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Return of the Credibility Gap
The lies about Benghazi have been Nixonian in audacity, Johnsonian in scope.

President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta

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Mona Charen

Lyndon Johnson, step aside. Barack Obama is far more deserving than you ever were of the term “credibility gap.”

The latest Benghazi lie to crumble like a cigar ash was the assurance from White House spokesman Jay Carney that four State Department employees had been fired for their mishandling of the situation following an internal report that found security to have been “grossly inadequate.” On December 20, Carney told reporters that “accountability has been brought to bear with regard to four individuals, who are very senior.” Major news organizations reported that Eric Boswell, assistant secretary of state in charge of security, had resigned along with three others.

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Less than a week later, the New York Post revealed that Boswell wasn’t actually leaving at all. He had resigned his post as assistant secretary, a spokesman explained, but would continue his other duties at State. As for the other three, they were found to have “performance inadequacies” but not “willful misconduct” and would therefore face no discipline.

So, one official changed desks, and the rest remained in place. That’s accountability Obama-style. The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and other major news outlets have not bothered to report this.

The secretary of state, who on October 15 made the utterly vaporous and content-free claim of “responsibility” for the Benghazi debacle (but chose not to speak for her department on September 16 when the president needed someone to do the rounds of the Sunday talk shows), was at last scheduled to testify before Congress on December 20. Her health problems have sidelined her for now. Whether she will testify in January remains an open question. Republican senators have vowed not to confirm John Kerry until she testifies. But if her health remains fragile, Republicans will be portrayed as brutal for insisting. Bed-side testimony anyone?

Meanwhile, President Obama’s great billowing smoke machine chugs on. Appearing on Meet the Press on December 30, the president again expressed anger that questions had been asked of U.N. ambassador Susan Rice. Characterizing reasonable inquiries about the deaths of Americans as “politically motivated attacks,” the president insinuated a racial animus. “Why she was targeted individually for this kind of attack was puzzling to me. . . . ” She, of all members of his administration, he stressed, “had the least to do with Benghazi.”

If that is so, why was she the designated spokesman for the administration? Isn’t it just possible that she became a lightning rod because the president made her one? If, as Henry Wotton put it, an ambassador is a man “who is sent abroad to lie for his country,” an Obama-administration diplomat is a person who is sent to the Sunday shows to lie to his own country.

Nearly everything Ambassador Rice said during that Sunday farrago has been shown to be false. We know that there was no protest — and that the administration knew this too. Rice has since admitted that she saw classified documents linking the attacks to al-Qaeda before doing the shows.

Secretary Clinton should be under a cloud for failing to prevent the deaths of these Americans and for misleading the nation afterwards. Instead, she is lofted skyward with talk of 2016. A just-released Senate report slams the State Department for ignoring “flashing red” reports of increasing al Qaeda activity in that part of Libya. Oh well, she failed at a key aspect of her job — nothing to see here.

The most opprobrium though belongs to the president. As the new Senate report makes absolutely clear, the White House knew within hours of the Benghazi attack that it was a terror attack and not a protest that became violent. “There was never any doubt among key officials . . . that the attack in Benghazi was an act of terrorism. For example, two emails from the State Department Diplomatic Security Operations Center on the day of the attack, September 11, and the day after, September 12, 2012, characterized the attack as an ‘initial terrorism incident’ and as a ‘terrorist event.’” Yet when the president appeared on 60 Minutes he said it was “too early” to know whether it was a terror attack. On September 18, he said that “extremists and terrorists used this [the video] as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the consulate in Libya.”

The president persisted in this lie personally and through his surrogates for weeks, even as the contrary evidence became a tsunami. The lies were Nixonian in audacity, Johnsonian in scope. The president is right about one thing — it isn’t Susan Rice who should take the fall.

— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2013 Creators Syndicate, Inc.



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