Frequently, Carney attempted to assure the press that the government’s talking points had been carefully put together in order to make “concretely for sure” that no mistakes were made. After all, he insisted, we weren’t sure who did it, so the aim was “limiting the talking points to what we knew, as opposed to speculation about what may or may not have been, in the end, relevant to what happened in Benghazi.” The message: Better “not include things we could not be sure of.”
Like blaming protests on a YouTube video, perhaps?
The only thing that was inaccurate about his previous assertions, Carney insisted, was his claim that there were anti-video demonstrations outside the Benghazi compound on September 11 last year. Besides, he continued, Republicans are wrong to accuse the White House of “playing down an act of terror and an attack on the embassy,” because “the president himself” took to the Rose Garden on September 12 and told the country that the attack was an “act of terror.”
This was quite an astonishing thing for Carney to repeat, not just because the CBS transcript is available to anyone who cares to look it up but also because Carney himself claimed on September 14 that the attack “was a response to a YouTube video.” Worse, five days after that, he told the press:
Our belief based on the information we have is it was the video that caused the unrest in Cairo, and the video and the unrest in Cairo that helped — that precipitated some of the unrest in Benghazi and elsewhere. What other factors were involved is a matter of investigation.
This line was repeated at least once by Hillary Clinton, many times by Susan Rice, and, on September 26, by President Obama in his speech to the United Nations. We are thus supposed to believe that the government was so concerned about “the integrity of the investigation,” to use Carney’s peculiar words, that it removed all the suspects from public discussion while simultaneously blaming the attack on a video.
Among their many claimed sins, Republicans also drew Carney’s ire for “leaking” information “for political reasons.” “That’s their prerogative,” he sniffed. But this disgust at leaks struck a false note, given that the White House had held a secret meeting just a few minutes earlier in which it passed — “for political reasons”? — unattributable information to reporters. Just a few minutes before Carney’s on-air press conference, Politico’s Dylan Byers reported:
The White House held a “deep background” briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon to discuss recent revelations about the Benghazi investigation, sources familiar with the meeting tell POLITICO. . . . I asked [White House spokesman] Earnest to explain the meaning of “deep background,” as defined by the White House, for my readers. He emails: “Deep background means that the info presented by the briefers can be used in reporting but the briefers can’t be quoted.”
At times, Carney veered into abject nonsense:
The effort is always to, in that circumstance, and with an ongoing investigation and a lot of information, some of it accurate, some of it not, about what had happened and who was responsible, to provide information for members of Congress and others in the administration, for example, who might speak publicly about it that was based on only what the intelligence community could say for sure it thought it knew.
Glad we got that cleared up, then.
Until those damnable journalists got involved, May 10 had been billed by the White House as “Health Care Day” — a happy occasion on which the virtues of Obamacare were to be extolled. It was not to be. Eight months late, curiosity about Benghazi finally intruded on the president’s parade. “A throne,” Napoleon held, “is only a bench covered with velvet.” If the president is to ride this one out, Jay Carney is going to have to start nailing that velvet back down.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate at National Review.