The truth is that the Obama administration knew from the start that a terrorist attack by an al-Qaeda affiliate had taken place; there was no peaceful demonstration that got out of hand and escalated into an attack — and most importantly, the much-touted internet video had nothing whatsoever to do with the events that unfolded in Benghazi. In The Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes put together a timeline from the Benghazi and Pompeo-Jordan addendum, laying out what the administration claimed happened as compared to what really took place.
To sum up, while Hillary Clinton was telling the American public that the attack was precipitated by a crudely made and little seen video, she was telling her daughter and the Egyptian prime minister that the attack in Benghazi was planned and carried out by al-Qaeda groups. As she put it to Egypt’s PM, “We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack–not a protest.”
In all of her public statements, however, she repeated the lie that protests against the video caused the attacks in Benghazi. At the same time, the fabulist advisor to Obama, Ben Rhodes, whose master of fine arts was in creative writing, used his acquired literary skills to propagate the lie. Rhodes said:
We have no information to suggest that it was a preplanned attack. The unrest we’ve seen around the region has been in reaction to a video that Muslims, many Muslims find offensive.
In an e-mail he wrote the same day, Rhodes said that one of the administration’s goals was to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
Then, in an unimaginable insult to the father of the slain Tyrone Woods, who died trying to protect Americans under attack, Secretary Clinton lied to his face, telling him that “they were going to have the filmmaker arrested who was responsible for the death of my son.” Similarly, she told the mother of the deceased Sean Smith that “it was the fault of the video.”
Members of the administration were supposed to further the lie. Not all of them were willing to do it. After the heads of the Defense Department and CIA turned down the administration’s request to give the same spin on the Sunday talk shows, UN Ambassador Susan Rice accepted the call to defend the administration and to go on all of the TV programs and claim that a video had been the cause of the attack. To make sure she got the story right, Rice was briefed not by anyone from the military, defense, or intelligence communities, but by Ben Rhodes and others in the White House communications staff!
On Tuesday, Clinton’s public response to the Benghazi report was that it was “time to move on.” She’s counting on her supporters to dismiss it as old news, ignore the evidence and simply let her off the hook. She also knows, as those newspaper headlines show, that the media is ever willing to help her in proclaiming her exoneration.
Hillary, it turns out, was not responsible for giving the orders for the troops to delay in getting to Benghazi when it might have made a difference. The report shows that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave the orders for the troops to be deployed to defend the Americans in the compound, and President Obama OK’d it. It does not, however, answer why their order wasn’t carried out.
What made Clinton lie? One must speculate that she realized from the White House’s response that the “blame the video” narrative was the chosen one for the American public to receive. If she ever wanted to run for president, she knew that to refuse to spin would have meant that Obama never would have given her his support.
Now, with the campaign underway and her nomination at the Democratic convention a sure thing (unless she is indicted for breaking the law surrounding her private e-mail server), she still needs to have Obama’s strong support — especially since his poll numbers are so strong.
I happen to believe—contrary to many other conservatives—that her foreign policy goals as president, in as much as she has laid them out, will be unlike Trump’s. Most likely, she would maintain America’s leadership in the world, act to enhance NATO, and maintain the Western alliance against current and future enemies, including Vladimir Putin in Russia (whom Donald Trump clearly wants an alliance with and does not perceive as any kind of enemy of the U.S.). She would retract Obama’s tough posture towards Israel, and would develop a foreign policy based on what used to be a bi-partisan agreement that America has to use its power against sworn enemies and continue with a traditional internationalist foreign policy, rather than the one favored by Trump, which is based on protective tariffs and isolationism.
However, her failure to own up to her Benghazi lies and to try and put Benghazi behind her will hurt her effort to convince skeptics that she can be viewed as a trustworthy national leader, and hence it feeds into Trump’s “crooked Hillary” charge. The only thing she can and should do (and it is doubtful that she will) is publicly apologize to the American people and the families of those killed in Benghazi. In other words, she should say that she regrets going along with the false spin offered by Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes, and then ask the voters for forgiveness. She does not even have to mention Obama’s name.
She hopes that the press, because most of its members favor her for president, will not challenge her on the issue, even though by avoiding the issue she is continuing to hand Donald Trump more fodder for his attacks. She may discover that rather than this being the time to “move on,” she should own up to her major mistakes and then go on the offensive. The way for her to start is by telling the truth. Only then will she put Benghazi behind her.